In Search of an Online Platform?

Social media on the internet is rapidly devolving from Speakers Corner to the Tower of Babel to individuals howling in the digital wilderness.

Why is nobody listening?

With X (Twitter) rotting from the top down, most people fond of communicating via pithy snippets have migrated to Meta’s Threads, Bluesky Social, and the aggregation of Mastodon servers. Or maybe CounterSocial. (Remember the hacktivist app CounterSocial? I don’t, but apparently I have an account there. Sigh.)

Is Microsoft-owned LinkedIn filling the online-conversation need for you?

Those of us who write at mid-length now have a choice of drowning in Facebook’s recent onslaught of repetitive ads (mine are for sweaters and Japanese snacks) while reading about our high school friends’ family vacations or reviving our moribund accounts on Tumblr, Medium, and Substack. We can take payments, or ask for tips via Ko-fi.

And, of course, there’s always Patreon where we can harness ourselves to a schedule of content production for a small-but-loyal paying audiencee—and end up spending half of our posts apologizing for not meeting that schedule. Talk about a self-induced guilt trip.

FROM THE Audience Viewpoint

If none of this sounds appealing to you as a content creator, I’ll point out that this fragmented array of platforms is even less appealing to readers. It used to be that if someone stopped following social media, they missed out on a shared experience, be it Twitter or Facebook. And the community missed them. Now…no one notices.

I’m sure that one or two of these platforms or communities make it easy to browse, find, read, and pay for interesting content. But platforms fall in and out of favor pretty quickly (often because they’ve changed their rules—see: Twitter). This does not motivate me, as a writer, to invest time and energy in one. And I certainly don’t have the time to check in on each of them every day to read what’s been posted by friends. I’m a follower, but usually a ghostly one.

It would be wonderful to have some kind of aggregator for all these sites, the way we used to have blogging aggregators (remember RSS feeds?). But if you look at the current aggregator software, it’s commercial stuff aimed at business clients who want to use it aggregate (often to rip off) other commercially produced content and offer it under their own banners. I haven’t found software that lets you aggregate content posted by individual creators who publishing via Automattic’s WordPress and Tumblr, Square’s Weebly, Google’s venerable, SquareSpace, Medium, and Substack. I doubt very much if such a thing would be commercially viable. (And if I type the word “commercial” one more time here, I’m going to gag.)

Bottom line: Reading social media content is not much fun these days. Particularly the bizarre posts generated by AIs, which seem to have a serious problem with gender-pronoun consistency.

Back to the Blog

As for writing, at this point I’m joining the personal blogging revival, going back to my own WordPress blogging here. You’ll notice that most of the affiliate-marketing bloggers have jumped over to visual platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and (to my surprise) Pinterest. That leaves blogging to the writers. So I guess we should get to it.

If any of the platforms mentioned above are providing a rich and comprehensive social media experience (for writers to connect with readers and readers to connect with writers), please leave a comment. What platform is meeting your needs, and why? And if you have a lot of neglected social media accounts out there, ‘fess up—and tell us why that happened. I’m here, and I’m listening.

Foresight, hindsight, and the mid-term elections

“Bonding over stories is an ancient, primal pastime. Bards and tale-tellers kept the lights on through the dark times, and hopefully we can do the same.”

B Cubed Press books

On November 7, we’ll know if the Democrats and progressives have taken back Congress — or if the Republicans have, once again, succeeded in doing what people keep saying they can’t possibly get away with.

What does the future hold? For the past two years, the people at B Cubed Press have been grappling with that question.

Bob Brown, a publisher from Eastern Washington, pulled two dozen of us together in the wake of the presidential inauguration to work on Alternative Truths, an anthology so successful that he followed up with More Alternative Truths, After the Orange (stories about a post-Trump future), and Alternative Theologies: Parables for a Modern World. Each anthology added more writers and more points of view. B Cubed Press projects have attracted some of the sharpest futurists around, among them poet and children’s book author Jane Yolen, blogger Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station), and science fiction authors David Gerrold and Brenda Cooper.

Screen Shot 2018-10-22 at 7.54.18 PMBrown says that when he formed B Cubed Press and published the first Alternative Truths anthology, he thought he knew what he was doing. “It was meant as satire about the political situation. Not as prophecy.”

He was taken aback when many of the dark stories and poems in his science fiction anthology were rapidly outpaced — by the daily news.

“We wrote assuming there were constraining structures in place, things that would have prevented some of the great idiocies,” he says. “We were wrong. We wrote about the presidency and the accompanying absurdities, not imagining the collaboration that would come from Congress. Things we envisioned as dark possibilities became prophecies — and now a shameful history that will shape our country for most of our lives.”

Brown has a fifth anthology, Alternative Truths: Endgame, in the works. While the pool of contributors grows, many of us keep returning to the challenge of describing the country’s political future through fiction and poetry. My first story for Brown was a dystopian tale of an architect acclaimed in 2020 for designing the eldercare community of the future. Forty years later, when the story takes place, she’s trapped in her failing community after the country’s human services and healthcare systems have collapsed. For my second Alternative Truths story, I turned to humorous fantasy, imagining a feisty Molly Ivins and vengeful Walter Cronkite sending LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover back from the afterlife to haunt the Trump White House.

What’s next?

With the mid-term elections just a few weeks away, I asked my fellow B Cubed Press authors to look back on what they wrote in 2017 and early 2018. Were their predictions accurate? Were their fears justified? Are any of their proposed solutions being implemented? Are we still on track for some of the far futures outlined in After the Orange? Is there anything in their stories they’d change? Are they optimistic or pessimistic about the political future? Do they feel that we, as writers, can make any difference?

As usual, they had plenty to say. Their responses touched on topics ranging from the future of the environment to the power of fiction as a political tool. Some saw reasons for hope, others a darkening horizon. Here are excerpts from their responses, with links to the B Cubed Press books in which their stories and poems appear.

Reasons for hope

James Dorr, whose poem “Tit for Tat” appears in Alternative Theologies, is putting his hope in future generations. “I’m optimistic if younger people will invest more into the political process, including voting,” he says.

Manny Frishberg, editor of After the Orange, is “guardedly optimistic” about the future. He notes: “As Winston Churchill said, ‘Democracy is a very bad form of government, but let me remind you, all the rest are so much worse.’”

Marilyn Holt (author of the Alternative Theologies story “Everlasting Due”) is looking to the Midwest for leadership. “Medicine is strong in the Midwest, and there are some excellent schools,” she says. “This combination gives me hope. The Midwest could become a financially vibrant middle ground. It will look more like California or the Puget Sound area than Georgia.”

Lou Antonelli wrote the alternate history “Queens Crossing” for More Alternative Truths. “I believe America is a more durable and resilient nation than some people think,” he says. “Whatever you think of the present political climate, ‘this too shall pass.’”

Elana Gomel, author of “The Desert of the Real” (After the Orange), speaks from an immigrant’s perspective. “I am optimistic by nature,” she says. “Our family escaped one of the most evil regimes the world has ever known: the USSR. At the time, that behemoth of the empire, straddling half the world, seemed invincible. And yet less than a decade later it was gone. The USA is a great country with great people. Its relative youth, its immigrant diversity, its fierce individualism are its great strengths. I don’t believe it will ever go down the rabbit hole of totalitarianism. My grandmother survived Hitler and Stalin. Surely the people of this country can survive Trump.”

Philip Brian Hall, whose stories appear in More Alternative Truths and Alternative Theologies, also believes the people will prevail. A U.K. citizen, he says: “I fear, in short, that the roots of democracy may be shallower than we thought and the still relatively young plant frailer. But in both our countries I see a great number of good people who have shown they cannot be ignored for too long and pushed too far by professional politicians who have forgotten, if they ever knew, what it is like to be an ordinary citizen. This encourages me to believe that we can yet revitalize our political life and reconnect with the sound underlying principles of government to which our two countries, in particular, first gave expression in thought and deed.”

Faith in the mid-terms

Blaze Ward’s story “The Last Ranger” (Alternative Truths) is about the last federal park ranger certified to protect public lands. Ward hopes the mid-term elections will ensure that his tale remains a fantasy. “If we can overturn the House and maybe even the Senate, we’ll only be a decade undoing the damage,” he says. “If not, we’ll be generations.”

Brenda Cooper, whose “Maybe the Monarchs” (After the Orange) is about failed attempts to mitigate climate change, is also focused on the mid-terms. “We are in a race to save the planet, and the people running America right now clearly don’t care,” she says. “But as we approach the mid-terms I’m hoping that we manage to pull out a blocking move by taking at least one of the House and/or Senate.  I see more women running, more people of color running, more voters who are energized. I work in a local government, and our government works well and is reasonably responsive to constituents, cares about the planet, and works hard to create what we call an ‘inclusive and welcoming community.’”

Rebecca Kyle, who co-edited More Alternative Truths and contributed stories to three of the anthologies, is also putting her faith in the mid-terms. “We have a solid chance to vote some of the worst of them in the House and Senate out,” Kyle says. “I’ve noted some ‘career’ Republicans in my state have retired. ‘Cashed in’ is the description some political pundits are using. They may see their party now as a finite resource and their reputation is better served by getting out.”

Phyllis Irene Radford, an editor of Alternative Truths, More Alternative Truths, and Alternative Theologies, says “I’m waiting with bated breath for the mid-terms to see if voters realize the mistakes they made in choosing the current regime.”

Voices from the dark side

Several of the B Cubed Press authors report that they are losing hope.

“I’m still pretty wrung out from the whole Kavanaugh drama — and that isn’t even finished yet,” says Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Her story “” appears in More Alternative Truths.

Stuart Hardy lives in the UK, which faces a similar political situation. His story, “A Beautiful Industry” (More Alternative Truths) portrays immigrants scapegoated for taking working class jobs when, he says, “it’s actually the mechanization of industry that’s seen a decline in manufacturing work.”

“If we don’t tackle the causes of political unrest, the next Trump may not just happen but the next Trump may be competent and be able to cause even greater damage than Trump’s managed,” Hardy says, “and that’s what terrifies me.”

J.G. Follansbee, whose story about global warming, “The Orange Street Parking Garage is FULL/OPEN,” appears in After the Orange, warns that time is running out. “Our government is showing no inclination whatsoever for tackling this problem in a serious way. I’m glad localities, such as my home town of Seattle, and many states are taking action, but only the federal government has the wherewithal to encourage the kind of change we need,” Follansbee says. “Instead, it seems that Washington will fiddle while the Earth burns.”

E.E. King (“The Faithless Angel” in Alternative Theologies) reports: “I’m pessimistic, but happy — fortunate that I still live in a beautiful world, sad for the creatures in it.”

S. Workman says, “Despite the bleak outlook of my story (“Sandarakinophobia” in After the Orange), I enjoyed having the opportunity to write about a futuristic underwater civilization, and speculating on what kind of society might result from it.”

Debora Godfrey, who wrote “Non-White in America” (More Alternative Truths) and “Don’t Get the Bible Wet” (Alternative Theologies) says her outlook these days is pessimistic. “My story ‘Non-White in America’ could be in the newspaper any day now,” she notes.

Hindsight about foresight

Quite a few of the authors said they’d have written their stories differently if they’d known what the next 18 months would bring.

Christopher Nadeau, who wrote “Ultimate Messiah Smackdown” for Alternative Theologies, says “If there’s an inaccuracy to be found in the story, it’s in the mild, yet easily dashed, optimistic undercurrent. If I’d written that story now, that would not be present.”

Paula Hammond contributed stories to three of the anthologies. “Good Citizens” (Alternative Truths) imagines the aftermath of a second civil war in a ‘whites only’ America while “Ghosts & Glory” (After the Orange) is a climate change story in which vast areas of America are under water. “To be honest, the worlds imagined in these stories are, sadly, becoming even more likely,” she says. “Now I realise that I didn’t go far enough!”

Charles Joseph Alpert wrote “Sunday with Javier and Papi” for After the Orange. The story is set 100 years in the future after a political civil war between the Reds and the Blues. “In the last year, I would say that we’ve only gotten closer to something like a civil war,” he says. “I’m surprised by how misogynistic the Trump camp seems to be growing. I didn’t think to put misogyny in my story.”

Mike Morgan says he would have upped the tension in his tale, “A Spider Queen in Every Home” (More Alternative Truths). “In light of recent events with the Supreme Court, I think I would’ve been tempted to have my lead character defend an obviously egregious sexual assault perpetrated by her manager as — somehow — the fault of the victim,” he says. “Because, it turns out, right-wing folks, they be happy to tie themselves up in logical knots tighter than anything I could’ve predicted in my wildest delusional fantasies.”

Larry Hodges would have given “The Monkey Cage Rules” (Alternative Truths) a more resounding ending. The story currently concludes with the question, “Can anyone rule the monkey cage?” (where “monkey cage” means “politics”). “I’d rather be more blunt,” Hodges says. “Our current politics shows that nobody can rule the monkey cage because our country is too split. I might even want to work in the Lincoln quote, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’”

The story “How to Recognize a Shapeshifting Lizardman (Or Woman) Who Has Been Appointed to a High-Ranking Government Cabinet Position” (More Alternative Truths) is “not so funny anymore,” according to its author, Kurt Newton. “Now that the outlandish has become the norm, the poke is not as funny as first imagined,” he says. “I’d probably either rewrite the piece and take it up a notch to be even more ridiculous, or turn it into something more satirically biting.”

Poet Gwyndyn T. Alexander, who wrote “America Year Zero” (More Alternative Truths) and “A Liberal Prayer” and “A Conservative Prayer” (Alternative Theologies), says “I wish, looking back, that I had found more room for hope. As things get bleaker, hope is harder to find, and each smidgen of it is more precious.”

Manny Frishberg (After the Orange) concludes, “As the editor of a book of post-Trump future stories, I would have tried to find a few more hopeful, optimistic futures to project. Who knew the world would continue to get darker?”

Dreams (or nightmares) come true

While some of the authors felt they’d missed the mark, others were astonished to watch scenes from their fiction appear on the news.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 10.21.45 PMWhen John A. Pitts penned “The Last Flight of Captain Kittredge” for After the Orange, he thought his tale of a GOP oligarchy taking control of all three branches of our government was pretty outrageous. But now? Not so much. “We have psychosis gripping the nation, and Russians influencing our populace at an unprecedented level,” Pitts says.

In “aboutthechange.wav” (Alternative Truths) Joel Ewy‘s protagonist becomes unhinged as the truth twists and changes around him. “It was an attempt to understand the consequences of taking part in a forceful redefinition of truth and reality,” Ewy says. “If anything, the events since the time I wrote it have intensified this situation.”

Gregg Chamberlain saw a milder version of a scene from his story “Alt Right for the President’s End” (Alternative Truths) play out. “Trump did appear at the United Nations, but did not ‘break down and explode into cybernetic pieces’ on his way to the podium,” Chamberlain says. “The actual result of his U.N. visit was even better: getting laughed at by the General Assembly for his typical outlandishly inaccurate and fanciful claims.”

Daniel M. Kimmel notes that “It’s All Your Fault” (Alternative Truths) “is a rare story that marks me as prescient. When I wrote about aliens trolling on social media it was long before it came out that there was extensive Russian involvement in influencing the election.”

Edd Vick wrote “Call to Order” (After the Orange) and co-wrote with Manny Frishberg “Twitterstorm” (More Alternative Truths). “All I can say is that the president’s Twitter messages are more outrageous, more deranged, and more unintentionally funny than anything Manny & I could write,” Vick says. He explains, “We had to create a narrative, where Trump just has to stream his consciousness with no regard for consistency or the truth.”

A vote for the power of fiction

Several of the writers and editors involved in the project expressed the hope that their stories might inspire others — to activism, to understanding, and to action.

“I am proud of the authors that have submitted, spoken out, and taken what someday might be a real risk in putting their names on these books,” Bob Brown says. “This is not paranoia — this is looking at what happens under one party rule where the press is vilified, the courts are stacked, and opposition is considered treason.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 11.18.06 AMMike Adamson, who stands by the dystopian future he portrayed in “Hellrider” (After the Orange), observes: “Creating dystopian science fiction used to be a warning, 40, 50 years ago; now it is a commentary on an ongoing situation, an ‘I told you so’ from the genre to the world. I doubt it gives any writer pleasure to be the one to say that, but, to steal a line from an American president of the past, ‘it must be said again and again with fierce conviction.’ If not by the writers of speculative fiction, then who?”

Perhaps the best way to end this roundup of observations from the B Cubed Press futurists is with Diana Hauer, who wrote “The Trumperor and the Nightingale” for Alternative Truths. She says “I wrote the story with a level of sympathy towards the Trumps that I no longer possess. I’m not sure I could write the same story today, I am too disgusted with everything. That said, I hope we can hold onto some of our human empathy for the other side, even the most deplorable examples. My hope with the work B Cubed is doing is that fiction can start knitting things back together. Bonding over stories is an ancient, primal pastime. Bards and tale-tellers kept the lights on through the dark times, and hopefully we can do the same.”

Anthologies: Variations on a Theme

The Metaphorosis Books anthology Reading 5 x 5 was designed to provide insight into the process by which authors write to a detailed theme.

Themed anthologies and themed magazine issues are big these days. They enable editors to focus on timely topics and they attract new readers interested in those issues. Themed publications are inspiring for writers, too. In the past year, I’ve written stories for six anthologies:

Of particular interest is Reading 5 x 5, edited by B. Morris Allen. The book was designed to provide insight into the process by which authors write to a detailed theme. Allen brought together 25 authors, grouped them by five speculative fiction subgenres, and for each subgenre provided a fairly detailed story brief. (His concept is described at the Reading 5 x 5 website.) Thus all five authors in each group started out with similar characters, settings, and plots. The resulting stories — most wildly divergent — are fascinating.

While I’d written to general themes for the other anthologies, I struggled with writing a story outlined by someone else. I may have been the “bad girl” of my group (I was in the soft science fiction group, writing in a style that non-genre readers might know as “space opera.”). I felt hemmed in by the detailed brief and spun my wheels for several weeks — until I came up with the idea of writing a story in which someone hemmed in by authority rebels and plots an assassination. To see how my little revenge fantasy turned out, buy Reading 5 X 5 and read “Patience.”

I strongly recommend the writers’ edition of our book, with 100 additional pages including the original story briefs we worked from, authors’ notes for each story, and two additional stories.

The editor and writers involved in the Reading 5 x 5 experiment agreed at the outset that proceeds from the book will benefit the Jo Clayton Memorial Medical Fund. Administered by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., the fund assists professional science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery writers living Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska who need help with medical expenses.



More Alternative Truths: Stories from the Resistance

In “The Right Man for the Job,” desperate Democrats hold a séance to bring Molly Ivins, Adlai Stevenson II, and Walter Cronkite back from the afterlife to “do something” about Trump.

51i1Zf7iAWL-1What I like best about writing fiction is getting to solve my characters’ problems. And what I like best about writing speculative fiction is getting to use a bit of magic to do so.

Last spring I asked a friend active in Democratic politics what on Earth the party was going to do about Trump. When the answer came back, “We have no idea!” — I knew it was time for a fantastic solution.

The result is my short story “The Right Man for the Job,” published today in the anthology More Alternative Truths (B Cubed Press). In it, desperate Democrats hold a séance to bring Molly Ivins, Adlai Stevenson II, and Walter Cronkite back from the afterlife to “do something” about Trump. The pundit, politician, and newsman refuse to answer the summons, but Cronkite comes up with a better idea: They recruit former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who is infuriated when he hears what Trump is doing to education, healthcare, and the rest of the Great Society’s programs. Armed with his favorite Scotch, his beagles, and some damning evidence obtained from the late J. Edgar Hoover, LBJ comes back as a ghost to terrify the White House, the Executive Office Building and Capitol Hill.

More Alternative Truths, available as an ebook and in paperback, is the brainchild of Bob Brown of B Cubed Press. His company’s debut anthology, Alternative Truths, has 89 reviews and a 5-star rating on (A third anthology, After the Orange, is now open for submissions.)

For More Alternative Truths, Brown pulled together an editorial team that includes Lou J Berger, Phyllis Irene Radford, and Rebecca McFarland Kyle. The 45 writers involved include major names in contemporary science fiction: Lou Antonelli, David Brin, Adam-Troy Castro, Esther Friesner, Philip Brian Hall, Vonda N. McIntyre, John A. Pitts, Irene Radford, Mike Resnick, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Jane Yolen, and Jim Wright. (Wright’s essay for the first anthology, “President Trump, Gettysburg, November 19, 1863,” spawned its own theater piece (complete with Trump in a stovepipe hat and Melania at his side in bonnet, shawl and sunglasses), now available as a YouTube video. In More Alternative Truths, Wright casts Trump as Moses presenting the Ten Commandments.)

The stories themselves range from chilling and grim to amusing and delightful. Stephanie Weippert pens a sad letter home from a women’s rights activist serving a life sentence in federal prison. Wonder Vanian gives us the story of a young gay man, wearing the mandatory rainbow on his shirt, on a train on his way to the Atlanta Re-Orientation Camp. In the disturbing “Queens Crossing,” Lou Antonelli poses an alternate reality so plausible that I emerged from it temporarily disoriented. In Manny Frishberg and Edd Vick’s “Tweetstorm,” the president tweets his way into outer space.

In short, this book is the perfect read for anyone who is concerned about the current political situation. Whether you stood up for Hillary, backed Bernie, went the Libertarian route, or just threw your hands in the air and screamed, these stories, poems, and essays will amuse, educate, astonish, and ultimately inspire as we head toward mid-term elections and on to 2020.



Alternative Truths: An unexpected-success story

Alt truths cover
The cover of the Alternative Truths anthology

Just over 100 days ago, on Jan. 23, science fiction author Bob Brown issued a writing challenge: Imagine the future during or after the Trump presidency. Write a story. Submit it to an anthology to be called Alternative Truths.

“This is an anthology about the future in an alternative fact world,” Bob wrote. “What does the future hold? Endless alternative facts? Brilliant leadership? Alien invasions? Zombies in the White House?”

Bob set about co-editing the anthology with Phyllis Irene Radford, vowing to publish the book within the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

As submissions came in, Bob formed the private Facebook group Alternative Truth (now public) so the participants could discuss the project. In a field where submissions generally vanish behind a curtain from which editors issue cryptic rejections, the decision to open-source the anthology project seemed both odd and courageous. Did these people know what they were getting into?

I submitted a dystopian story, “Patti 209,” and joined the Facebook group.

Day by day, Phyl and Bob answered questions about manuscript guidelines, deadlines, and their progress as they waded through what turned out to be 94 submissions. To my surprise, they asked those of us in the Facebook group for our opinions about contract terms, the book’s title, subtitles, tagline, blurbs, cover designs, marketing and more. And the group approved, by Facebook comments and email, Bob’s plan to donate a share of any profits to the ACLU of Washington state.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 12.05.13 PM
Editor Bob Brown with the first copies of Alternative Truths

I worried that the group would turn into a breeding ground for arguments and hurt feelings, and even damage the final product. But that never happened. Bob and Phyl stood their ground, made tough decisions, and nailed the ambitious deadline.

The result was not merely a great experience for the writers involved, but a book that launched as the #1 ranked science fiction anthology on Amazon.

How did that happen? To some degree, we’re still trying to figure it out!

What I can tell you is this:

Bob was concerned and curious about living in a world defined by “alternative facts” and governed by people who wield them. He wanted to encourage people to think about the implications of the new Trump government.

To this end, he invited leaders in the fields of science fiction and political commentary to write for the anthology, as well as throwing the project open for general submissions. He received and bought stories from Jim Wright (known for the political blog Stonekettle Station), Endeavor Award-winner Louise Marley, journalist and cultural critic Daniel M. Kimmel, Philip K. Dick Award-winner Adam Troy-Castro, and science fiction critic Marleen S. Barre. Submissions came in from writers in England, Canada, and Wales, as well as from across the U.S.

With guidance from friends in the ebook-publishing collective Bookview Cafe (where Phyl is a member), Bob and Phyl got both an ebook and a print book designed and formatted. Again, members of the Facebook group were invited to help proofread  files. By April 26 files were uploaded to and other platforms. A marketing/PR plan, and a PR person, were in place. But when Alternative Truths, both ebook and print editions, debuted at the top of science fiction and political fiction category rankings on Amazon on April 28, we were all pretty astonished.

We shouldn’t have been. I’d read the book (while helping to proof the formatting) and was delighted by the high quality of the stories Bob and Phyl had chosen and edited. The stories ranged from short to long, journalistic to literary, and hysterically funny to depressingly grim. I think the standouts are Jim Wright’s terrifying “President Trump, Gettysburg, November 19, 1863” and Louise Marley’s heartbreaking “Relics: a fable.”

I’ve just started out as a fiction writer, and, as is the case with many semi-pro authors, my stories appear in anthologies rather than major magazines. I made it into the Aurora Award-winning Second Contacts and The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories. Both of those were traditional publishing experiences, with the editors and publishers responsible for just about everything. Alternative Truths was a whole new approach — one that shouldn’t have worked but which, astonishingly and wonderfully, did.

Stay tuned. Bob’s started planning for volume 2.


The 7-minute solution for author readings

Tip from Worldcon: A great author reading is 7 minutes long. Plus information about the Two Hour Transport speculative fiction readings in Seattle.

Female student making a speech. She is standing at a podium and smiling to the crowd.In the elevator at the Hugo Loser’s party Saturday night, a bunch of us were discussing authors who give great readings.

Tom and I wrote an article for Locus about readings a while back that included advice from Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Eileen Gunn, and Andrea Hairston. But a fellow in the elevator — a New York editor whose name I am horrified to say that didn’t get — had a tip I hadn’t heard before.

“Seven minutes!” he said as we piled out of the elevator and into the Midland Theater lobby. “A great reading is seven minutes.”

When I got home from the convention I looked it up and, sure enough, the memoirist Gigi Rosenberg wrote an extensive blog post, 7 Tips for Giving a Powerful Public Reading, that includes the 7-minute rule. (All of Rosenberg’s suggestions are great, especially #3, so I urge you to go over there and read them.)

If you are in the Seattle area and want to hear (or participate in) short readings of speculative fiction, check out Two Hour Transport at Cafe Racer. The monthly series spotlights two authors each month; their readings are preceded by an open mic (5-minute slots).

This month’s invited readers are Coral Moore (published in a number of magazines, and online at Diabolical Plots) and Evan J. Peterson, volume editor of the Lambda Literary Award finalist Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam: Gay City 5.

The future of journalism on the web

Mark Andreessen’s article about online journalism includes a list of organizations to watch: The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, The Verge, and more.

Newspaper on computer screenInterested in what’s happening to journalism as it moves online?

There’s a lot of ill-informed link bait on this topic in the blogosphere, so I was delighted when social media maven Larry Swanson pointed me to this great essay by Marc Andreessen, “The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Twitter Stream All in One Place.”

Perhaps the best part of Andreessen’s article is the list at the end of examples of  journalism organizations to watch, including The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, and The Verge.

The return of Amazing Stories

Steve Davidson and a team of 50 bloggers have relaunched Amazing Stories magazine as a community site for science fiction fans.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.56.48 PMApril 1926 — Hugo Gernsback, publisher of Electrical Experimenter science magazine, launched the first magazine devoted to science fiction — or what Gernsback liked to call “scientifiction.” Amazing Stories was published for almost 80 years, passing through the hands of a wide range of publishers (including, in the late 1990s, Wizards of the Coast). It debuted writers including Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin, but the magazine suffered from uneven leadership, uneven quality, and controversial editorial policies. It ceased publication in 2005.

January 21, 2013 — Steve Davidson of Experimenter Publishing (note the company name) has re-launched Amazing Stories as a web community, with the goal of establishing a market that will enable him to revive the professional fiction magazine. Davidson, curator of the Classic Science Fiction Channel website and author of several books on paintball, spent three years obtaining the rights to the Amazing Stories name. He published two online issues of the magazine last year, as a proof of concept.

“Every genre fan now has a chance to help support the creation of a new market for the stories, artwork, and articles they all love so much,” Davidson said in a news release this morning.

At the core of the new site’s content are posts by a team of bloggers covering a wide range of science fiction-related topics. The site will offer product reviews, convention news and listings, and will take advertising.

I have more than just a science fiction reader’s interest in the revival of Amazing Stories. I’m going to be one of the bloggers for the site, writing primarily (but not exclusively) about my explorations of science fiction-related communities including gaming, girl geekdom, the Maker community, Steampunk, Browncoats, Discworld, and SF/mystery crossovers. Please come join us at Amazing Stories.

Space. Magic. What more could you ask?

An ebook of David Levine’s short story collection, Space Magic, including his Hugo Award-winning story “Tk’Tk’Tk,” is out from Book View Café today.

An ebook of David Levine’s short story collection, Space Magic, including his Hugo Award-winning story “Tk’Tk’Tk,” is out from Book View Café today. You’ll find it at, in Apple’s iBookstore, at, and at the Book View Café online store.

This includes some of the finest speculative fiction I’ve read. David’s explorations of astonishingly imaginative “what if?” scenarios are precise, rigorous, and often deeply moving. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Levine Space Magic“This Endeavour Award-winning collection pulls together 15 critically acclaimed science fiction and fantasy stories that take readers from a technicolor cartoon realm to an ancient China that never was, and from an America gone wrong to the very ends of the universe. Including the Hugo Award-winning “Tk’Tk’Tk,” the Writers of the Future Award winner “Rewind,” “Nucleon,” “The Tale of the Golden Eagle,” and many other highly praised stories, Space Magic shows David D. Levine’s talents not only as a gifted writer but as a powerful storyteller whose work explores the farthest reaches of space as well as the depths of the human heart.”

The collection is $5.99, and the stories in it are available as individual ebooks for 99 cents each. Highly recommended.

Book View Café (“Because you can never have too many ebooks”) publishes works by Vonda N. McIntyre, Laura Anne Gilman, Jeffrey A. Carver, Phyllis Irene Radford, Linda Nagata, Chaz Brenchley, and many other speculative fiction, mystery, and romance authors. While you’re there, check out Chris Dolley’s Reeves & Worcester Steampunk mysteries, including What Ho, Automation!

The truth about book contracts

Kat Richardson’s insider’s view of book contracts is a must read.

For those of you who plan to publish a book, Kat Richardson’s insider’s view of book contracts is a must read.

It includes step-by-step advice for how to read a contract, and who to hire to read (or renegotiate) a contract for you.

While Kat is specifically talking to writers of genre fiction, I recognized quite a few elements that pertain to nonfiction contracts as well, including writing-for-hire.

It’s a long, substantive post. Grab a cup of coffee, and start reading.