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.

 

 

Pay in advance for speculative fiction

Build a foundation for the next wave of speculative fiction by supporting the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Find out what 200 writers are doing this summer to raise money for the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

woman reading a book with colors emerging

Summer is early in Seattle, and I’m getting a head start on my annual summer project.

No, not gardening! The Clarion West Write-a-thon. What’s that, you ask?

Clarion West, along with its sister program, Clarion in San Diego, is renowned as the world’s pre-eminent workshop for emerging writers of speculative fiction. (“Spec fic” covers everything from the magic realism that Junot Diaz writes for The New Yorker to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones to classic science fiction novels like Starship Troopers and fantasy like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Quite a range.)

This year Clarion West accepted 18 students from across the world, most of them recent college graduates. They were chosen based on the quality of their writing. If they follow in the footsteps of previous Clarion West graduates, more than a third of the Class of 2015 will go on to publish professionally. Many of them will be nominated for — and win — major awards in the field of speculative fiction.

For the students, the six-week Clarion West residential workshop is a full-immersion, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many of the students have left their jobs to attend, borrowed money from family and friends to pay for travel, and several of them are receiving support from Clarion West’s scholarship program.

How You Can Get Involved

If you are a speculative fiction reader, I encourage you to underwrite the next wave of speculative fiction by supporting Clarion West, its scholarships, and its operations (run by a part-time staff and a cadre of volunteers).

The Clarion West Write-a-thon seeks donations at all levels, from $5 to $1000. (Many donors divide their donations, giving $5 or $10 through each of a dozen or more writers’ pages.)

Meet the Writers

The Write-a-thon harnesses the power of some 200 writers, people at all stages of their careers, who form a “shadow workshop.” While the six-week workshop for the Class of 2015 is underway, the Write-a-thon participants work to meet their own goals. Each of these writers has created a Write-a-thon page where you can read an excerpt of their work and see the goals they’ve set for writing and for raising money for Clarion West.

Many of the writers are offering incentives to sponsors who donate through their pages. You can browse the writers, or search for your writer friends, here: http://www.clarionwest.org/groups/write-a-thon-2015/members/

You’ll find folks including Aliette de Bodard, Helena Bell, Steve Miller, Henry Lien, Kelly Sandoval, Usman Malik, Eileen Gunn, J.M. Sidorova, Randy Henderson, E. Lily Yu, Pat Cadigan, Mark Teppo, Nisi Shawl, Paul Park, Neile Graham, Julie McGalliard, Caroline M. Yoachim, Helen Marshall, Curtis Chen, Rachel Swirsky, Kris Millering, and this year’s Worldcon Guest of Honor, Vonda N. McInytre. You’ll find Viable Paradise workshop graduates, include Beth Morris Tanner, Spencer German Ellsworth — and me.

TIP: Be sure to read Eileen Gunn’s writing sample, a flash-fiction piece about a time-traveling necktie collector.

Become a Sponsor — and My Muse

What am I’m doing for this year’s Write-a-thon? After spending the past six months submitting stories to magazines and anthologies (I’ve sold three stories, which will be published this fall), I’m going to spend the Write-a-thon focusing solely on new writing. I’ll be writing six stories for the Write-a-thon — and my plan includes opportunities for the people who sponsor me to act as “muses” for those works.

Please visit my Clarion West Write-a-thon page to find out more. And, of course, to donate!

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.

iPad, Mac questions? They’ve got the answers

Take Control has just announced their summer sale — 50% off on most ebook titles — so now is the time to buy and download.

If you’ve got a new iPad — or just about any Apple device — the Take Control ebooks are a quick way to master the basics and gets tips you’ll actually use.

One of the new Take Control ebooks about the iPad.

Take Control has just announced their summer sale — 50% off on most titles — so now is the time to buy and download. (You’ll even find an ebook covering iPad Basics that’s absolutely free.)

Full disclosure: Take Control is one of my favorite clients. I’ve edited two of the books in their current catalog: Take Control of iWeb by Steve Sande and Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe Kissell.

iWeb is Apple’s web software, a application that allows complete beginners to use Apple-designed templates to turn their words, photos, audio, movies, etc., in professional looking websites. Thanksgiving Dinner is, well, I suspect you have an idea. This free sample of the ebook includes Joe’s method for making great mashed potatoes and his tips for putting together a Thanksgiving dinner at the last minute.

You can’t tell a person without the book cover

How, indeed, can you tell if the ebook someone is reading on their Kindle or iPhone is Chaucer…or chick lit?

James Wolcott’s amusing article “What’s a Culture Snob to Do?” in Vanity Fair bemoans the impending loss of the book cover as a way to assess fellow travelers. How, indeed, can you tell if the ebook someone is reading on a Kindle or iPhone is Chaucer…or chick lit?

Wolcott goes on to predict the demise of the bookcase, and even the end of the coffee table book. But, speaking as someone with more than 30 bookcases overwhelming the house, I’d happily lose those and have more wall space available for art.

(Thanks you to The Culinary Curator for pointing out the Vanity Fair piece.)

Book review bugaboos

Some years back, I did quite a bit of book reviewing for January Magazine; I miss that, and am looking forward to doing a small book reviewing project for Publishers Weekly this spring.

This piece by Bob Harris in The New York Times was a painful reminder about some of the hackneyed adjectives book reviewers too often find themselves using. I’ve been able to avoid “poignant” and “eschew.” But I have to admit, when it comes to “intriguing” — guilty!

On reading and health

At my annual checkup today, my doctor asked me if I watched TV. I said my TV isn’t even hooked up to broadcast sources — I only use it to watch DVDs when friends come over to visit.

He laughed, admitted that he doesn’t watch broadcast TV, either, and commented that he sees a direct correlation between lots of of TV watching and poor health among his patients, particularly the elderly. He said the problem isn’t just sitting and watching TV instead of exercising; it’s letting the mind slip into passivity instead of engaging with games, discussions, puzzles, writing, and reading.

I love reading, but recently have been spending what used to be my reading time writing instead. And instead of reading new books, I’ve been working my way through science fiction classics (such as Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia) to get a better understanding of that genre.

Thus, I have yet to read any of the books on Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year list. But, seeing the list made me realize how much I want to get to some of these, particularly Michael Connelly‘s latest, The Brass Verdict, Donald Ray’s Knockemstiff, and Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time.

(cross-posted on Food, Fitness, Fashion)

The open-book test

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but the middle page is a whole other story.

I have four books to review for a publication. For the heck of it, I opened one book to the middle and read a page.

Ugh.

I opened the second book to the middle and read a page.

Ugh again.

I opened the third book to the middle and read a page and thought “Not bad.”

And then I opened the fourth book, read a middle page, read another page, and thought “Nice. Really nice.”

Tonight I’m sitting in the living room reading that fourth book, and it’s pure joy. I can’t believe people pay me (a modest amount) to do this.

Of course, I do still have to go back and read and review the other three. I guess that’s why they have to pay me.

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