An article I wrote with my editing partner Daniel H. Wilson, “Ten Reasons to Write Short Stories Even Though the Pay is Peanuts,” is available to read for free online on the SFWA Blog. It first appeared in the latest issue of the SFWA Bulletin. You can probably guess what it’s about from the title!
The blogosphere is a wild and sometimes chaotic place, but in that vast sea of voices there are some people saying things that need to be heard. And since blogging is just a form of writing, there are naturally several blogs that dispense valuable writing advice.
The benefits of interacting with the blogosphere can be great. Not only can you pick up free writing advice from professional writers who speak from personal experience, but you can also become part of your favorite writing community by reading the posts, then reacting to them either by posting comments or writing blog posts of your own.
Diving headfirst into the blogosphere is not without perils, however. If you have the tendency to spout off without really thinking through what you’re saying, you can quickly develop a bad reputation as a troublemaker, or a troll as such folks are known online. Reading a lot of blogs can also be a huge time-waster–time that might be better spent actually writing–so it’s important to spend your blog-reading time wisely. Below is a list of some of the best blogs about writing and/or publishing, written by writers and other publishing professionals.
What does it take to get out of the slush pile and into the table of contents? To find out, I interviewed the editors of three of the top markets in short science fiction–Gordon Van Gelder, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Susan Marie Groppi, editor of Strange Horizons.
Gordon Van Gelder is the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He took over as editor of the magazine in January 1997, then took on the role of publisher as well in October 2000. As a teenager, Van Gelder published a number of short stories in anthologies such as 100 Great Fantasy Short-Short Stories and Bruce Coville’s Book Of Spine Tinglers, but put his writing career on hold to pursue his editing career, which started with a summer internship with Bluejay Books. Later, he worked for twelve years as an editor at St. Martin’s Press, and went on to edit several anthologies, including In Lands That Never Were and Fourth Planet From the Sun.
Sheila Williams is the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s been with the magazine since the summer of 1982, starting as an editorial assistant and taking over as editor in April 2004. She received her Master’s degree in philosophy from Washington University, and moved to New York in 1981 to pursue a career in publishing. In addition to her experience at Asimov’s, she is also the editor of more than two dozen anthologies, such as A Woman’s Liberation and Intergalactic Mercenaries. She doesn’t write fiction, and has no plans to do so in the future, but her editorial experience allows her keen insight into what works and what doesn’t.
Susan Marie Groppi is the editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons. Groppi joined the staff as a fiction editor shortly after the magazine’s launch in September 2000, and took over as editor-in-chief in 2003. In addition to her editorial work, she has a Ph.D. in History and is a lecturer at UC Berkeley. She doesn’t write much fiction–she calls her one fiction publication in the magazine Flytrap an "aberration"–but she does often write critical non-fiction. Prior to joining Strange Horizons, Groppi worked as an editorial assistant at Circlet Press. She is the co-editor of the anthology 20 Epics (with David Moles), and is currently one of the resident editors for the Online Writing Workshop (sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com).
Just a note to point out that I’ve updated by article Basic Training for Writers, which is an overview of all the various SF/Fantasy writing workshops (Clarion, etc.). It’s got up-to-date information for 2008, including tuition, deadlines, etc. I’ve also added a section on the new Taos Toolbox workshop led by Walter Jon Williams.
I was just updating my articles page to add a link to the "Speculative Fiction: The Next Generation" piece, and I decided to dig up the links to the Flash Gordon quizzes of mine SCIFI.com published. They’re about the historical iterations of Flash Gordon, not the craptastic new version that’s running on SCI FI. (Actually, all of the iterations were pretty craptastic.) If you want to check them out, here are the links:
- Flash Gordon: Flash’s Roots
- Flash Gordon: Have You Met Everybody?
- Flash Gordon: Very High Tech
- Flash Gordon: Mongo’s Just a Zoo
- Flash Gordon: Mongo Potpourri
- Flash Gordon: Flash in Hollywood, Part 1
- Flash Gordon: Flash in Hollywood, Part 2
- Flash Gordon: Flash in Hollywood, Part 3
The golden age of science fiction is said to be thirteen–that magical age at which readers discover and fall in love with the genre. But while some of those thirteen year olds become life-long readers, others don’t just want to read it–they want to write it too.
So what drives people to create rather than just consume? And why is it that so many young people with said creative impulse wind up becoming fans of—and, subsequently, creators of—science fiction, fantasy, and horror instead of other genres?
With Jeff Vandermeer gallivanting in France at the Utopiales Festival International de Science-Fiction de Nantes, I was asked to fill in for him over at Omnivoracious, the Amazon.com blog. Click here to check out my World Fantasy Convention and awards coverage.
Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, on my way home from the editorial offices of F&SF, I stumbled across a lovely brass lamp in a mysterious shop. I bought it for a song, only to come home and discover it had a nasty blemish.
Starting to sound familiar yet? Or do you need some more?
I took out a rag and some polish and tried shining it up. Much to my surprise, a genie sprung from the lamp and offered me three wishes. Fed up after a long day of slushing, I blurted out, without thinking, “I wish I never had to listen to another slush writer complain about fast rejections! I wish that I never had to explain the “code” of my rejection letter! And I wish that I never had to see another poorly formatted manuscript ever again!” The genie said “Your wish is my command,” and struck me deaf, dumb, and blind.
Does it sound familiar now? Wait, here’s the kicker:
At just that moment I woke up and realized it was all a dream.
Writers choosing to specialize in writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror have a number of opportunities to study with luminaries in the field by participating in writers’ workshops. These workshops are in-depth examinations of a writer’s strengths and weaknesses, and force students to both write and critique the work of others a great deal. This provides for a rather intense experience, which is why this sort of workshop is often referred to as a “writer’s boot camp.”
My article about writing workshops, “Basic Training for Writers,” which recently appeared in the SFWA Bulletin, has been published on their Web site [PDF].
[Excerpt:] Writers choosing to specialize in writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror have a number of opportunities to study with luminaries in the field by participating in writers’ workshops. These workshops are in-depth examinations of a writer’s strengths and weaknesses, and force students to both write and critique the work of others a great deal. This provides for a rather intense experience, which is why this sort of workshop is often referred to as a “writer’s boot camp.”
In my role as assistant editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I’ve seen the results of these workshops first hand. Some writers don’t show an appreciable increase in skill or craft right away (for some it takes a while for the lessons to sink in, and for some it never sinks in at all), but for others it’s as if their writing experienced a quantum leap–as if going to the workshop turned some key and unlocked their inner writer. While examples of the former are fairly common, examples of the latter are harder to come by.
But one such writer is David Marusek. He’s what you might call a poster child for workshopping success. “I attended Clarion West in Seattle in 1992 and sold two short stories that I wrote there. I sold one on the spot to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I sold the other a month later to Playboy. These were my first ever fiction sales, and I have been publishing regularly, if not prolifically, ever since,” he said. Marusek’s stories have gone on to be lauded by both fans and critics alike, and in 1999, his story “The Wedding Album,” was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.
Before attending Clarion West, Marusek says that he had been writing for about seven years on his own, with no writing classes under his belt and only a few week-long workshops. He was collecting personalized rejections from editors, but he couldn’t seem to break into print. “In retrospect,” he said, “I believe I had taught myself the basic elements of the craft–characterization, plotting, dialog, etc.–but I still lacked that certain ineffable something that makes them all jell into a story. And that’s what I picked up at Clarion West.”