Category: Writers (Page 1 of 2)

Walking Away With Cory Doctorow

Cory on the right

Last week I saw Cory Doctorow, for my second time, at Powell’s City of Books. The first time was just about a month or two after moving to Oregon, not quite three years ago. (I write a bit about it in the blogpost Best Week Evar! On that tour, he was promoting his non-fiction work Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free.) This time, he’s touring his new adult fiction novel Walkaway. It’s a … well, he accepts that it’s a “utopian” novel. (And that sentence should prompt paragraphs of discussion because of everything “utopian novel” implied and leaves out. And I swear to god I wish I’d taken Professor Burling’s class on distopian/utopian fiction. In other classes I recall him discussing utopian fiction is usually ironic or is in opposition to the implied dis- or anti-utopian world that the work either is a reaction to or implies.)

I’ve not yet read far into Walkaway, but from what I gather at the talk, the book features a culture of people who have, in the near-future, walked away from the postmodern capitalist world. Have, instead of fought against the hegemony and the cultural logic, done the most efficient and effective thing and disengaged from it entirely to create a society that uses gift economy.

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After OryCon, first thoughts

Well, that was a humbling experience. I went into my first convention representing my writer role knowing that selling anything is unlikely. I head things from other that you’re doing pretty good if you sell two copies. Well, I didn’t sell a thing. I did witness a couple people pick up a copy of Singularity Deferred and put it back down… exactly like I do a million times at con dealers rooms. It’s very weird to be on the other end of that. I did my job in making a few other independent authors “do good” by buying some of their books, though. Including:

Tori Centanni’s Immortality Cure (my first real entry into urban fantasy, I have to admit. Not counting Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town…, and the TV version of “True Blood”); Toy Wars by Thomas Gondolfi; and Core of Confliction by Maquel A Jacob. They’re also all authors who are members of the incredibly supportive Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA).

Also picked up a copy of French and Cook’s Working the Table. Not that it really would have helped this weekend, it was NIWA’s table I had my titles on, and really only had my bodily presence there for an hour shift. But for when I get the opportunity to have my own table (or share one with only 1 or 2 other authors), it will be invaluable!

So, anyway, I sold no copies. But like I said, that was pretty expected (though I really was hoping for 1 or 2 sales). The demoralizing part was the failure so far of what I was there half for: my post- and business cards appear to have hardly been picked up, I’ve seen no new sales or even sample downloads on Smashwords (by the way, you’re welcome to use coupon code ES78V to get 25% off). No Amazon Kindle sales. I think most of the traffic to the website is still bots.

This sounds maudlin and full of self-pity (and it is), but it’s not all bad. The other half of my goal for going as a writer and not just an attendee, was to network and meet people, and that I did — more than I thought my introversion and social anxiety would allow. Met NIWA people I could put faces to the names to, met new people, handed my card to some people, learned of new and upcoming projects, and really felt more a part of a community. That’s a win!

And of course, the part of the weekend that I would have done just as an attendee, the panels and discussions, were a gihugic success! I learned so very much; I took pages of notes! I’ll probably process those notes and share the best of the tips and resources and bits of advice later this week — there’s a lot of it! And, despite some significant doubts and fears, I am hopeful and excited about my writing career, and am eager to do more and bigger!

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Print is still dead, sorta

Wow, has it really been nearly 3 years since I first wrote about Apex Publishing along with my opinion on consuming short fiction? In that post, Print is Dead, I opine that paper as the means of consuming short fiction was terminal, if not dead already. I still feel that way; nothing has changed on that front.

As I said then, there are still some holdouts in the magazine business, publications that have a name to bank on. Though, I do wonder if nostalgia, or even some ironic hipsterism, may lead to a rejuvenation of print anthologies of short stories and novellas….  I doubt it. Even if there is a small rise in print, it will be niche and short-lived.

But here is the point of my returning to the topic: 10 years ago Apex Publishing began as a small project by a guy with an idea and a dream. Well, so I assume — his memoir isn’t out yet. But in his latest blog post, Apex owner John Sizemore describes that modest beginning:

Although I started the publication for the simple goal of channeling my creativity, it didn’t take long for me to realize something else. I would rather be editing, publishing, and writing than doing software development.

Since my original blog post, Apex has significantly exploded their print business for long fiction, while still breaking waves and doing amazing with their e-magazine for short fiction. And really, that’s just incredible and, to be honest, quite envious. As it happens, Apex as a business, and Sizemore as a publisher and editor and entrepreneur, are my models. Now that I’m beginning to solidify vision for Tragic Sans Press, he’s done exactly what I want to be doing, but in our own genre niche.

I love Apex (I have the t-shirt!), and respect the heck out of Sizemore. I congratulate them on the last 10 years and wish them decades more success!

Now, back to work making my own dreams come true…

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Mark Z. Danielewski comes to visit

danielewski-1Just a couple days following the appearance of Neal Stephenson at Powell’s west, one of my favorite postmodern author’s, the risky and groundbreaking genius, Mark Z. Danielewski came to the main Powell’s to talk about his new book series, The Familiar. It’s a 27-volume series inspired by serial television, with many characters with intertwining lives, all written in each character’s unique typography.

Danielewski rocked my world around 2002 with his novel, House of Leaves. (Sadly, I can’t get this blog to properly color the word “house” in blue as it should be.) Every work of his, Danielewski deconstructs the idea of the “novel” as a form, and reinvents it. Using every trick of typography imaginable (and some unimaginable), he turns the act of reading a novel into a unique and active experience that derives from the story, but exists outside the story.

danielewski-3Reading a novel is a passive experience, for the most part. Sure, it’s far more active than sitting in front of a screen where nothing is expected from you except a working sensory system. A novel has you converting symbols on a page into meaning and engage your imagination to bring the narrative to life. But it’s still passive in the sense that the traditional novel is just a platform, a means of ingesting a story.

Danielewski’s works expect the reader to be more actively involved than to just look at words in a continuous line from one page through a serious of ordered pages til the end. His books demand for you to interact with it. To actually make choices with how you are going to ingest the narrative, and thus with how the narrative is revealed and understood. My reading of House of Leaves, or Only Revolutions, is going to differ from yours not just because we might be imagining the same story with differences, such as hair color or tone of voice. Our experience of the book will differ structurally, fundamentally.

danielewski-2Well, anyway, he read a relevant bit from House of Leaves, and an interesting chapter from his first volume of The Familiar. And his Q&A session was great! Man, I so wish I’d taken notes. Most people asked really thoughtful questions, and his answers were so well-said, so insightful, and inspiring. The only thing I can remember, and is probably the least interesting thing he said, was “The way you live your life will affect the kinds of things you create.”

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Neal Stephenson, Seveneves, and envy

Neal StephensonI didn’t get to ask the question I wanted to. A question I’ve wanted to ask him for years. Alas.

Continuing the amazing roll of meeting favorite authors since moving to Portland, tonight I saw Neal Stephenson at Powell’s for the release, on this day, of his new novel, Seveneves. He read a portion (very witty), and he spoke a bit about the inspiration of the novel,being 10 years in the making. He explained that part of what took so long is that in order to make a convincing “ark” story, you needed to have an apocalyptic event that’s urgent and soon enough that there’s no time to solve the cause of the doom, but not so impending that there’s no time to build a humanity-rescuing ark ship. And, a doom that’s absolutely certain and not deniable by some, “like… climate change.” *grin*

He took questions, and fortunately, no one in this store full of geeks and nerds, did anyone feel that now that they had a microphone, they needed to soliloquize for 10 minutes before, maybe, getting to a question. Everyone was succinct and interesting.

Yet, time ran out before I could ask mine.

So, here it is, and if anyone knows Neal Stephenson, maybe you can pass it along: “This is going back a bit, so my apologies if it’s a tired question, but, Cryptonomicon appears to be set in our, ordinary world. And yet, there’s clues* that it’s not quite the world we live in. How would you describe the world in which the story of Cryptonomicon is set?”

Like I do for Cory Doctorow as well, I harbor a great deal of envy for Neal Stephenson’s speaking ability. While Cory speaks fast and clipped, and Neal speaks in a measured and easy pace, both are so incredibly eloquent, well-spoken, clever, funny, and without an instant of affectation (“uhm,” “uh”) or stutter or hesitation. I so wish I had such presence and extemporaneous speaking skill. *sad pout*

As for my fandom of Neal, it started when I read Cryptonomicon back around when it first came out, around 2002. I knew of his most famous (post?)cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, but had never gotten around to reading it until after I got past the mindnumbing haze of finishing the other brilliant and odd and educational and fascinating novel. Snow Crash is a bit weird, irreverent, quirky, and creates a near-future world that’s essentially a libertarian paradise — with all the problems that presents. Quicksilver soon followed, although I never picked up the sequels. I started reading the challenging and maybe too-clever? Anathem, but it’s a tough read, even for someone like me who loves when people play with language and linguistic development. It’s actually sitting on my desk right now; I do intend to finish it.

11262451_485174241632825_8738845372095469386_nNow, I’m going to dive right into Seveneves while the flame is burning bright!

*clues: Everyone at all times in the novel refers to Japan as Nippon, regardless of ethnicity or language, not just the native Japanese speakers. He created a British country off of England that spoke a consonant-heavy language that could have been Wales, or Isle of Man, but his own creation instead. Why, in an otherwise perfectly normal our world, would he do these things, unless he wanted a world that was only a couple degrees off? To what purpose?

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Thoughts on CthulhuCon PDX, and getting going!

cthulhucon_poster_600Last weekend I attended the Portland CthulhuCon. It was a gathering of a few hundred fans of Lovecraft and related media for two days, featuring amazing and fascinating panels, art displays and competitions, readings, games, vendors…. It was amazing!

I myself am a moderate Lovecraft fan. I probably know more about the man and his work than I do of the stories themselves. I mean, sure, I’ve read his most popular stories and I’m familiar with his mythos, but I’m by no means hardcore. Even so, I held my own in a Lovecraftian Pictionary game!

The panels were simply fantastic! They really were quality, intellectual panels with some very prominent Lovecraft scholars and artists and writers, the quality of discussions I’d have seen a the ICFA. Cthulhu vs Dracula, compare and contrasting Lovecraft’s writing and style, and place in literary history, with that of Bram Stoker. One on Lovecraft’s life and internal demons and how that may have affected his writing. An analysis of the Lovecraft mythos and writing in mythos (his and in general). And more! I took so many notes.

One of the best parts was a performance by Leeman Kessler of “Ask Lovecraft.” He does a very funny, and honoring, not satirical, impersonation of a reanimated Lovecraft answering any and all questions from the audience, from the serious to the goofy — and every improvised response of his was great and humorous.

One of the highlights was definitely “Scotch with Scott.”

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Best week evar!

So, I may have mentioned that I’m in Portland and loving it. There’s been so much to report and talk about, and I’ll have to parse it out over the next few days as I post more (promise!), but for this one, I want to report on the best week ever!

Where to begin….

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Steven Brust, on blacklisting Orson Scott Card, has somewhat changed my mind

steven brustI’ve made no secret of the fact that Steven Brust is my favorite fantasy author. (In fact, I’ll be making another post shortly regarding his novel Agyar, which I actually only recently read for the first time! Wow.) He’s made a couple of blog posts recently about the kerfuffle regarding the raving homophobe Orson Scott Card’s stint writing some Superman for DC comics, and whether the calls for boycott and forcing DC to refuse to have him is ethical or effective, especially for those of us who identify as liberal or politically left.

Allow me to break in for a moment with some dreaded metablog stuff: This here lil blog of mine, I’ve set up and desire to keep in the style of John Scalzi’s (one of my favorite SF writers). That is, keep it reasonably politics-free and avoid controversial issues too much. I get all controversally elsewhere, and I want to keep this blog focused primarily and nice ol’ writing and craft-related issues. But, well, when you have something like my favorite writer talking about one of my most disliked writers, regarding an issue that I find personally important–well, I guess I have to take a moment to risk controversy.

So, Brust’s latest post, “Free Speech, Blacklisting, and Tactics,” provokes thoughts and challenges many ingrained liberal reactions to go beyond protesting a perceived injustice to boycotting and preventing someone from work and expression of their opinions. In very brief, he essentially says that limiting the free speech of someone whose purpose is to actively harm the rights and liberties of another group, is right and just. However, what possibly outweighs that lesser evil, is the greater evil that the tactics of boycott and censorship and limiting people’s speech and right to free enterprise, is far too easily turned on to and used against the usual minority that fights for rights and liberties of the oppressed. In other words: because we leftists and liberals are the usual victims of fascist oppression, we should not use the same tools of oppression that those in power use on us, regardless of the rightness of the intent.

It’s a very compelling argument, and, naturally, better presented and explained in Brust’s own words. That said, while, I may no longer support efforts to keep Card from getting work or speaking his bigoted opinions, you can be sure as shootin’ that none of my money will ever be going to him and his works. (Seeing the upcoming “Ender’s Game” film, a book I loved before I realized what a d-bag Card was, is problematic. Maybe I’ll see it when it hits the second-run theater where it’s less likely much of my money will end up in his pocket. Even .001 cent is too much.)

mccarthyI want to copy here a follow-up quote that Brust posted on his blog later:

This brief excerpt is from The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the memoirs of Dave Van Ronk (one of my heroes) page 75:

“Years later, I was talking with him [Oscar Brandt] and expressed my disgust that that he, or maybe someone else, had put on a show with Burl Ives, who had outraged us all by naming a string of names in front of HUAC. Oscar just quietly said, ‘Dave, we on the left do not blacklist.’ Put me right in my place.”

 

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Print is dead; long live Apex

Okay, speaking of magazines, let’s be honest about something here: Sure, despite the rise of e-books, print novels will stick around for a very long time. But when it comes to short fiction, print is dead. It’s drawing its last gasps. People just aren’t buying magazines and digests and journals. Yeah, ASIMOV and SF & FANTASY are still around, but they’re published super-cheap and have an old, die-hard readership. REALMS of FANTASY, a slick and popular genre magazine, was saved two or three times before it finally gave up the ghost, and there just isn’t anything waiting in the sidelines.

Conversely, short fiction, especially genre fiction, is as popular as ever! This is where e-publishing has really found a niche. People are reading much more short fiction on devices and the Web, where it’s easy, and even more comfortable, to digest a single serving of fiction on an electronic device than in a cumbersome magazine. The weekly online SF e-magazine, STRANGE HORIZONS, has become quite popular over the last few years. They’re great! But even they have a limit of convenience and enjoyment — they’re still published as a go-and-visit Web page without any of the special features one gets from an e-book device.

Which bring me to APEX MAGAZINE. Sure, you can read them on the Web if you like. But what I love is the fact you can subscribe to them and get them on your e-reader, where you can make notes, add bookmarks, change settings, close and come back . . . all the great things that make reading e-books so convenient! (It’s available as a monthly download in EPUB (Nook and other readers), MOBI (Kindle), and PDF (the dreaded computer screen). But you can also get it as a pushed subscription through Amazon direct to your Kindle… and even if you don’t have an actual Kindle, I bet you have the Kindle reader on your phone and tablet!)

Anyway, each issue of APEX has short fiction — often from award-winning authors — poetry, non-fiction, and fascinating cover art.

So, they’re doing a subscription drive right now because they are a pro ‘zine (meaning: they actually pay their contributors! What an idea, artists getting pay for their work. You can support that, right?) and want to make sure they can continue to provide award-winning material from award-winning authors and writers. It’s like $18 for a year until November 15 (then the price goes back up to normal if you subscribe after that) or $2 an issue through Amazon. That is a great deal! But save $4 and get it by the year.

Here, again, is the link to their subscription drive; at least check it out and consider supporting great genre fiction!

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Do a little to help working authors?

Steven Brust, Emma Bull, and a fan

A while back I blogged about my favorite fantasy artist’s health scare. He’s recently had heart surgery, as a good friend and collaborator of his, Emma Bull, also went through a procedure. Naturally, because they’re very hard working, talented writers in America who make their living with the sweat of their brow as artists–they get paid crap and health insurance is likely non-existent for them. (Our country’s insurance-care system is, besides horrific just on its own merit, absolutely cruel to anyone who strives to follow their artistic passions or actually be an entrepreneur certain political groups give lots of lip service supporting… but I digress….) Cory Doctorow, an amazing writer and activist, a favorite author of mine, and someone who has said will never again let his family live in the U.S. because of our insurance-care system, explains the issue in his Boing Boing article.

Another excellent author, Scott Lynch, is raising donations to help them with their medical bills. Here: http://www.scottlynch.us/ironsands.html, then clicking the “Donate” button on the left.

I’m sorry about the political ranting there, I try to avoid anything political on this site–but this issue, as I’ve discussed before, is greatly important to me: the near inability or anyone in America whose passion is artistic and creative in nature, to be able to devote themselves to their craft, is, in my mind, cruel and completely anti-civilized. Any advanced society should allow their creative citizens as much access to life and health as a wage-slave has, equally. All citizens of an enlightened society should have equal access to life and health.

But, I digress once again.

Forget the politics: If you care at all for helping hard-working writers afford their medical care, please consider donating! Thank you.

Side note: Another most excellent, favorite scifi author of mine, John Scalzi, noticed Brust’s humorous ode to Scalzi’s highly popular blog, “Whatever.” Then, Scalzi featured others setting Brust’s words to music! (I prefer the ukulele.)

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