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Mar 9 2009 12:51pm

Tobias Buckell serializes a book on writing

Tobias Buckell—author of Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose—has decided, like other SF/F/H authors before him (Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, Orson Scott Card) to author a book on writing.

Using his last fifteen years of blog posts, journal entries, and emails as a starting point, he has already collected 96,000 words, though his intent is to bring that down to a more manageable 50-60,000 words. Rather than go the traditional route of trying to write a volume for print, Buckell plans to release the book online in installments, with possible print publication coming later.

Since I had almost 100K of material, I thought it would be fun to use the internet (what initially created all this material), as a way to do something different.

So first off, I’ll be writing this somewhat live. The blog entries are all already there, so it’s not that unusual idea. The chapters will go up as they’re done on a wiki (that only I can edit). I will also be adding in pages that might not ever make it to the book (the original blog posts the chapters were compressed from, and so on). I might also post unfinished chapters comprised of cut/pasted blog posts as I go along. It’s an experiment. A draft.

The introduction and first chapter of “A Draft in Progress” are already live.

Mar 7 2009 3:05pm

Sacramento Book Review SF/F Special Edition

Sacramento Book Review (“SBR”), a print publication of book reviews, has included a very special speculative fiction insert in their March issue.

In this issue, volunteer reviewers from around the country have covered new books by: David Weber, Ian McDonald, Steven Erikson, Allen Steele, T.A. Pratt, Amber Benson (of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer fame), Bruce Sterling, Jonathan Maberry, Kim Harrison, and many more!

Sacramento Book Review provides 32 pages of short, 200 word or less book reviews by readers, for readers. It is fast becoming the Publisher’s Weekly for book fans not in the publishing industry professionally. Though this month has a particular focus on science fiction and fantasy, the publication does cover a wide variety of genres, including mystery, children’s and young adult, cooking, self-help, travel, art, humor and 22 other categories.

[Read on for a special technological additive...]

Mar 6 2009 12:57pm

BBT Magazine Returns

Blood, Blade and Thruster is looking for submissions! For those unfamiliar, BBT “is a print magazine that blends speculative fiction & satire. Think Realms of Fantasy meets The Onion. Think Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine meets Mad Magazine.” It was a little start-up magazine three years ago (first issue was in the fall of 2006) and made it about 2 print issues, with a third released as a free PDF, before it folded in mid-2007. But now BBT is under new management and is looking for stories, essays, and poetry.

For an idea of what they are looking for, check out the free pdf of issue #3.

Mar 5 2009 2:16pm

Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Though a slim 150 pages long, Genesis by New Zealand author Bernard Beckett packs a walloping philosophical punch. In this novel, the author asks readers to rethink their notions of consciousness and the human mind.

The story begins with an examination. Young Anaximander is to be examined by the Academy, the ruling council of the only islands on Earth where technology has survived after an apocalypse. In her examination, Anax must defend her thesis like any master’s degree student. Anax has chosen the life of Adam Forde, the man who overthrew the previous government, as her topic. What unfolds during the oral exam is a story that is strange and thought-provoking with an astonishing ending.

Beckett constructs Genesis very differently from standard storytelling. For one, the conversations between Anax and her examiners take place entirely in script-like dialogue.

EXAMINER: Is there anything you would like to ask, before we begin?
ANAXIMANDER: I would like to ask you what the answers are.
EXAMINER: I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand…
ANAXIMANDER: I was joking.
EXAMINER: Oh. I see. (p.4)

[Read more...]

Mar 1 2009 11:45am

March is Women’s History Month

Last month we celebrated Black History Month by reading some SF. Since March is Women’s History Month, it is appropriate that we do the same. What follows is a list of works you could read this month and as well as some links to other places to look for reading material.

James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon): Tiptree’s work often explored gender and sexuality. The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender, is named for her.

C. J. Cherryh: Cherryh’s work often looks at the outsider finding his or her place in society. In particular many of the works explore gender roles and expectations. Her writing is considered some of the best in SF for any writer, to which her Hugo wins can attest.

Ursula K. Le Guin: Le Guin is an acknowledged master of the field, with several Hugo and Nebula awards to her credit. Her philosophical science fiction and fantasy novels push the boundaries of what literature can do. (See Jo Walton’s recent review of Le Guin’s Lavinia.)

[Read more...]

Feb 12 2009 3:02pm

Celebrate Black History Month by Reading SF

February is Black History Month, and in celebration of that I thought it might be useful to provide readers a list of worthwhile books of speculative fiction, many by black authors, that address the themes of race, postcolonialism, and identity.

So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehandir – This collection of stories (including a Tobias Buckell narrative) explore post-colonialism from many different perspectives and from authors around the world.

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler – Butler is an amazing author. No matter her subject her books are always good, and this novel is widely considered to be her best work. This story of a dystopian future and a heroine with hyper-empathy is a personal best for the Hugo and Nebula award-winning Butler.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany – A philosophical novel about a young amnesiac that has the graphic depictions of sex Delany is known for but also a sincere attempt at understanding the human condition.

[Read more...]

Jan 28 2009 4:35pm

Convince Me!

Or, Book Marketing: A Reader’s Perspective

As our technology grows and mutates into millions of different forms, readers are getting bombarded by the many new and different marketing efforts of publishers. Some are better than others, some are more fun than others, and some seem to be a total waste of money. What I will attempt to do is give you my perspective on the various book marketing methods I have encountered. I encourage you to mention any I have missed, and to give your own perspective on the ones I didn’t. I am not a marketer or knowledgeable about marketing myself (except by proxy because I am a book reviewer and blogger). And there was that one brief stint at a tech firm that lasted just months. So what I say here will betray my ignorance of marketing, but I think the exercise of seeing the effect of marketing on a reader is a useful exercise nonetheless. Its effect on you is likely different, and I invite your commentary on the subject.

[Click here for discussion of covers, blurbs, videos, interviews and reviews]

Jan 20 2009 4:55pm

SF Crowsnest adds “Sci-Fi Play”

SF, one of the oldest scifi websites (as in 1991) has added an entirely new section called Sci-fi Play. In it, you the gamer have the opportunity to play all kinds of time-waster games online during your lunch hour, or in bed, or when your significant other asks you to take out the trash.

Proprietor Stephen Hunt (a Tor author), claims that “You can now beat your Monday morning global depression economic woe-filled lunchtime blues by introducing orcs to your bloody axe or blasting enemy starships to pieces. Your bank of choice will probably still end up being nationalised, but at least you'll have a high score to show for it.”

[The games come in 13 categories.]

Jan 1 2009 1:51pm

Your Guide to the Universes: The Risen Empire

So you are planning a trip to The Risen Empire? Good, you will be sure to have a good time. But every good traveler needs to be prepared, so here are a few facts that will make your trip smooth and pleasant.

Population: Uncounted Billions (some dead, some not so dead)

Distance from NY, NY: 5000 years into the future, and millions of light years.
You won’t find this one on Google Maps!

Number of Worlds: 80

Government: Empire
It’s called an empire, so who do you think runs it? Though in this case, the emperor has some senators who help, when they aren’t playing political games, that is.

[What to do and see, who’s who, and what this undead thing is all about below the fold]

Dec 18 2008 1:06pm

Thaumatrope: Fiction for the ADD in All of Us

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story that consisted of only six words. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” In November of 2006 WIRED followed in his footsteps by collected more six word stories from famous genre authors.

But never before has there been a venue for authors, amateur or professional, to submit their own stories that breach the boundaries of brevity. (I think that’s an oxymoron, but I’ll run with it.)

The idea is an outgrowth of a new social service you might have heard of, called Twitter, that has been revolutionizing that way that people interact. (FYI: You can follow me @johnottinger) In many ways an improvement on chat, this type of conversation is not required to take place in real time, and through the magic of open source API, lots and lots of useful tools are cropping up for users that add functionality and make it easy to post from your phone, the web, or desktop.

[More after this short jump.]

Dec 15 2008 4:50pm

I’m Just a Traveling Man

1. To go from one place to another, as on a trip; journey.
2. To be transmitted, as light or sound; move or pass.
3. To advance or proceed.

My young, hot wife (she made me say that, but it’s true) and I are currently in the process of moving from one of these United States to another. It is a considerable distance, and all the accompanying aches and pains of selling a house, finding a rental, and notifying everyone about our change of address are causing us no little stress. Not to mention packing up over 2,500 books. (Okay, so I’m bragging a little).

But one good has come of it. All of this has gotten me to thinking about travel as it appears in our much beloved genre of science fiction and fantasy. Tolkien, as we know, wrote an entire trilogy that encompassed one very massive and difficult journey in which Frodo and his companions get from Hobbiton to Mordor, with several detours in between. Star Wars and Star Trek use fancy names (hyperspace and warp) for what is essentially faster than light travel, and their spaceships can cross vast distances in a mere eye blink giving the reader or viewer vast new worlds to explore with every “Engage” out of Jean-Luc Picard’s mouth.

But no matter the method or route, one thing is true. There is always some form of travel in a story.

[Read More...]