Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Internet, well it's here to stay, for at least a little while. Is it forever, or is it like a Palm Pilot?

My co-hosts and I dig into all that and figure out that talking toilets maybe in your future.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Is it too soon to say Genre Snobbery is dying?

When Kazuo Ishiguro wrote The Buried Giant, he claims that he discovered a prejudiced to orges (genre snobbery) existed.

Which seems a bit odd to me when the man has been writing for over 33 years, but it does make for a good sound byte as he promotes his book.

Better yet, it means that Ishiguro has teamed up with Neil Gaiman a man who has successfully jumped from comics (sorry, I meant graphic novels) urban fantasy to children's books, to talk about the inherent marketing con/need for respectability of the concept of genre.

One part of that public discussion happened over at the New Statesman, read it and enjoy. I do get a kick out how both writers had to wait for over a decade before their publishers felt that the new literary climate was safe enough for certain stories.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

You don't want to know what your gym shorts are saying to the Internet ...

The fun of being a genre writer is the playing of "what if's" of technology and future trends.

My co-hosts and I over at Nerstravganza look into wearable technology. Where it is and where it's going.

All I'm saying is that the last thing I need is a data stream direct from my running shoes to Facebook.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The fantasy book doorstop. Please just stop.

This is an example of when I read something out in the wild forums of the Internet and my two cents sort of became a buck-fifty.

The subject? Why most current fantasy novels are fat door-stoppers made of paper and pulp as the saga goes on for thousands of pages.

My reply (edited into a less rambling format.)

Don't blame the genre, blame the business.

Back in the 70s novels were a lot smaller. The two volume set for Chronicles of Amber, was a total of 772 pages for a collection of 5 stories. Yep, 150 pages a piece. (The entire run was 10 stories at 1,500 page maintaining that average.) And finishing a series like Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" ( about 1,200 pages )  was a commitment.  

But then Wolfe was always a bit indulgent.

Then some time in the late 80s, publishers convinced themselves (because noon of them used research to shore up their wack-a-doodle ideas) that if a reader at a Waldenbooks mall store (or at the airport) didn't know Writer A from Writer B, then the reader would pick a thicker book. They assumed that the reader hoped they'd be getting more story for the buck with the thicker forest-killing  tome.

Perhaps because the fantasy genre had long already been in DTOGO mode (Do a Trilogy Or Go Home) that it slid easily into making bigger books and rambling stories. It doesn't help that once an author gets popular, editors seem loath to trim their tales. (I think the Yiddish Policeman's Union is about 100 pages too long.)

So if you want lighter, tighter fare  I suggest going back and discovering the old Sword and Sorcery/New Age stuff like Zelazny, Moorecock, Butler, and last - but never least - Le Guin. All of them have tighter, shorter reads that all buck the Tolkien template.

And for some of us, the "Fantasy novels are too padded" ranks right up there with "Why doesn't MTV show music videos anymore?" i.e., a meme that's old enough to drive a car and probably buy its own drinks.

My inspiration for digging up this reply up was finding a publisher who wanted LESS than 60,000 for a submitted novel. That, right there, felt like a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your book, your dreams ...

Recently two things happened.

The first was that a young writer has gotten back in touch with me. He had taken an unintended sabbatical from writing because he thought he was stuck in a rut. 

He loves writing Urban Fantasy, but felt like he couldn't add anything new to the genre -- that everything had been done before. Frustrated that he couldn't come up with a story idea free of cliche or tropes, he eventually stopped writing.

Now he's aiming to be back in the saddle with the goal getting up at 5 am and try to write something every day. Bless him, he's an early riser. For me, it's much more likely that I'll get a thousand words written than get up at that verboten hour. So what's gotten him writing again?

Pretty much a forgettabout attitude. 

For most writers that discover something new, two things happen. Either they catch lighting in a bottle; or they've found a great peanut butter/chocolate mix of ideas and imagery. (The current marketing shorthand for such things is "X"-punk.) So either you need luck or you need time to mix and match things to find that right combo. Your odds of doing so improve greatly by actually writing. So start writing.

But you want to bring something unique, something awesome to the table. Well, they say there are no new ideas, that even scifi concepts -- like robots -- can trace their mythical roots to the golem and living statues that date back to the first pages of recorded history. If that's true, what can you bring that's new?

Stories are a lot like people. The great ones have heart and brains, but they also a voice. And each voice is different. That's what you bring, so bring it! 

There is a time for writer to put their ego to the side. The first draft ain't the place for that, pardner. 

Oh, there was a second thing, wasn't there?

Yep. Lately, I've been noticing that my FB  and forum posts have been getting longer and longer. I've taken that as a sign that maybe my thoughts need a bigger space to stretch their legs. So you might see me blogging a bit more in the past. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Hugos ... what a mess.

This year the Intertubes were a blaze with issues about tolerance -- or the lack of it -- in all types of media and it may not be a surprise that the Hugos are in the middle of it this year when a group decided to make a statement by gaming the Hugo Awards to prove that the Hugo nomination system could be gamed.. I'd say that was proven when Doctor Who won the Short Dramatic Feature for like three years in a row. All good stuff, but that was a bit much.

For those who might want to know -- or care -- the Hugos are basically the People's Choice Award for literary and dramatic genre fiction. So right off the bat, take that for what you will. (The genre Oscar is called the Nebulas and usually gets less press since it's more of a SWFA pow wow than a con.)

You can vote in the Hugos for two years if you like, by getting an associate membership to World Con, which is $40. In a time that's the same price as one-day pass to a local con where you can talk to people about the cool stuff you saw this year, that seems steep. And to be in person is bit steeper than PAX, a show with 70,000 guests is $95. A World Con can be between $150-$200 depending on how long you wait to get tickets. (You can get some discounts with early bird specials, attending last year, etc.)

So people voting on the Hugos can claim they are serious about their fandom in a time when the paperback novel that sparked genre explosion over half a century ago is dying. to ebooks. Serious enough that fans stump for their favorites more out of love than of merit. Some even claim that reached a tipping point the early 70s, when Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama beat out Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. "There," they say. "Is when the Hugos became more about the popular vote  than literary one."

That particular argument to the side, every major award has that bent to it. It's the irony of such enterprises to showcase the best, but not necessarily the best of that particular year or even the best of us. It's like a warped mirror that gets close some times, but you should still be turning around to check your ass to see if it's really that wide.

My advice, if you're a voting member, is to not sit on your Laurels, or Hardys, this year and make an effort to check out each nominee. Don't vote as a fan or as a political activist. Just vote as a reader and don't worry about what someone will say about that vote. Because the pranksters will claim a win no matter what you do, they rigged ballot for that very purpose in mind.

If you vote true, the truth will bear out in the end.

There's been talk lately that World Con's gotten a bit small and bit grey in it's own sampling of fandom. Who knows, maybe this ruckus has a silver lining and the attention will get new blood in. Of course you know what means, the new blood always wants to make its mark and show the status quo how it's done. 

I'm sure that'll be a whole new bit of drama if that happens. At least the rest of us can watch on the sidelines. Care for some popcorn?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Broaden your horizons

Virginia Hamilton
N.K. Jemsisn
Octavia E. Butler
Samuel R.Delany
Walter Mosely
Nalo Hopkins

If these writer's aren't on your To Read List, pick a couple and enjoy. One of the great things about SciFi is the invitation to explore beyond your boundaries and these writers still have a lot to teach us about the human condition and about ourselves.