Thursday, November 16, 2006

More about scifaiku
A couple months ago, I had a couple blog entries about scifaiku (Part 1 and Part 2). I just received my copy of the November Scifaikuest, so I just thought I'd mention that briefly. Like the CD, this one has two of my poems. Reading it in print is very different, in some ways better but in some ways not. I think ideal would be to have a CD with the poems printed in a little booklet accompanying the CD, but I don't know how feasible that is.

The magazine has four sections, the first being a smattering of individual haiku, much like the first track on Kuanta. There are some excellent poems and some that on a first read anyway seemed more cute. The next section is a bunch of haiku by the featured poet--or rather scifaijin--Charles Lucien. It's a strong section showing a variety of approaches to haiku, many of them with a Halloween-type horror tone to them. The third section is a review of a collection of haiku by John J. Dunphy called Stellar Possibilities. The collection is published by the same publisher as the magazine, which might raise some questions, but as there really aren't many publishers out there publishing collections of minimalist speculative fiction poetry, it's hard to fault them. The collection sounds interesting--the background of most of the poems is that aliens have come to Earth on vacation, all explored through haiku and haibun. It's a concept that could end up cheesy, but if it avoids that (and the review indicates it does) then it could be really cool.

The final section is a series of other forms of minimalist poetry, including two of the haibun from Dunphy's collection. It's an intriguing form that I'd like to explore more. Overall, it's an enjoyable issue in what for me is an under-explored sub-sub-genre.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New story at The Sword Review

My story "Treasure from the God" is now up at The Sword Review. It's a fun story (of course--I find something fun in all my stories, otherwise I never would have written it) that started from a discussion with other writers where we all decided to write a story with a deity who is far from all-powerful. The result was this story about a beggar who receives a stunning gift from the city's patron god...only to learn that the gift comes at a price, a price paid by his friends. The picture at the left is the cover for the entire issue, not just my story.

I should have an essay coming out soon at the same magazine--I just this morning received the proofs to check, and with the story there was about a week between checking the proofs and the story going up. I'll post when that's up.

Also, The Sword Review has a contest going on right now and so far low numbers of contributors. It does have a reading fee (which I usually avoid), but I like this magazine and what it does, so I'm willing to support it by adding a story (if I can just get it polished in time--I finished the rough draft this weekend, but it will need some tweaking to get rid of inconsistencies).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Special deal on books

All right, most of you who read this already know that I'm a big fan of Jeff VanderMeer's writing, ever since I discovered the original Prime edition of his City of Saints and Madmen in my local library. And maybe some of you still haven't taken the time to go read some of his writing, and that's OK (though of course I think if you're writing fantasy, you owe it to yourself to at least be a bit familiar with the kinds of things he does in and around the edges of the genre). Anyway, right now he has a special deal for a book translated from Finnish that he really likes along with his collection of short fiction, Secret Life. $25 for two books, one signed and personalized by the author. Celina, I'll let you tell us how much that affects the value of a book. And then some other paraphrenalia to go with it. Here's the link to his blog entry.

So if you haven't been convinced yet by all my talk about his writing, give this collection a shot--the title story alone is incredibly memorable, and there are other excellent stories too. Including two stories that weren't in the edition I had read from the library, so it looks like I'll be getting a copy myself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This came up a bit at one of the crit groups I'm part of--how do you handle scenery, and where's the line between a well realized scene and over-description? A couple other things play into my thinking on this. First, I'm reading a book for a review site I do occasional reviews for. It's a good book overall. The characters are mostly well-drawn, their interactions believeable, but it might as well take place on a blank stage, perhaps with a couple token trees or a token desk littered with papers. There have been a few scenes that were better visualized, but most of the book has been this way. And on the other end of the spectrum, in the forums at Trabuco Road Magazine, the editor keeps talking about wanting a strong sense of place in the stories, and that many of the stories he's receiving don't have that.

So, I'm not saying that everything must be minutely described, but I'd be much more in the Trabuco Road camp than the camp of this book I'm reading. I commonly get comments from those who critique my work about the setting seeming to be a character itself, about the well-imagined scenes. Rarely have I ever had someone tell me the description was too much (and the only person I can think who made such a comment...well, I know we have very different tastes in what we read). I guess for me the key is to make note of a few defining objects that the character notes. I'm almost always deeply into a 3rd person POV, so the character isn't going to measure the distance from a tree trunk to a fallen leaf (as one writer complained about overly descriptive writers), but s/he might notice the shadows where a limb twists off the main trunk and the dark stain on the ground where the grass looks poisoned. Another character might see the same place but notice the way the leaves shiver in the sunlight, reflecting light all around and the rich red of the soil at her feet. While another notices the moss and lichen and shelves of fungus eating into the tree trunk, the vines twisting up to the highest branches as if to pull them down.

This way, you get a few defining objects to both create the scene in readers' minds and also say something about the characters themselves (even if it only operates on a subconscious level for the readers). I'm not saying those are perfect examples, by the way, just what jumped to mind.

Of course, this is all coming from the person who decided to challenge himself and write a novel narrated by a blind man (in a society founded by the deaf). Given what I've said about liking well realized settings, you can see how difficult that must have been for me. But it taught me well not to ignore the other senses as ways of creating a scene (and saying something about a character).

Anyway, go out and write some fiercely imagined stories--lushly described but without the description slowing the story down. That's the challenge.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Obligatory Go-Vote-Now post

Well, I voted this morning, even though I had to take care of my son at the same time. He didn't much like sitting in the stroller while I was in the booth, but he liked the 'I Voted!' sticker they gave him afterward. So if you haven't voted yet and you're a US citizen, go do so. (Mark, that includes you--I don't imagine there are a lot of polling places in Kiev, but find one!)

OK, civic duty dispensed with. How to turn this around and tie it in with writing? Well, I've already written one deeply cynical story where an election is chosen by a violent game in the streets. Originally that was going to be something where the elected leaders actually made decisions by going out and playing a game, but the extra step of remove lets it comment a bit more on elected democracy itself (plus I'd half forgotten the original idea when I sat down and began writing). I'm sure there are many ways to take elections in general and some of the heated debates of this election in particular and use them as springboards for writing.

Speaking of which, I need to get some writing done this afternoon, so that's all. Happy election day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nemo 7 now open

I've been fascinated by the concept of this series of anthologies ever since I first heard of it. Nemonymous aims to make both the submission process and the reading process blind, so submissions are sent anonymously (from email addresses that give no clue as to who's actually submitting) and within the anthology itself, the stories aren't bylined, until the following issue, when it's revealed who wrote which stories. Volume 7 won't be quite as blind--the editor will learn this time who the authors are after the initial blind read narrows it down to 50 stories, and then half of the stories will be bylined within the issue. So it will interesting to see if (and how) that affects both the stories accepted and how people read the resulting mix.

The earlier issues are available for only the cost of postage, I believe--at least they were when I got the first five issues a couple months ago. I haven't read as many of the stories as I'd hoped to have read by now, but what I've read is good. Wait, you say, five? Then how's this new one number 7? Well, Nemo 6 you make yourself--go out and buy a blank notebook, preferably the same size as the issues, put Nemo 6 on the cover, and then either enjoy the blank stories or write your own in it...but if you write your own, at some level you need to be unaware of who's writing them. Make your head spin? Good. I love it!

Just one note if you do wish to submit, D F Lewis, the editor, has said a couple places online that he seriously doubts anyone who hasn't read a copy will make it to the final much so that he considered putting that as a requirement right in the guidelines. So I'd recommend getting a copy ($2 postage per issue if you live in the US, and even less I'm sure in the UK--no idea what it'd be for Canada or Australia or elsewhere, but surely not much). Or at the very least, poke around the website to get a feel for Nemonymous's history and D F Lewis's preferences, then go out and buy yourself Nemo 6.

And like I said, I think it's a fascinating concept, this blind submission and reading, something well worth supporting once the new issue is out.