Monday, February 26, 2007

Original Source Research ...

I've got a short in progress, pretty much done from a character/story arc point of view. There is some science that I need to do some research on, just enough for verisimilitude (see Boskone notes below.)

So (shameless plea for advice), if you were going to write about 400 meter tall robotic legs, where would you look to get the science right? I'm more concerned about structural integrity, weight, etc., than whether it's actually possible to make such a thing. That part I'm happy to fudge.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Boskone 44 - Part 3

Last post regarding Boskone 44. Some notes on the sessions I attended. Attributions, quotes, references, etc., are as best as I could manage or translate from my handwriting. All mistakes are mine.

Panel: Matthew Jarpe

Wanted to meet Matthew for a number of reasons, some rather obscure (e.g. he lives in Quincy, MA which is on the South Shore which is the area where I went to high school though in another town.) Nice guy. Go read his stories. Go buy his book this summer.

Making Writing More Vivid and Memorable
Panel: Judith Berman, Tobias Buckell, Greer Gilman, Glenn Grant, Sharon Lee

A lot of discussion about what it means to be a stylist, how the voice of the work/narrator/character/writer brings out the details for the reader.

Berman: How the words "snap", their rhythm, the way they work with sentences, is important, the sound symbol weight (e.g. flame, flicker, flare). Look at the way machine language is used for nature in Neuromancer.

Buckell: Style, words, story, characters all need to work together. Retype a paragraph of a master writer - slows you down to look at the words.

Gilman: Words have to work for the ear. Read out loud to see if the pulse and tempo are correct. Go to the original source - don't rely on a copy of a copy of a copy of a writer's style. In descriptions, use the right details, not all the details.

Grant: Diction is important. The right word and specific words. Thomas Pynchon has very vivid writing. "English has a poor vocabulary for smells and tastes."

Who/What They Mentioned:
Samuel R. Delaney [Book on Writing?]
Summerland by Michael Chabon
Joan Aiken
Catechism of Cliche by Myles na Gopaleen

Recent Campbell Award Winners Talk
Panel: Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Wen Spencer

Basically a really big list of up and coming writers and publications. In no particular order. Ready?

Who/What They Mentioned:
Boing Boing

Cassandra Clare
Peter Watson [Can anyone supply a good link?]
Joe Hill
Cherie Priest
Heather Shaw
Tim Pratt
Kelly Link
Ted Chiang
Scott Lynch
Naomi Novik

John Scalzi mentioned something that lit a bulb in my head. He was describing many new SF/F writers as needing to be performers. That there was a dividing line around 1995, corresponding to when the web was taking off. Some writers are on and would essentially stay on the pre-1995 side. The implication to me (and this is just my thought) is that those writers are not going to see long term success.

Again, this is just me rambling. John Scalzi was not putting anyone down or making a pronouncement about who will or won't succeed in this business.

But, to me, this makes sense. Take a look at a handful of SFWA Members. Who has a blog and who doesn't? Who is relying on 'cool', static web pages versus 'hot', interactive web sites? Who is getting out and meeting people and who is home doing the writer thing?

Who is more capable of understanding and using the new media landscape to promote themselves and their books? Is it any wonder that several people at the convention spoke about a renaissance in science fiction right now?

Should I stop asking questions and get to the point of this very long blog post? Is it very late right now? Will you have to wait until the next post?

[I edited this later because it was 3am when I first posted it and I just wasn't happy with the words.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Boskone 44 - Part 2

Some notes on the sessions I attended. Attributions, quotes, references, etc. are as best as I could manage or translate from my handwriting. All mistakes are mine.

Panel: Lou Anders

Elaine Isaak and I had a nice chat with the editor of PYR books.

Who/What They Mentioned:
Cory Doctorow
Ian McDonald
Dan Simmons
David Louis Edelman
Monkey Brain Books
Strange Horizons

The Business Side of Writing
Panel: Darleen Marshall, Joshua Bilmes, Jeffrey Carver, Gay Haldeman, Sharon Lee

Rather tame session, standard kind of information (e.g. keep your receipts, pay your self-employment taxes).

Bilmes: Keep copies of your reviews (no one else will) even the bad ones (can be edited creatively) and use for blurbs on next book.

Carver: Business credit card helpful for list of expenses. Do book signings with another author; cuts expenses and not as lonely.

Haldeman: Don't spend all of your advance! Don't change your lifestyle. Money won't always flow the same from year to year.

Marshall: Self-promotion is critical. Bring chocolate to book signings. On final edit of manuscript, change font and review. Eye is used to the usual font and can find problems, typos, etc. easier in a different font.

Finishing that Damn Novel
Panel: Judith Berman, Tobias Buckell, Laurie Mann

Hmm, not quite what I expected but interesting.

Mann: Don't quit. Took five years to write her book.

Berman: Day job can make a difference; ask yourself what day job is for you in order to be a writer (e.g. day, night, writing, no writing, etc.). Get past the highs and lows; bits in the middle can inspire other stuff for the book.

Buckell: Approached the novel with a question: What where the coolest things he wanted to read in a SF novel? Crystal Rain took five months to write. Second book took two years; whole thing got scrapped and re-wrote it over four months. Most authors first published novels are not the first ones they wrote.

Also on Saturday I went to 'Brother Guy on Ice' (Jesuit freezes looking for metorites), Agent Roundtable ("We're the honest ones, really"), a reading by Elizabeth Bear (She is a great writer. Read her at your own peril; you may not pick up a pen again. I'm not kidding.), 'Conciousness, AI, and Downloadable Personalities' (Marvin Minsky and some other people bowing to Marvin Minsky), a literary beer with Karl Schroeder (more AI talk; I would have taken notes but I was too busy drinking), and Broad Universe Reading (Jessica's was the best).

Monday, February 19, 2007

Boskone 44 - Part 1

Some notes on the sessions I attended, mostly so I don't forget to follow some of the links, but also in case they are of use or interest to anyone else. Attributions, quotes, references, etc. are as best as I could manage or translate from my handwriting (which looks like the scratchings of a headless chicken jazzed up on Red Bull). All mistakes are mine.

Making the Science Real (or at least making it seem real)
Panel: Glenn Grant, Shariann Lewitt, Steven Popkes, and Allen M. Steele.

Word choice important. Surround the text with enough detail to make it sound real. All agreed it was harder to fudge the science today vs. 20/15/10/5 years ago since we just plain know more about physics, chemistry, the universe, etc.

Lewitt: One sure area is math. The proof is correct or it isn't. If your math is right, you are on safe ground.

Popkes: SF writers tend to make new names for things when in reality people hang onto words and metaphors long after the function has been transcended. Ex. cell phone for a device that takes pictures, plays music, organizes your calendar, etc. Ex. Dialing a number when there is only a touch pad, no rotary dial.

Who/What They Mentioned:
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The James Bond Dossier by Kingsley Amis

Ask The Slush Pile Readers
Panel: Hannah Wolf Bowen, Adam Golaski, Nick Mamatas, Paul G. Tremblay

Bits of advice from the magazine editors, most of which should be common sense. No unicorns or mermaids or dead kids. Ask for letter response (small envelope, save yourself postage), first line of the story is important, etc.

Most will draw the line at certain topics or types of stories they just won't print. Split on personal versus form rejection.

Who/What They Mentioned:
New Genre
Clarkesworld Magazine
Fantasy Magazine

Religion In Fantasy
Panel: Judith Berman, Debra Doyle, Walter H. Hunt, Jane Yolen

I will admit it. Much of the Tolkein/C. S. Lewis/Christianity discussion went right over my head. Some of the discussion did focus on "Making The Pretend Religion Real".

Hunt: In a pantheon, gods come into being for a purpose and reason; make sure they fit together and interact with each other. Old religions change over time. Explore believers (e.g. the gods did this) versus non-believers (e.g. no, there's a logical explanation for that).

Doyle: [ed. best line] Realize the religion fully. In addition to the high priest make sure to also include the "women's guild of the altar." [okay, you had to be there].

Stunned Realization: I actually have a book written by Jane Yolen (Take Joy) and my daughter has read several of her children's books.

Who/What They Mentioned:
Milton, Blake (you don't really want links, do you?)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Post Kon Blues ...

I remember this feeling from my previous career. Three or four days in Wonderland, talking with like minded folks about obscure things in a language that few understand, or even want to understand.

And then, too quick, it's time to say goodbye. Goodbye nice people.

Hello Monday.

I had a great time at Boskone. Many pages of notes will get posted. For now, thanks are due to several people.

Thanks to Tobias Buckell, a very nice person, who to my amazement, recognized my name from a scant three or four posts on his blog.

A thank you to Elaine Isaak, just for being a friendly face at random panels we both attended.

To the Birch Bar Crew: Beth, Game Master-S, and Jessica. You all rock.

And, not least but most, Ms. LBB. Thanks friend.

And now, to battle with the Google/Blogger monster. I am told I must submit and be absorbed into the new and improved. Wish me luck. From what I hear, I'll need it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Boskone Program ...

The official Boskone 44 program is online. I am very revved up for this conference. There are so many different panels and choices.

However, I found the web page of the schedule hard to wrap my brain around so I created a spreadsheet of all the panels and participants so I could sort it this way and that. With the thought that others may be interested, I've put the spreadsheet on my website (the spreadsheet link that is above is also here. Just right click on the spreadsheet link and save to your computer (I promise, no viruses).

Please note the spreadsheet is an UNOFFICIAL and UNAUTHORIZED document. It is not the doing of the Boskone organizers or NESFA. If the times/rooms/panels change before the conference, it won't be reflected in the spreadsheet. Hope it helps.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Quite The Shirt Tale ...

In Jr. and Sr. High School, English teachers laid down the law regarding comma use in a a series of items. For example:

I went to the store and bought bread, eggs, hot sauce and pickled beets.

The teachers said a comma was not allowed after 'hot sauce'. We're not talking 'not needed', or 'not commonly used', but 'Not Allowed'. We're talking red pen, strike-through, points deducted 'Not Allowed'.

I didn't like this at all. The comma needed to be there. The comma wanted to be there. The teachers were firm. The books they taught from said no.

Later in life, I used the comman inconsistently, sometimes bravely, sometimes omitting it out of guilt. I have to admit to some grammatical laziness which I have been trying to overcome of late (thought it might be a good idea in the writing field and all).

I did find grammar books that said the last comma is a matter of personal style and preference. Of course there are times when it is necessary to clarify the meaning of the sentence. In the book Rules for Writers, Diana Hacker provides this example:

"The activities include a search for lost treasure, dubious financial dealings, much discussion of ancient heresies, and midnight orgies."
- Rules for Writers, p. 192

Without the last comma, it would lead the reader to believe there was only discussion about the midnight orgies.

Recently, the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss surfaced to the top of the pile to be read. (I know, almost everyone in the world read it like three years ago. I'm slow, okay?) In that book I read, not only is there a difference of opinion regarding this final comma, it has a name. The Oxford comma! Upon further research, there is even some dispute about this name, with the generic serial comma proposed.

All I know is, I feel a lot better about where I stick my commas.

Just don't get me started about where to put a period when the sentence ends with a quotation mark (or a parenthesis).