Friday, March 21, 2008

Ciencia Ficción

Last Book Read: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Caution: Long, rambling, link-o-rific post ahead.

Speculative fiction from the U.S. and Canada dominates the world market. At the Boskone conference last February, the discussion about regional SF also focused on those two countries. I decided to make my personal theme of that weekend a search for speculative fiction in the broader world.

It began with the after hours party promoting the Worldcon bid for Australia in 2010. I asked a few folks there about prominent Aussie SF writers. Greg Egan had the top spot, followed by Damien Broderick.

Beyond that, it was acknowledged it is tough to break into the international, let alone the North American, markets. Neither writer, I was told, used particularly Australian settings or themes.

I thought a different tack was in order, perhaps non-English language SF. An agent I spoke with at Boskone, Eleanor Wood, said she always got an earful at the Frankfurt Book Fair where international publishing rights are negotiated. The flow of fiction was too much a one-way street from the U.S./Canada/UK outward.

Wood suggested reading The SFWA European Hall of Fame, a collection of sixteen stories from various European writers, translated to English. I purchased it but haven't started reading yet; it looks very good.

I attended another Worldcon party, this time for next year's Anticipation in Montreal. I asked the host, René Walling, about French language SF. I wish my memory was better. He mentioned a long list of names, starting with Jules Verne and the famous silent movie Le Voyage dans la Lune, and leading up to the present with one of the guests of honor at Anticipation, Elisabeth Vonarburg.

Some of Vonarburg's books, I was told, have been translated into English. By now I was getting an urge to read untranslated SF. French, unfortunately, is out of the question. Spanish, on the other hand, I could muddle through. I certainly studied it long enough, though I must admit having rarely put it into practice.

Yet again at Boskone, I talked with writer Gregory Feeley about Spanish language SF. He recommended an anthology of translated works, Cosmos Latinos, about which he had written a review for the Washington Post.

Cosmos Latinos was a great starting point. It spans over 100 years and features writers from Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, Argentina, Venezuela, and Peru. The early works are typical of the late 19th century. The last few selections touch on recent trends like cyberpunk and urban fantasy. And in between is some great fiction.

I'm almost finished with the anthology and there is a definite theme that runs through many of stories. If you guessed politics and war, you'd be right. Unavoidable given the bloody history of many Central and South American countries, and also the civil wars in Mexico and Spain.

Perhaps this has more to do with the selection of these particular stories by the editors than a predominant trend in Spanish language SF. Regardless, this anthology is very much regional SF with stories set in the home countries of the writers, and full of local history, events, and literature. Thank goodness for the footnotes otherwise I would have missed many of the references.

This got me hooked. I started looking for online fiction. I've been helped along by Gustavo Bondoni. He pointed out Cuasar and Axxón, the latter of which he described as "the mother lode".

If neither Spanish nor French is your bag, Douglas Smith's Foreign Market List might have something in one's foreign language of choice. As for me, I'm dusting off my trusty Spanish/English dictionary, though I have a feeling I'll need more help. This new site, My Happy Planet might do.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Story

Last Book Read: Mongo by Ted Botha

At the online fiction magazine On The Premises you can read my short story "Nice Shade of Blue".

The story had an interesting journey to publication. It is mainstream fiction, not a speculative note in it. I wrote it almost two years ago and sent it off to a few literary magazines that took forever and a day to reject it.

I put the story aside, thinking it was done, wanting to focus on other things. On The Premises (OTP) has contests three times a year, each with a theme. The most recent theme fit my story so well, I figured what the heck, send it in.

The point I guess is never give up. Just a matter of finding the right editor at the right publication at the right time.

A little more information about OTP. They print all genres. The contests have very, very nice cash prizes. And the folks there are great to work with.

When I submitted my story I was a little wary. As I said, the cash prizes are great, up to $140 for first place. The website has no advertising. The stories are free, no subscription required. There are no fees for contest entries. Made me wonder where the money was coming from.

So I asked. The publisher and co-editor, Tarl Roger Kudrick, said it was a labor of love at the moment. The funding model might change in the future, but for now they're just trying to gain an audience as well as experience in publishing and editing.

I hope I'm not telling tales out of school by relating that. There are a lot of sketchy webzines out there. My intent is only to give props to a fiction site that deserves the credit and publicity.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Toy

Before I get to the topic of the day, I'll mention author L.A. Mitchell who stops by here on occasion.

Her short story, "The Lost Highway" appears in the romance anthology Love Texas Style, published by The Wild Rose Press.

Check out the book, her website, and her Lost Month of Giveaways contest.

In other news, I recently purchased a device I have not seen or used in a long, long time. It looks like this:

Weird looking, huh? It gets better. In order to use it, you have to put things on it, things that look like this:

I know, crazy! And what's amazing is when you turn the device on, it plays music. I'm not kidding!

What kind of music? Well, I'm not talking about toe tapping tunes.

I'm not talking about a funky groove.

I'm talking about music that makes me want to move.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bunch 'O Stuff

Congrats to Ken for winning the winter 2008 contest! And thanks to everyone who participated.

In February, I did have fun at Boskone. Didn't come close to completing a second draft of my book, but then that was an insanely ambitious target.

I did read through the first, crappy draft and made notes about how terrible it was. So for March:
~ Complete half of second draft of novel.

Everything else will be gravy.

I must have been in a strange mood because I laughed out loud for a full five minutes at the link below, tears and everything. Now it seems ... well, I won't spoil it. Garfield minus Garfield.

More fun is La Blogotheque. The videos feature musicians/bands performing impromptu while wandering streets, apartment buildings, subways, etc.

A word of warning, the main page of videos is huge, potentially browser crippling. Also, I couldn't get the video of The Ex (perhaps the best of the bunch IMHO) to play in Firefox; had to switch to IE. Extra points to the drummer of Malajube for creative use of the streetscape.