Hello Kansas SF readers: I’ll be signing some of my stories at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson on Tuesday Aug. 16 from 1 p.m to 2 p.m. Come say “hi” to me and other writers: Martin L. Shoemaker, C. Stuart Hardwick, Daniel J. Davis, and Steve Pantazis. I’ve never been to this space museum and am looking forward to it. Hope some of you can drop by. Here’s the press release:
Next, I’ll be in Kansas City on Wed. 8/16 through Mon. 8/22 for MidAmeriCon, the world science fiction and fantasy convention. In addition to signing some of my work, I’ll be on panels talking about dinosaurs, time travel, Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, magic, and cloning mammoths. Those are separate topics (whew!). Hope to see a bunch of you there. Here’s my Worldcon schedule:
What’s New in the World of Dinosaurs!
Thursday 1:00 – 2:00, 2205 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Dinosaurs are cool! New discoveries are being made every day as we unearth bones from the past. In a recent discovery, scientists believe that a pregnant T-Rex found in Montana may have fragments of DNA preserved in her medullary bone. What else is out there? What other news from the past is there to share?
Bennett Coles, Michael Swanwick, Mel. White, Frank Wu (M) Rosemary Claire Smith
Amateur Scientists Doing Real Science
Thursday 2:00 – 3:00, 2206 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We all know of amateur astrophysicists and their successes, but what other science is carried out by non-professionals? What can they teach us about doing science and learning about science in real life situations and in our sf-nal worlds?
Spring Schoenhuth, Rosemary Claire Smith, Renée Sieber (M)
Thursday Aug 18 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM (Kansas City Convention Center)
Launch Pad is an annual event whereby a group of invited writers, editors, and creatives learn about modern science, specifically astronomy, so that they can in turn use it in their work and inspire others. Members who have attended Launch Pad discuss how it has affected their writing and ideas.
Fonda Lee (M), Monica Valentinelli, William Ledbetter, Matthew S. Rotundo, Rosemary Claire Smith
To Clone a Mammoth
Thursday 6:00 – 7:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We’re trying to clone dinosaurs (because that went so well in the Jurassic Park films), but maybe we should start with something smaller. Perhaps… a mammoth! Then again, what would we do with a mammoth? Where would it live? How would we go about cloning it? What are some of the risks, real or imagined, of reviving extinct species using cloning technology?
Rosemary Claire Smith, Mel. White (M), Frank Wu, Takayuki Tatsumi, Lynette M. Burrows
Autographing: Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Rebecca Moesta, Martin Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Friday 10:00 – 11:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
Rebecca Moesta, Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Martin L. Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Archaeology in SF
Saturday 2:00 – 3:00, 2503B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Forget Indiana Jones, learn what archaeologists really do and how science fiction and fantasy get it right and wrong.
Dana Cameron, Rhiannon Held, Jason Sanford (M), Jack McDevitt, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
When The Magic Goes Away
Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)
In a world once filled with magic, mystery, and beauty, where the Old Magic slipped away from the forests, the gates to Faerie closed, and the last ships sailed to the west, what does it mean when the magic fades? We look at representations of coming back to the real world or letting go, and wonder why it is such a potent part of fantasy writing.
Mr. Jared Shurin (M), Heather Rose Jones, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith, Erin Wilcox, Mr. Kevin J. Anderson
Time Travel and the Search for Redemption
Sunday 1:00 – 2:00, 3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Much of literature involves characters’ fraught relationship with the past. They are haunted by memories or spend their lives regretting a single horrible decision. Time travel permits the character to confront the past directly, to make literal what in mainstream fiction is only metaphorical. Join us as we discuss stories where time travel is a metaphor or device for witnessing and learning about the past or wishing to correct personal flaws and errors.
Kenneth Schneyer (M), Jack McDevitt, Jason Heller, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
It’s that time of year again for readers of science fiction and fantasy to make nominations for the Hugo awards. In fact the Hugo nomination deadline is March 10, 2015. It’s also time for writers belonging to the Science Fiction Writers of America to make nominations for Nebula awards. That deadline is February 1,2015. Yikes, both dates are right around the corner!
Every year I stumble upon the usual spate of articles bemoaning the fact that “too few” people submit nominations for the Hugo and Nebula awards, with the bemoaners asserting that the nominations have been rendered less meaningful by reduced participation. I don’t have a lot of patience with this viewpoint. Instead, I have an idea … If you’re reading my blog because you are interested in science fiction and/or fantasy stories, you might consider making some nominations if you are eligible to do so, and voting when the time comes.
So what is worthy of being nominated as one of the best science fiction or fantasy works of 2014? It seems like I go through the same mental process each year. First, I absolutely intend to make some nominations because there are several terrific novels and shorter works that were published in the last year. But wait, there are so many stories, long and short, that I did not read, and didn’t even open. How can I possibly put forward informed choices?
Then I remind myself that absolutely everyone who nominates is in this same position. There are hundreds of choices (or maybe more?) if you consider every science fiction and fantasy work that was published in 2014. Nobody could attempt to get even a cursory overview of everything out there. So, I’d better start making my selections because that excuse won’t cut it.
After I’ve drawn up a preliminary list, I usually see that it seems skewed toward those publications I like best, such as Analog. Well, Analog did publish 3 of my stories over the years, and one of those, “Dino Mate,” is eligible in the 2014 short story category. How could I not find that Analog stories speak to me? That’s one reason why I’ve read more of that magazine this year than any other periodical.
So I usually start by figuring out my choices for the Analog Readers Choice Awards. This is a marvelous award as it is chosen by Analog readers. You don’t have to qualify to be a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, which is for professional writers. Nor do you have to be a member of any science fiction convention or group, which can be pricey. Anyone can fill out the Analog ballot by February 1, 2015 in the comfort of your own computer. Here it is:
But getting back to the Hugos and Nebulas, my next step after deciding on my AnLab choices is to take a look at the Tangent On Line Recommended Reading List. I love that the Tangent reviewers make such an outstanding effort to look at nearly every novella, novelette and short story that has been published in the past year. However, even just looking at what they recommend can be a lot, so I tend to focus especially those works that have 2 or 3 stars or that are written by the ever-growing list of writers whose works I admire. Here’s this year’s Tangent list:
One last thought—I’ll undoubtedly have missed some great stuff when I submit my nominations. Not to worry; I’ll be sure to read all those nominees when it comes time to vote for the Nebulas and Hugos.
There’s a FB meme circulating among my writer pals challenging one another to list ten books that we’ve read at a formative age, indicating why they stayed with us. I’m always fascinated by what influenced present-day writers. If you are too, here’s my list, though it could change somewhat next week or next month. Most of these are books I read before entering college. What I never fully realized until now is that several of the books on my list not only had a big influence on my first profession – archaeology – but they also seem to have had an influence on the fantasy and science fiction stories I currently write.
1. The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends – The folks who put out the Little Golden Books published this “Giant Golden Book Deluxe Edition” of Greek, Roman, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon myths, legends, etc. The illustrations are as evocative as the stories.
2. Tik Tok of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, Patchwork Girl of Oz – L. Frank Baum – For me, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent books in the series that were written by L. Frank Baum, will always be the true Oz, no matter what movies and subsequent reboots may come along. I recall being fascinated by the map of Oz, which may have led to a love of maps and geography of far-away places and imaginary lands.
3. Alice In Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll – So many sayings from this book still find their way into my day-to-day thoughts.
4. The Bull of Minos– Leonard Cottrell – a reporter’s account of archaeological excavations by Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans at Troy and Knossos. Though it does not hold up well for a number of reasons, it was the book that prompted me to go into archaeology.
5. The Illustrated Man -Ray Bradbury – I close my eyes and see myself reading this collection of short stories collection, which included one of my favorites,The Veldt.
6. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe – One after the other, I devoured The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc.
7. The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien -It’s fashionable to knock TLOTR these days. Though it may have various flaws, it introduced heroic fantasy to so many writers of a certain age.
8. Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny – I greatly fear that this fabulous writer who left us much too soon isn’t being read as much anymore as he should be.
9. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse – Many people rediscovered this book about the life of the Buddha in the 70’s, though you almost never hear about it any more.
10. The Fifth Head of Cerberus – Gene Wolfe – I read this in graduate school when I was very ill with bronchitis and in an impressionable state. Another anthropology student visited me in the school’s infirmary, pressed this book into my hands, and said I should read it. To this day, I have no idea how he knew.
As the Clarion Writers’ Workshop barrels full speed into Week Three, I’m reminded of my own third week at Clarion, and I look at this class with envy and amazement. Here’s the envy part: They’re in San Diego, whereas I spent all six weeks in East Lansing, MI. The summer heat and humidity of my Week 3 was punctuated by mosquito swarms, and our sanity depended on water gun fights. At that point, I wasn’t yet too physically exhausted to run around or too sleep deprived to fall asleep at my computer, both of which came later.
As for the amazement part: It’s remarkable how much beginning writers can learn in such a short period of time simply through lectures, writing exercises, critiquing others, having their own work critiqued by super smart people, and venturing beyond their writerly comfort zone. The other amazing thing is that a goodly number of the lessons learned in Week Three (and the other weeks, too) are time released. I never did figure out how great writing instructors do that, but they all seem to work that bit of magic. In other words, by Week Three, the Clarionites have learned more than they might suppose.
During my own third week, I wrote the initial draft of the first story that I ever sold. I’m wishing this year’s class great success with this week’s efforts.
J Kathleen Cheney, my remarkable writing friend, has organized a series of blog posts by other writers who talk about those unexpected events that happened early in their careers. It seems we all have gone through something that nobody warned us might happen. My piece was just posted today, and is entitled, “There will be a bit of a delay.”
While you are checking it out, you might want to have a look at Kathleen’s terrific first novel, The Golden City. It’s a wonderful historical fantasy-mystery-romance mash-up set in turn-of-the-century Lisbon. I’m eagerly awaiting her second book in the series.
I’m participating in my first blog-hop, in which writers are answering questions about their own creative processes. But before I get to the questions, let me say that I was invited into this process by the remarkable Anne Leonard, whose first novel, Moth and Spark, was just published by Viking Press. It’s not your usual fantasy tale of romance and adventure, for the prince and a gifted seer must set out to free the dragons from bondage. Check out her blog at anneleonardbooks.com.
So without further ado-
1) What am I working on?
As usual, I have several projects all clamoring for my attention simultaneously. First, there are several more time travel stories to the Age of Dinosaurs, featuring the characters from my July/August 2013 Analog story, Not With a Bang. I’m also in the midst of three linked romance and adventure novels set in a fantastical world of my own creation, featuring capricious and powerful creatures and the bold men and women who must find a way to live among them. Then there is my novel-length rewrite of the Trojan War and its aftermath, in which I take issue with Homer’s perspective, as well as Vergil’s.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I come at creating science fictional and fantasy worlds differently from most authors. My training is as an archaeologist and cultural anthropologist. Hence, the physical landscape and climate come first – plains, mountains, coastlines, rivers, jungles, etc. The peoples who inhabit those places are inescapably shaped by their environments and natural resources, whether it be a particular locale on the planetary surface or a space station or a generation ship. Nor is it realistic to create a mono-culture across vast distances. I’m also not fond of defaulting to the social organizations of modern western societies, as I find it far more interesting to look at how other societies organize themselves in response to the constraints imposed on them by their environments, by their level of technology, and by the other societies around them. It makes a fair bit of explanation necessary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lastly, I am not fond of static societies, particularly in fantasy worlds, where life hasn’t changed much culturally or technologically in thousands of years. I simply can’t think of anything less realistic than that. Societies undergo change all the time, whether people are doing their utmost to create that change or to repress it, due to climate change, technological advances, population growth or decline, war, peace, disease, feast or famine, religions, and any number of other factors.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write about ideas, people, and situations that interest me. As I hope you’ve figured out by now, I’m interested in coming up with a different take on things than the usual answers. I’ve loved dinosaurs ever since I first saw their skeletons in the New York City Museum of Natural History when I was five years old, so I’ll always write about them. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by mythologies from various cultures. Hence my story The Fifth Sun, which is about Quetzalcoatl. Though I can’t say I’m overly fond of zombies, they’ve found their way into my work, too. Check out The Zombie Limbo Master, appearing in Bastion SF in May 2014.
4) How does my writing process work?
It always begins with an idea, followed by the setting. Then I have to do a casting call for a protagonist capable of handling the situation I intend to throw at him or her. Next I write the first scene. Characters, snatches of dialog and scene fragments emerge, in no particular order. From this chaos, I can usually cobble together a scene-by-scene outline. Even with that done, I can’t manage to write the story in order. I’ll typically write the ending next, then the climax scene, then fill in bits and pieces in the middle, rewriting my earlier work as discoveries hit me along the way. Hence, I do quite a lot of rewriting before I’m ready to show it to my first reader, followed by my writers’ group. By the time I submit it to an editor, I’ve gone through at least five drafts.
So now, it’s time for me to pass these questions along to three other writers: Tom Doyle, Josh Roseman, and Carmen Webster Buxton. Tom’s and Carmen’s posts will be going up on April 28, and Josh’s on May 19. Check back to see what these interesting writers have to say.
Tom Doyle’s first novel in a three-book contemporary fantasy series from Tor, American Craftsmen, will be published on May 6, 2014. He has a short fiction collection out from Paper Golem Press, The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. His blog is at http://www.tomdoyleauthor.com/news-and-blog/, and the text and audio of many of his stories are also available on that website.
Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) lives in Georgia (the state, not the country). His writing has appeared in Asimov’s, Escape Pod, and the Crossed Genres anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land. His fiction has been reprinted by Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine and StarShipSofa, and his voice has been heard on two Escape Artists and four of the five District of Wonders podcasts. He is a 2013 graduate of the Taos Toolbox writing workshop. When not writing, he mostly complains about the fact that he’s not writing. Find him online at roseplusman.com or on twitter @listener42.
Carmen Webster Buxton was born in Honolulu and experienced a childhood on the move, as her father was in the US Navy. She has been a librarian, a teacher, a project manager, a wife, and a mother, although not in that order. She now lives in Maryland with her husband, her daughter, and a cat with the unlikely name of Carbomb. She is an eclectic reader of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, romance, and mainstream fiction. Carmen writes science fiction, mostly set in the far future, and the occasional fantasy. The Sixth Discipline was her first novel to be published as an ebook, and its sequel No Safe Haven was published shortly after it. Several books have followed. You can find her at: http://carmenspage.blogspot.com/p/about.html
When United Airlines canceled my flight late Monday afternoon because they couldn’t fix a flat tire, thus stranding me in San Antonio, I was not happy. I was tired, sleep deprived and just wanted to get home to my husband. Instead, I thought I’d be eating a forgettable dinner by myself in a Hilton near the airport, and then go up to my room early. I entered the uninspired hotel dining room, SF paperback in hand. Sitting at the next table were a couple of other convention-goers who’d also been stranded. A few minutes later more came in – fans, filkers and a writer. We had a fine time talking about the Worldcon we’d just attended, conventions past and future, projects we were working on, and all manner of things. Before I knew it, over two hours had passed pleasantly. In short, I can’t think of another group of strangers I’d rather be stranded with than science fiction and fantasy aficionados.