Category Archives: science fiction

I’ll Be at RavenCon for One Day – Saturday, April 26

I hadn’t planned to attend any science fiction conventions until later this fall, but I’ve decided to head down to RavenCon in Richmond, VA, for one day, Saturday, April 26. RavenCon was the first science fiction convention I ever attended, and it made an amazing impression on me in a very short time.

If you’ll be at RavenCon on Saturday and want to catch up or say hello, let me know, or just ping me on Twitter sometime that day.

(Later in the fall, I’ll be at Capclave and World Fantasy.)

My Favorite Fictional Battle Scenes

I‘m re-reading It by Stephen King and on Monday, read Chapter 13: The Apocalyptic Rock Fight. It’s not what one might think of as a traditional “battle scene” but I think it’s the best fictional battle scene I’ve ever read. It got me thinking about other battle scenes I’ve read and so I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite fictional battle scenes. They are:

1. “The Apocalyptic Rock Fight” in It by Stephen King. A dozen kids in the late 1958s having it out in a quarry. It’s not a dog fight or a space battle, but it is an epic battle none-the-less. The entire scene is supposed to unfold in about four minutes, and having participated in my share of rock fights as a kid1 it felt real to me. And it’s the scene where the Losers Club comes together. It’s a pivotal moment and it is execute flawlessly by Stephen King.

2. The battle of Eyebolt Canyon in Wizard and Glass by Stephen KingWizard and Glass was my favorite of all of the Dark Tower books, and the battle that takes place in Eyebolt Canyon, when Roland and his ka-tet trap their enemies there and watch them destroyed by fire and thinny was cathartic after all that they had been through. It was one of those few scenes that I could imagine as epic in scope on the big screen, and it was awesome.

3. The battle at King’s Landing in A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. That scene was just–wow! You sort of anticipate it through the whole novel and then when it comes, it is just epic. While pretty good for television, the scene on the silver screen just doesn’t do justice to that battle scene. And the addition of the Greek-fire-like substance makes it that much more epic.

4. The submarine battle in The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Say what you will about Clancy’s writing style (which wasn’t great) that battle scene toward the end of the book is phenomenal. Much better in the book than what they did in the movie, although the movie wasn’t too bad either.

5. The battle at the Osaka Castle in Shogun by James Clavell. While the details have grown fuzzy–I read the book 9 years ago–that battle scene, which included attacking Ninja, stands out in my mind as a great one.

Honorable mention: The battle of Agincourt in Henry V by William Shakespeare. While I don’t remember the play going into a lot of detail about the battle itself (I seem to recall a before and after), I’d known about the battle before I ever read the play and I remember picturing it my mind as I read the play.

I find it interesting that, while some of the battle scenes I’ve listed are fantasy, none are science fiction. I think that’s because it is really tough to do a good science fiction battle scene and make it feel epic. But also, as we said at my Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop last summer, “Space is big, really big.” And is a place as big as space, even an epic battle can seem small.

Any favorite fictional (I’m talking written, not on the screen) battle scenes you have? Let me hear about them in the comments.

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  1. We called them “dirt bomb” fights.

Happy Birthday Amazing Stories – Here’s My Oldest Issue (Dec 1926)

I learned from Steve Davidson’s Amazing Stories blog that today is the 88th birthday of science fiction’s first magazine. In honor of that birthday, here is a picture of my oldest issue of Amazing, sent to me by a fan of my Vacation in the Golden Age posts. It’s the December 1926 issue. That makes this issue part of Amazing’s first year of publication, but the issue itself is not quite 88 years old (although from the wear and tear, it certain looks it).

Amazing Dec 1926

And here is the contents page for the issue:

Amazing Content 1926

Happy birthday, Amazing Stories!

Read a Short Story Today

Twenty years ago, it seemed that the number of outlets producing good short science fiction, fantasy, and horror were few and far between. Today it is thriving. With attention spans growing shorter, short stories are the perfect ingredient for readers who want to fill those shrinking slots of time. And so, as a reminder, here are a baker’s dozen of great outlets for outstanding stories.

Happy reading!

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop Is Accepting Application for 2014

The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, run by Mike Brotherton at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, is now accepting applications for their 2014 class. I attended Launch Pad last year and it was a highlight of my year. If you want to get a flavor for what Launch Pad is like, you can read about my experience there, or check out the article I wrote on my experience for Clarkesworld magazine.

If you are looking to improve your understanding of the universe, and use that understanding to improve your science fiction stories, consider Launch Pad. It is a crash course in astronomy, taught by real world astronomers, who also happen to be science fiction writers, so you get the best of both worlds. And while there is a lot of classroom lecture time, Launch Pad is very hands-on. You get to look through telescopes, visit a radio telescope, and even take a long morning hike. And nothing can compare to the bonding experience you get with 12 or 13 other writers who share your interest.

Launch Pad is accepting applications starting today. Consider applying. You’d be in good company. A lot of science fiction writers have attended Launch Pad over the last several years.

My Science Fiction Generation

When I read about the Golden Age of science fiction, I get the sense that the writers (who were also fans) of the time knew each other fairly well. They may not have met in person, but they knew one another from the tables of contents they shared, and from the magazine letter columns. Many did know each other personally, and over time developed friendships that in some instances, lasted a lifetime.

When Isaac Asimov was hanging out with Fred Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, Lester del Rey and others as a teenager, I sometime wonder if he recognized, at the time, that these people were his science fiction generation? I was thinking about this because recently, I’ve started to recognized my own generation. I’m talking about other science fiction writers I know, with whom my stories have appeared in various tables of contents, or with whom I swap stories for beta-reading, or enjoy hanging out with at conventions. For me, this includes people like Brad Torgersen, Jason Sanford (with whom my stories have appeared in table of contents multiple times), Ken Liu, Jay Werkheiser, Alethea Kontis, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Alex Shvartsman, Damien Walters, Andrew Penn Romine, Juliette Wade, and probably a few that I am forgetting.

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that my writing is as good as these writers. But I do consider them part of my science fiction generation. These are the writers that I’m growing up with as a writer myself, the way Asimov grew up with Pohl, and Ellison grew up with Silverberg. I sometimes imagine that if I am every a grandfather, one or more of my grandkids will be science fiction fans, and when they learn that I knew Brad Torgersen or Damien Walters or Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, they will be suitably impressed. I think it is nice, every now and then, to slow down from the busy pace of life and look at where things are. I am part of a science fiction generation, and looking around at the people belong to this generation, I am humbled and honored to be a part of it.

Enjoy these posts? – Tell a friend

Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

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Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Award Season FAQ

It’s award season, with the Hugo Awards now open for nomination, and the Nebula Awards now halfway through its nomination period. I’ve been asked a few times about my own stories, so let me say two things about my stories and the awards:

  1. I don’t promote my own stories during award season. My own philosophy, which I apply solely to myself and my stories, is that if the stories don’t create enough buzz on their own they are not worth nominating. Because of this, I don’t create buzz on their behalf. I realize that some might view this as strange behavior, but it’s how I feel. I will happily sing the praises of other people’s stories that I’ve read. But I want my own stories to be good enough to create their own buzz.
  2. My stories published in 2013 are not eligible for the Nebula awards. I am the Nebula Award commissioner this year and that makes my stories ineligible for that award.

Happy nominating, everyone!

(ETA 1/7: If you are simply looking for what I’ve published, can’t recall a title, or something like that, I do have a bibliography page.)

Nebula Nominations are Open Today for SFWA Members

Active and associate members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America can begin nominating works for the 2013 Nebula Awards today. The nomination ballots will be open until February 15. To make your nominations, you can use this link:

Members will receive an email with your login information, if you don’t already have it.

I don’t ordinarily make these announcements here, but I do so today for 2 reasons:

1. I am the Nebula Award Commissioner for 2013, which means I am in charge of overseeing the process and making sure it runs as smoothly as it can.

2. Because of #1, fiction that I have published in 2013 is not eligible for nomination this year.

I didn’t actually expect any of my stories would be nominated this year, but in the event that they find their way onto a nomination ballot, they will have to be removed.

If you are an active or associate member of SFWA, I urge you to review the Nebula Award rules before making your nominations. A quick review of the rules helps to avoid mistakes and errors on the nomination ballot.  If you have any questions about the Nebula Award nominations this year, you can contact me, in my capacity as Nebula Award Commissioner at nac [at] sfwa [dot] org.

Malcolm Jameson’s “Bullard” Stories Available in E-Book Form on Amazon

Back when I was doing my Vacation in the Golden Age, I mentioned, quite frequently, how I came to enjoy Malcolm Jameson’s “Bullard” stories. These were essentially Navy-in-space stories written between 1939 and 1942. They were a lot of fun. I’ve talked about how I think Jameson is overlooked today, and I’ve even written an article about him for SF Signal.

At Capclave, on a panel on Space Wars, I talked about Bullard as well. Several people have asked me about his stories and if they are available in e-book format. Today I learned that the Bullard stories are available in e-book format on Amazon, in a collection titled Bullard: Tales of the Patrol. The book is selling for $2.99, and I think it is well worth the price to help keep these stories alive.

5 Things that Make Capclave an Outstanding Science Fiction Convention

The second day1 of Capclave was nearly as fun as the first2. I was a bit more tired on Sunday than I was on Saturday, and not long before my last two panels of the day, I had a energy crash. I made it through and the panels were fun, but boy, was I wiped out! I think that is a sign of a good convention: one that you engage with so much that you leave everything on the field and come away utterly exhausted and in need of sleep. I got sleep last night–more than 8 hours worth, which is a rare thing for me. But I also thought about why Capclave is so much fun year after year and I came up with 5 things that I think makes it a fun, successful convention, at least from my view point.

1. It is (usually) a small, intimate convention

This year, of course, was an exception. I think there were in excess of 800 people attending Capclave this year, almost double what they normally have. And yet, there was still an intimate feel to the convention for the most part. It was not hard to find the people that I wanted to see and talk to. It was not difficult to find the places where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. Rarely were there lines for anything, the big exception being the autograph lines for George R. R. Martin. But those lines would have been long at any convention, and I think the organizers at Capclave found a way of managing the line the made it efficient for George, as well as the people waiting to get books signed.

I managed to get some business done at the convention, in addition to participating on panels and doing other things, and I find that it is always easier to do this at Capclave than it is at other conventions, simply because of the more intimate feel.

2. It has excellent programming

Capclave always has great programming and this year was no exception. Read through the list of panels to get a flavor for the wide variety of subjects that were covered. Capclave is a literary convention, like Readercon, although I’d say that Capclave is far more relaxed than Readercon. (At least, I feel less pressure on panels at Capclave than I do when I’ve been on panels at Readercon.) The subjects of the panels are accessible and interesting. When I was a newer writer, I thought Capclaves panels and workshops for new writers were extraordinarily helpful. Now that I’ve been publishing stories and articles for a while, I like being on the panels that can help new writers.

The panels I was on yesterday are a good example of the range of things covered in Capclave. I started on a panel on science in science fiction. Later, I was on a panel on “Low Tech Writers” with Howard Waldrop and Michael Swanwick. My last panel of the day was on including stuff from your life in the stories you write. All of the panels were well-attended (the science panel was the best-attended of all my panels, I think, with something like 80 people in the audience–probably because George was speaking right after us).

There were a lot of panels I would have loved to attend, were it not for the fact that I was on a panel at the same time. Kate Baker was on a couple of panels on voice-acting and podcasting. Scott Edleman and others did a panel on name-dropping that looked like a lot of fun. There were panels on specific writers (I moderated a panel on Clifford D. Simak, for instance), panels on alternate histories, panels on military science fiction. There were also writing workshop, and readings going on all day long.

3. It has great Guests of Honor

I mean, come on, George R. R. Martin! But go back and look at past years. John Scalzi, Carrie Vaughn, and Connie Willis, to name a few recent guests. And next year, Capclave will have Paulo Bacigalupi and Holly Black.

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  1. You can read about my first day here.
  2. I say “nearly” only because it takes a lot to top the Howard/George/Garnder show from last night.

Capclave 2013, Saturday

I look forward to each October because it means Capclave is just around the corner. Capclave is my local science fiction convention, and it is the annual science fiction convention of the Washington, D.C. area. The convention is generally a small, extremely-well run affair, run by a group of some of the hardest working people you’ll find anywhere.

Capclave is a little bigger than usual this year (well, twice as big at least) because of the author Guest of Honor, a scribbler with the Tolkienesque name of George R. R. Martin. Now, you might be familiar with George from his Game of Thrones series on H.B.O., but George has been part of the science fiction and fandom community since the 1960 and his achievements go far behind Game of Thrones.

The convention started on Friday but I couldn’t make it up here on Friday. I arrived yesterday at about 7:30 am, which gave me and Bud Sparhawk enough time to make sure we were all set for the 90 minute talk on technology we were giving at 9 am was all ready. It was.

My first “panel” was the joint-talk with Bud on “Online Writing Tools” and I think it went over well. We had a 100+ slide presentation and a decent-sized audience for a 9 am panel (I think we had 30 people or so). Good question and answer session, too. For those interested, our entire presentation can be found online as a Google Presentation.

I had a short break after that panel and I made a quick pass through the dealer’s room, where I ran into an editor, who told me that she was buying an article I’d sent her for the magazine. That was a nice was to start the convention!

Next, I dashed off to a panel on Writers and Fandom. Pamela Kinney moderated the panel, which included Hildy Silverman, Catherine Asaro, and Laura Anne Gilman. That was a fun panel because the panelists were basically talking about how we became fans, how we went from being fans to being pros, and how we interact with fans today. Big audience for that one and some good questions from the audience as well.

Right after that, I was part of a panel that I was, by far, the least qualified panelist. The panel was on “Space Wars” and the moderator was Christopher Weuve. On the panel was Chuck Gannon, Ed Lerner, Catherine Asaro, and Jenine Spendlove. When panelists were introducing themselves, they all had some background (technical or otherwise) in combat of various kinds. For example, Jenine is a Marine and a C130 pilot! When it came time for me to introduce myself, I said something like this:

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Where You Can Find Me At Capclave This Weekend

I believe this is more or less my official programming schedule for Capclave this weekend. Please note that while I’ll be there all day Saturday and Sunday, I won’t be there on Friday. I should arrive around 7:30 am on Saturday. If you are on the fence about going, I saw go! It’s a lot of fun, they have great programming (as they always do). And the guest of honor is a New York Giants and Jets fan. But I can’t remember his name.


  • 9:00 am: Online Writing Tools (Ends at: 10:25 am)
    Panelists: Jamie Todd Rubin (M), Bud Sparhawk
    Bud Sparhawk and Jamie Todd Rubin guide you through the use of some of the most helpful tools available today.
  • 11:00 am: Writers and Fandom (Ends at: 11:55 am)
    Panelists: Catherine AsaroLaura Anne GilmanPamela K. Kinney (M), Jamie Todd RubinHildy Silverman
    Some authors were fans before they wrote, others came to the convention scene after getting their start. How does that affect fan interaction? Does it make a difference in how authors view conventions?
  • 12:00 pm: Space Wars (Ends at: 12:55 pm)
    Panelists: Catherine AsaroEdward M. LernerJamie Todd RubinJanine SpendloveChristopher Weuve (M)
    How would it be waged and why? Why would you want to go to war with a planet that takes 30 years to get to? What books have the best space wars?
  • 4:00 pm: The Worlds of Clifford Simak (Ends at: 4:55 pm)
    Panelists: Jamie Todd Rubin (M), Darrell SchweitzerAlex ShvartsmanMichael Swanwick
    50 years ago Simak won a Hugo for Way Station. He also wrote City and the Hugo and Nebula winning “Grotto of the Dancing Deer.” Yet today, few younger fans have read his work which is available only in the small press and “public domain” compilations. What happened? What makes his stories so timeless? What do you think is his best work and how can it be revived for today’s audiences?


  • 10:00 am: Hand Waving or Sci-fantasy? (Ends at: 10:55 am)
    Panelists: David BartellD. Douglas FratzInge HeyerJamie Todd RubinLawrence M. Schoen (M)
    Many classic Science Fiction authors didn’t spend a lot of time describing the technology or science of their futures. Things worked, but if you look more closely, they may not make sense. Today authors still use this technique. Is this a legitimate form of science fiction or lazy writing? Have the standard furniture of sf — the FTL drive and time machine — become so common the author does not need to explain them, just use them for a story? Do all the details and the scientific equations get in the way?
  • 2:00 pm: Low Tech Writers (Ends at: 2:55 pm)
    Panelists: Dina LeacockJamie Todd Rubin (M), Michael SwanwickHoward Waldrop
    Harlan Ellison uses a typewriter, a manual typewriter. Asimov refused to fly. And our special guest Howard Waldrop doesn’t use email. Why might some writers about the future refuse to use technology? How does this influence their fiction? What would happen to society if more people followed their example and opted out?
  • 3:00 pm: Anything You Say May End Up In My Novel (Ends at: 3:55 pm)
    Panelists: Charles E. GannonLaura Anne Gilman (M), Annette KlauseJamie Todd RubinJim Stratton
    How do writers mine their own lives? Are they always on duty, ready to steal what they see and hear? What changes do you make to real life in your fiction (assuming you don’t normally hang out with elves and aliens)?

And those who wish to point out the irony that I am giving a talk on Online Writing Tools and moderating a panel on Low Tech Writers, well, I’ve kind of already noticed that. It should be interesting.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there. If you are looking for me, but can’t find me, give me a shout on Twitter.