Category Archives: science fiction

DC17: Washington D.C.’s Bid for the World Science Fiction Convention

I live in the metro Washington, D.C. area, and I would love to see the World Science Fiction Convention come to our area in 2017. DC17 has a bid for the convention, and the August 10 deadline to receive mail-in votes is fast approaching.

Personally, I can think of 3 reasons why I’d like to see the World Science Fiction convention come to D.C. in 2017, and I’ll list them in order of increasing importance to me.

1. It’s local! It would be great to have a Worldcon in my home town. While I love traveling to other cities for Worldcon (San Antonio was blast, and I’m really looking forward to Kansas City next year), I’d be lying if I said it would be nice to attend a Worldcon at home. Of course, this is a great benefit for locals, but it still means that everyone else coming to the convention has to travel.

2. It’s Washington, D.C. But you get to travel to Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in the area for over a decade, and I still think its history is well worth visiting. Playing in the Senate softball league on the National Mall, I would occasionally look up to see the Washington Monument, or the Capital Building in the background and think: I’m playing ball in a place where Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt once walked. We’ve got the Air & Space Museum, the Library of Congress. We’ve also got the Washington Nationals. And in the surrounding area, you can find Mount Vernon to the south, and Gettysburg to the north.

3. It’s being run by the folks who run Capclave. The most important reason I want to see the World Science Fiction convention here in the Washington, D.C. area is because it is being run by many of the same folks who run Capclave, my regional science fiction convention. I have been going to Capclave ever since I began selling stories. It’s become my favorite science fiction convention, and I look forward to it each October. I’ve written about my time at Capclave at lot: here, herehere, and here, to list a few time. A big reason I enjoy is because of the hard work of the people who put it together. They get great guests, great panelists, they draw crowds of diverse, engaged, interesting, and fun people, and we spend 3 days talking about science fiction, what it means to us, and how it impacts us.

If you are so inclined, grab a ballot for site selection and cast your vote by mail before the August 10 deadline.

The Trailer for Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN Looks Fantastic

You guys know that I am not much of a movie fan, and especially not much of a science fiction movie fan. But last year, I read Andy Weir’s The Martian and it was the best science fiction novel I read in 2014. Matt Damon stars in the movie being made from the book, and even I will admit that the newly released trailer looks fantastic.

I’ll be at RavenCon April 24-26

As I am about to head off on the road for the better part of the week, I think now is a good time to remind folks that I will be attending RavenCon in Richmond, Virginia next weekend, April 24-26.

At present, this is the only science fiction convention I’ll be attending in 2015.

My friend Allen Steele will be there, as will Jack McDevitt. RavenCon is the first convention I ever attended after selling my first story back in 2007 so it holds a special place in my heart.

On Sunday, April 26, Bud Sparhawk and I will be giving a talk on “Plotters vs. Pantsers,” Bud being the “plotter” and yours truly being the “pantser.” We’ve done a version of this with respect to online writing tools at Capclave, but this talk is focused on the two methods and their respective advantages and disadvantages. It should be a fun talk if you can make it.

I’ll be arriving in Richmond around lunchtime on Friday, and staying through the convention, so if you think you’ll be there, and you see, say hello.

 

To my friends and fellow fans who might not be able to afford a Worldcon membership

Earlier today, Mary Robinette Kowal offered 10 (now 20) supporting (voting) memberships to the World Science Fiction Convention in 2015 to fans who might not otherwise be able to afford a supporting membership. The membership allows fans to vote for the Hugo Award, which is often considered to be the most prestigious award in science fiction.

I know that I have friends and fellow fans out there who can’t afford a supporting membership, and so, taking a page from Mary’s book, I am offering 5 supporting memberships for Worldcon for people who can’t otherwise afford one.

Part of the fun of the World Science Fiction Convention is being able to vote on your favorite works from the previous year, and that $40 supporting membership is difficult for some folks. If you can afford, it, I encourage you to get a supporting membership. If you can’t afford one, shoot me an email at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin [dot] com with your contact information. Also, because of the controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards this year, I want to be clear that for folks who get these supporting membership: please don’t feel constrained in your vote. Participation in the fan process is all that I am hoping for.

Next week, I’ll pick the 5 names randomly from the requests that I get, and buy the memberships through the Sasquan website on their behalf.

ETA (4/15): All 5 supporting memberships have been given out to folks making requests. As it turned out, I had exactly 5 requests for a membership through today, so that made things easy.

George R. R. Martin on Guilt by Association

From George R. R. Martin’s Not A Blog:

I do not believe in Guilt by Association, and that’s what we’d be doing if we vote against every name on the Puppy slates simply because they are on the slate. That was a classic weapon of the McCarthy Era: first you blacklist the communists, then you blacklist the people who defend the communists and the companies that hire them, then you blacklist the people who defend the people on the blacklist, and on and on, in ever widening circles. No. I won’t be part of that.

I completely agree.

Thoughts on Interstellar: Worthy Grandchild to Tau Zero and The Forever War

If memory serves, I first encountered time dilation in a visceral way in November 1997. That is when I read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. The effects of relativity play a significant role in that novel. I next encountered it in Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, which I read in January 1999. I read the books in the wrong order. Anderson’s novel, which was based on his short story “To Outlive Eternity”, was first published in 1970. Haldeman’s novel was published a few years later.

The two novels took different approaches to time dilation: that effect that relatively has on time when one approaches the speed of light. Anderson’s book examined the extremes, reaching out for the end of time, the end of the universe, the end of all things–all within a single human lifespan. Haldeman’s novel took the personal approach, looking at the effect of time dilation on a few individuals, over a much small time scale.

I was more effected by The Forever War than by Tau Zero. The notion that time slows down as a person approaches the speed of light fascinated me. I remembered a commercial for Omni magazine which described the twins paradox. All of that stuck with me, and I remembering wondering if a parent traveled close enough to the speed of light, might not their children grow older than them while they were away?

The thought eventually led me to write a story called “Flipping the Switch” that deals with that very paradox. Although I first started writing the story in late 2008 or early 2009, it wasn’t published until 2013, when it appeared in the original anthology Beyond the Sun, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

And then, a week ago, I finally got around to seeing Interstellar. While I am not generally a fan of science fiction movies (something that people have a hard time believing, since I write science fiction), I really enjoyed Interstellar. I was the best science fiction movie I’ve seen since Contact. I watched the movie, and then, later that same evening, I watched it again. I know that some people complained that, despite the best efforts, some of the science was not accurate. Others complained that the dialog was poorly written. I enjoyed it all. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing the paradox that I envisioned in my story come to life in a well-executed conclusion. Indeed, the ending of Interstellar reminded me, in some ways, of the ending of Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man.”

I also loved the vision of robots in Interstellar. The AIs of that world reminded me of the AIs that populate Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict novels. Their versatility was impressive, but I also enjoyed the personalization: you could define humor, honesty, and other elements to your taste.

Contact was a more cerebral movie than Interstellar, but Interstellar made me feel like I was traveling to alien worlds. It is a movie that I know I will enjoy watching again from time to time.

Science Fiction Conventions in 2015

I am planning a relatively quiet year where science fiction conventions are concerned. Originally, I was really looking forward to going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, and the Nebula Award Weekend in Chicago, and the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs. But the travel gene has withered in me somewhat this year. I also have a goal this year to finish the second draft of my novel, and that means my focus needs to be more on writing than conventions. So right now, I don’t plan on attending any of the conventions I just listed.

But I won’t be absent from conventions entirely. I plan on attending two local convention this year.

  • RavenCon. I will be at RavenCon in Richmond, Virginia in April. My friend, Allen Steele, is the guest of honor at RavenCon. Jack McDevitt will also be there, and I am looking forward to seeing both of them. As it is only a 2 hour drive from my house, it doesn’t involve a lot of travel or time away from the family.
  • Capclave. I have attended Capclave more times than any other convention, and it makes sense since it is my local convention. Right now, I plan to be there, at least for one day.

That will likely be my science fiction convention schedule for the year. It keeps me close to home and family, but it allows me to focus on getting my novel draft finished up. Of course, I’ll miss hanging out with friends at Worldcon, and some of the larger conventions. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

My Semi-Annual Reminder That I am Not a Fan of Science Fiction Movies

Because I’ve been asked nearly a dozen times what I’ve thought about Interstellar, let me remind folks that while I am a science fiction writer, and I love reading science fiction, I am not a fan of science fiction movies. Sure, when I was a kid, I loved Star Wars. But as I got older, the science fiction movie gene within me atrophied. Indeed, the movie gene seems to have withered within me, and so it should come as no surprise that I have not seen Interstellar.

Nor do I have any interest in seeing it. I never saw Gravity either, and I feel no worse or better because of it. I’m not saying that science fiction movies are a poor substitute for books. I am no position to be a judge of that. For me, however, I’d much rather spend my time reading or writing science fiction than seeing it on the big screen.

For those who are curious, the last science fiction movie that I saw in theaters and truly enjoyed was Contact. But that was a long time ago, and my movie gene has withered tremendously since that time.

Once again, no judgement for those who enjoy such movies. I enjoy watching my friends talk about science fiction movies they loved or hated. I just have no desire to see them myself. Personal preference. And now I have another post to which I can point people when asked what I thought of Interstellar.

An Open Letter to My 20-Year-Old Self Regarding the 2014 World Fantasy Convention

Dear Jamie,

Well, this is a little awkward, but I can assure you that is just as awkward for me as it is for you. Us. You We know what we mean. I spent the past weekend attending the 40th annual World Fantasy Convention, which took place in Arlington, Virginia, practically down the street from where I work. Laws of causality prevent me from going into too much detail about the event, but there are a few things worth noting, and I wanted to make sure you knew about them.

First, the event was a lot of fun. I know it might seem odd to you, to hear that in 22 years, you’ll be attending the World Fantasy Convention, what with your great desire to write science fiction, but there is a good reason for attending. Many of your friends are attending, too.

I can’t go into a lot of detail, and so name-dropping is, for the most part out of the question. In some instances, you wouldn’t recognize the names yet. In others, well, the surprise will be more pleasant without the spoilers. But there are a few names I wanted to mention, which I think, given your age and yearning to become a writer, I thought you would find them motivating.

You probably remember recently reading Jumper by Steven Gould. Well, I got to spend some time this weekend hanging out with Steve,  and chatting with him, and telling him how much I remember enjoying that novel.

You may have noticed a slick new science fiction magazine on the newsstands, called Science Fiction Age. One of the best magazines ever produced. Keep your eye on it. The editor is Scott Edelman, and he’s a regular at the conventions that I attend. I sat with Scott at the award banquet dinner on Sunday. It’s always a joy talking with Scott about the history of the genre, or exotic food.

I had dinner with the editor of Analog one evening. It’s not the first meal we’ve had together, and it’s always fun hanging out with him, and chatting about writing, magazines, and other stuff. I had breakfast with the editor of the first magazine to which I ever sold a story. I won’t say which magazine that is. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think saying that “I sold a story” is enough.

I spent a lot of time in the bar with people, talking shop, which is a big part of the World Fantasy Convention. A lot of business happens in the bar. I had dinner one evening with friends I made at the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop a few summers back. And I can’t even begin to count how many people I had drinks with while at the convention.

On Sunday morning, I gave reading. That’s right, I read stories in front of an audience. It was a small audience, only 6 people, but having even one person willing to listen to your stories is humbling. I read two very short stories, neither of which I have sold. When I finished my reading, one of the audience members–a science fiction magazine editor–rushed up to the podium and grabbed the manuscript of the second story. I found out this morning that he is buying the story. That’s a first for me: submitting a story via a reading.

The World Fantasy Convention served as an excellent reminder of one of the things I love about the science fiction/fantasy genre: the people. As you well know, I wanted to be a writer because I like to write, and to tell stories. It’s nice to be recognized for those stories. But the real reward are the friendships I’ve made since starting out.

So for the sake of those future friendships: keep writing.

Sincerely,

Jamie Todd Rubin
Falls Church, Virginia, 2014

 

Thoughts on HBOs Attempt to Adapt Isaac Asimov’s Foundation for Television

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series has long been one of my favorite pieces of science fiction. I know that there is a lot to criticize about the series. It has an unadorned writing style. It has continuity problems. These are elements that I’ve learned not only to embrace, but to love, the way one comes to love a scar from childhood. The Foundation series were among the first science fiction novels to really capture my imagination. That I read them early on was a coincidence, but a happy one in my mind.

During the mid-1990s, when the Second Foundation Trilogy was authorized by the Asimov estate, I really hesitated to read the three books by Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and David Brin. But how could I not? Each one, I thought, was better than the last, and David Brin’s ending of the trilogy was a stroke of simple genius. So I’m glad that I read them.

On television or movies, however, I’ve long been torn. Being such a fan of the Foundation series, I’ve often rooted for its success in Hollywood. On the other hand, I’m not really a movie or TV person, and I am not a fan of science fiction films on the whole. So when I heard yesterday that HBO was planning to adapt Asimov’s Foundation series for television, I had mixed reactions. But after some consideration, I’ve decided that I’m happy for fans that they are adapting it.

It took time, but over the years I’ve learned that adaptations are an art form themselves. They are an interpretation of a work, altered for the medium in which they are produced. Rarely are adaptations completely true to the original story, but that’s okay, because adaptations are not the original story. Regardless of how well or poorly an adaptation of the Foundation series is done, I can always pull the books from my shelves and read them in their original form.

Where adaptations have a bigger impact on me is the characters. I have an image in my mind of Hari Seldon. How would an adaption alter that image by substituting an actor’s face for the one I picture in my mind? Well, there’s a chance that it might alter it, but is that really any different than reading the original Foundation stories in the Astounding and then, decades later, seeing Hari Seldon rendered by Michael Whelan on the cover of one of the books?

I’d guess that an adaptation of the stories would do better as a television series than as a movie for the simple reason that the original trilogy was a “fix up” of a dozen or so stories that first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction between 1942 and 1950. The stories themselves were episodic, often ending in cliff-hangers, and that seems a natural fit for television dramas today.

I’d have to imagine some alterations to the plot of the stories. More than likely there would be some mysterious secret running through the entire series, as this seems to be what television dramas like to do these days. It’s just one of the reasons I can no longer bear to watch dramas, but understandable give the short attention span of audiences and all they have to distract them.

I haven’t decided if I will watch an adaptation of the Foundation series, but gut says no. Not because I think it will be done poorly, but because I’ve lost interest in the medium of television (and to a large extent, movies as well). Also, I’ve read the Foundation books a dozen or more times and know them very well. I think there would be deviations in even the most true-to-form adaptation that would irk me, and why put myself through that?

So, while I am glad to see that these novels are finally getting attention from Hollywood that might help bring them to a larger audience, I am, nevertheless, unlikely to see the adaptations myself, not because I don’t like the idea or think they won’t be true to the story, but because television and movies just aren’t my thing. For the countless fans who love television and movies, I’m delighted that they will get a chance to see Foundation brought to life on the screen.

My Schedule for the World Fantasy Convention

I will be attending my first World Fantasy Convention, beginning later this week. It takes place, conveniently enough for me, in Crystal City, and I can walk to the hotel from my office, so I don’t have to travel for a change.

The convention begins on Thursday and runs through Sunday.

I will be there every day, however, on Thursday and Friday, I won’t be arriving until after work, sometime in the early evening, probably around 5 or 5:30 pm. I will be at the convention all day on Saturday and Sunday, and will be attending the banquet as well.

The good folks running programming for WFC have given me a reading slot on Sunday, November 9 at 10am in the Arlington room. I haven’t yet decided what I will read, but given that it is the World Fantasy Convention, I’m leaning toward a traditional fantasy short story that I wrote a while back, but have not yet sold. The story is too long to read in the 30 minute slot, but I’ll read a few scenes so that folks can get the flavor of it.

If you are going to be at World Fantasy, let me know, and if you see me, be sure to stop me and say hello.

My Reading at Capclave in October

It’s almost October, and in addition to the baseball post-season, it means that Capclave is just around the corner. Capclave is my local science fiction convention, and the convention I attended most frequently since 2007. I usually have a heavy schedule of programming at Capclave, but this year they’ve given me a break. I have one panel and one reading.

The panel is a shorter, updated version of what Bud Sparhawk and I presented last year on Online Writing Tools. We are tentatively scheduled to present at 4 pm on Saturday, October 11.

They also gave me a reading this year. This will be my third public reading ever, and I plan to read something brand spanking new. For those who have been following along for a while, you know that I finished up the first draft of a new baseball alternate history novella, called “Strays” a month or so ago. The first part of that novella is now in second draft form and good enough for a reading, so I will be reading the first part of that novella during my slotted time, which is tentatively set for 6 pm on Saturday, October 11.

If you’ve never been to Capclave before, it is a great convention to attend. It’s focus is primarily on written science fiction, and short fiction at that. This years guests of honor include Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, and Genevieve Valentine.

Hope to see you there!