Tag Archives: science fiction

Wake, part 1

I just finished reading part one of Robert J. Sawyer’s serialized novel Wake.  As usual with Rob’s stuff, it’s outstanding.  It pulls you in, and keeps hold of you, and entertains you and makes you think, and makes you crazy for the fact that you have to wait nearly a month before part 2 comes out!

Beyond that, it clearly shows the difference between the Big Leagues and the minors.  I consider myself to be in the minors, single A, if you will, with my one professional s.f. story sale.  Not only is Rob in the majors, but he has demonstrated time and again that he is an All-Star.  Wake is just another example of this.  I’ve been getting a lot of help and good feedback from my fellow work-shoppers, and I feel good about that.  But it is still an effort for me to produce  a story.  Reading Rob’s stuff makes it look easy.  I’d love to be in Majors some day, but for now, I’m quite content sitting on the sidelines and observing how the pros do it.

Requiem

A character in my workshop story is a fan of D. D. Harriman, for purposes that become more clear as the story progresses. Anyway, I was doing some brainstorming tonight, some mind-mapping (since the writing really wasn’t working) and I decided to go back and read Robert Heinlein’s story "Requiem", in which Harriman is the main character. I read the story only once, way back in October 1997. But it was one of the more memorable Heinlein stories I’ve read. Tonight I read it again, with it’s brilliant, touching ending:

He sat very quietly, rubbing his hands against the soil of the Moon and sensing the curiously light pressure of his body against the ground.  At long last there was peace in his heart.  His hurts had ceased to pain him.  He was where he had longed to be–he had followed his need.  Over the western horizon hung the Earth at last quarter, a green-blue giant moon.  Overhead, the Sun shone down from a black and starry sky.  And underneath the Moon, the soil of the Moon itself.  He was on the Moon!

He lay back while a bath of content flowed over him like a tide at flood, and soaked to his very marrow.

His attention strayed momentarily, and he thought once again that his name was called.  Silly, he thought, I’m getting old–my mind wanders

–"Requiem", Robert A. Heinlein, 1940

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to write like that.

Old Man’s War

I finished Old Man’s War early this afternoon. It was terrific. It was just what I hoped it would be, and I think it easily holds its own with books such as Starship Troopers and The Forever War.

Minor spoilers behind the cut

Workshopping and working

Up at 6:30 after a good night’s sleep and into the office a little while later. It wasn’t a terribly busy day at the office, but there was still stuff to do.

I did 5 of 6 workshop critiques that came in today. The sixth one came in late this evening and I won’t get to it until tomorrow. I sat out on the balcony for the first time after work this evening. I sat there reading more of Old Man’s War, which is getting really good.

Good day for science fiction, in general. I got most recent issue of F&SF with a new Stephen King story. I also got the most recent issue of ANALOG with part 1 of Rob Sawyer’s new novel, Wake. The issue also contains a new story by Paul Levinson.

And then there is the SFWA Bulletin which, in addition to containing the Resnick/Malzberg dialogs, also contained the most recent Nebula Awards report. There, on page 60 is my name and my story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” listed under Novelettes. The story is no longer eligible for recommendations, but I think it’s cool that it showed up in the Bulletin.

We got some more wedding gifts in the mail today. And Kelly got some shoes and a pillow she ordered for the wedding.

No elaborate dinner tonight, just heated up some left over meat balls while Kelly had carrots and hummus. We both relaxed on the couch for a while and then headed to the gym. I did a light chest/back workout.

mabfan called me on his new iPhone this evening. Good thing he did too, because I was supposed to pick Kelly up from work and I was so lost in Old Man’s War that if he hadn’t called, Kelly might still be standing at the Metro station.

Going to shower and then go read for a while.

Science fiction harvest

There are occasionally harvests in science fiction and I love when they arrive. Unlike a traditional harvest, science fiction harvests can arrive at varying times of the year. One arrived today, in the form of four books that I ordered from Amazon just a few days ago. I haven’t been reading much science fiction these last few months, but with the writing workshop starting up, and three new books on the shelves, I knew it was time. (The fourth book, while not new on the shelves, is new to me.)

In the mail was City at the End of Time by Greg Bear, Marsbound by Joe Haldeman, The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl, and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. And just like with any crop, I’m eager to taste the fruits, and am having trouble deciding which to start with. (I’ve already cast aside Rama II; I’ll come back to it when I’ve finished with these.) I’m leaning toward The Last Theorem, but that’s not yet set in stone. I’m very much looking forward to Scalzi’s book, having heard it was terrific, and fits in nicely with the decades-long dialog initiated by Robert Heinlein’s, Starship Troopers and responded to with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

Harvests like these are feasts. I can devour these four books in no time, if nothing else gets in the way, and I tend to cast aside things I might otherwise care more about in seasons like this. It got me thinking about the biggest harvest I’ve experienced, which came to fruition back in the fall of 1997.

The Harvest of Autumn 1997

The Hugo Winners

First, congratulations to all the winners.

This was my first time voting for the Hugos. One of the stories I voted for won a hugo, matociquala‘s “Tideline”. I also voted for Rob Sawyer’s Rollback, Stanley Schmidt for Best Editor, Short Form, and Barry N. Malzberg’s excellent Breakfast In the Ruins. None of these won, and I would be lying if I did not admit that I was disappointed. Especially about Barry.

I’ve read Michael Chabon’s stuff before and enjoyed it. But I simply couldn’t get into The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. I tried, really I did. I think this marks the first time that I was not able to get through a book that ultimately won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. I’m sure the fault is with my tastes and not Chabon’s writing or story-telling ability.

I find it remarkable that Stanley Schmidt has been editor of ANALOG for 30 years and never received a Hugo award. F&SF is a great magazine and Gordon Van Gelder published outstanding stories. But so does ANALOG, especially their recent serials (like the Hugo Nominates Rollback or the Nebula-nominated Marsbound by Joe Haldeman).

Barry Malzberg should have won a Hugo back in the early 1980s for Engines of the Night. (He should have won for Beyond Apollo also, but the competition was particularly tough that year.) Breakfast in the Ruins was an improved and expanded version of Engines and I was certain that there was no way he could lose this time. Clearly I was wrong.

I was torn over the novella category between “Rescuing Apollo 8” and “All Seated on the Ground”. Ultimately, I voted for the former because I have a particular fondness for the Apollo program. But Connie Willis is a brilliant writer, and I was ultimately happy to see her recent Christmas story win.

We had a late dinner with a friend last night, and when we got back home, I began searching the internets for word of winners. Finally, just before we went to bed, I saw mabfan‘s post on the results.

I had more invested this time than ever before since (a) it was the first time voting and (b) I know some of the people nominated. I think it made it that much more exciting and I think the thing that I was most disappointed about was that I couldn’t be there in person to watch it all unfold.

Chef salad

Busy, even productive day at work today, even though I wasn’t feeling well. Made progress on several fronts and that felt good. After work I came home and worked on the wedding info website, which is going out on the info sheet with the invitations (probably next week). he11o_sunshine (who did our invitations) is helping with the look and feel of the info site.

Picked up Kelly and we made a chef salad for dinner. Lettuce and some veggies. She made a veggie patty and cut it up in her salad; I had some chopped turkey in mine. We also made hard-boiled eggs (and thanks to rubysnina who reminded me how to make them the right way) which we had in our salads. They turned out really good, and it was the perfect meal for a warm evening like tonight.

iPhone update 2.0.1 came out and I updated my phone this evening. Kelly wants to sync her phone to the iMac, which means that we’ll need to transfer her music and stuff over. I’m thinking about getting an even bigger external hard disk (I’ve got a tiny 100 GB disk on there now; I might look at a 1 TB disk so that we can keep all of our music and stuff in one place.

Getting back into The Count of Monte Cristo now that the move stuff has finished and settled down, and I’m enjoying it once again. It’s interesting reading it on the iPhone, convenient, certainly, but it takes me a little longer to forget where I’m reading it and disappear into the story. Still, I get there eventually.

Final electric bill from the old place came today. And I got email from my landlord telling me that the old house was in great shape and I’m getting my entire $1750 deposit back.

I had planned to go back to the DMV today and get my car registered, but didn’t get around to it. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either, so it will probably have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday (when it’s not crowded).

I’m seeing a lot of blogs of people heading off (or arriving at) World Con. I’m a supporting member only; I wish I could go, but there’s too much going on this year.

Writer’s workshop!

Through the auspices of will_couvillier, who helped to arrange it, I will be participating in an on-line writer’s workshop this summer run by Grand Master of Science Fiction, James Gunn! The goal of the workshop is to produce one publishable story.

I’m so excited about doing this. I’ve never participated in a writer’s workshop before and I am eager to learn. As a new writer, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for feedback from editors. I was fortunate that when I made my first professional sale, Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, was kind enough to work with me on the story to make it into a publishable story. He has worked with me on another story as well that I didn’t end up selling to him. I’ve also been luck to have people like mabfan look at my stuff and give feedback. But it will be nice to be part of a workshop of new writers, working with each other over a period of 8 weeks to develop publishable stories, and learning and improving our craft.

I ordered the recommended book for the class and I’m sending my payment off tomorrow. (I’d send it off today, but I don’t have my checkbook with me.)

This is really exciting! Many, many thanks to Will for arranging all this!

Readercon 2008, Part 1

I was up at around 5:30 AM in order to catch a flight to Boston for Readercon. For all of my non-sf friends, Readercon is a s.f. convention not quite like any other. As the name alludes to, it is almost exclusively about written science fiction. It is also attended by the Best of the Best in the business. And one of my favorite writers of all time, Barry N. Malzberg, regularly attends the convention. With all of this as preface, I headed up to Boston. My flight was on time and I picked up my rental car from Hertz, making it to the hotel in Burlington just in time to make the 11 AM session I’d hoped to attend.

When I arrived at the hotel, I heard my name being called out by mabfan and gnomi, and it was good to see both of them. They are a reassuring presence at these conferences since they are familiar, friendly, encouraging faces.

The first session I went to was on science fiction as a mirror of reality, and among the people on the panel were Robert J. Sawyer and mabfan.

<shameless plug>Michael has a collection of short stories coming later this year called I Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein. I have read almost all of the stories in the collection and they are all fantastic. Don’t read science fiction? These stories provide an excellent introduction to what science fiction is all about. Start with his story, “Sanctuary”, which by itself is worth the price of admission.</shameless plug>

I attended a session, “Transcending your influences” that was interesting. James Morrow was on the panel and I loved his Godhead Trilogy.

Wandering around, I ran into scottedelman who was so kind to me throughout the day, and very encouraging, too.

There were other session. I listed to Rob Sawyer read from his forthcoming novel, Wake. I sat with scottedelman for the “If All Men Are Tolerant, How Would You Shock Your Sister?” session. But most definitely the highlight of my day was meeting Barry N. Malzberg.

To people outside science fiction, I can’t really explain what Barry writes. His most famous novels are those like Herovit’s World and Beyond Apollo. He has a dark, depressing outlook, that is laden with humor. When I first read Herovit’s World I was blown away. No other book has ever had quite the same effect on me as that book. I first became acquainted with Barry’s work sometime in 1993 when Scott Edelman, then editor of SCIENCE FICTION AGE published a story of his called “The Passage of the Light”. At the time, I was preparing my senior paper for my minor in journalism. The paper was on science fiction and, although I doubt he remembers this, I wrote to Scott asking for more information, in particular about this guy Barry Malzberg. Scott recommended some books. I went to school at the University of California, Riverside, which hosts a famous collection of science fiction and I immediately made use of that collection to get to know Barry Malzberg. He is a writer’s writer. He chose to write science fiction but he could write anything better than 99.99% of the writers out there. He has the imagery of Ray Bradbury with the wit of Woody Allen. To try and describe his writing simply doesn’t do him justice. You just have to go out and read it.

This man, this Writer, was gracious enough to spend some time with me today. Sometime around 2:30 PM (the same time as mabfan‘s reading) Barry told me to meet him and the two of us went for a walk. We walked all around the hotel parking lots, for nearly half and hour, talking, just the two of us. Words cannot express the awe I have of Barry, and that he was willing to spend some time with me was, to me, the highlight of the conference. He asked what I did, where I went to school. And I asked him about his writing, his books. I made sure to tell him what an influence his books had on me. He asked about my writing and I told him of my progress so far. And he reassured me and told me that I was doing things that right way, that I had the fundamentals down. He told me about the first s.f. convention he ever attended, back in 1967 and how in awe he was of the writers that surrounded him. It was wonderful.

And then he signed 3 books that I brought with me, with personal inscriptions on all of them.

While I still have another whole day to spend at the conference tomorrow, I’m not sure there is anything that can top what I experienced today.

Of the 5 conventions I have now attended, Readercon is the most–how do I put it–imposing. Everyone is friendly, everyone is willing to talk to you, sign autographs, you name it. But these are the Best of the Best. Readercon is the Big League of science fiction conventions. The writers here not only know how to do it, they know how to do it really, really well. So to some extent, I felt way out of my league. But I also once again felt the urge to press forward, to keep at it, and that maybe, just maybe, if the stars align just so, and luck it on my side, I can be as good as they are.

My tentative Readercon schedule

I head up to Boston for Readercon early Friday morning. Alas, I am only able to stay through early Saturday evening. Given my short stay, here is my tentative schedule of events that I am hoping to attend while there.

Friday

11:00: Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality
13:00: -Esque No More: Transcending Your Influences
14:30: Michael A. Burstein reads a selection from his story “Empty Spaces”
15:00: The Critical Review: Griffin, Gorgon, or Sphinx
16:00: Robert J. Sawyer reads from his upcoming novel Wake
17:00: A Tale of Two Disciplines
18:00: If All Men Were Tolerant, How Would You Shock Your Sister?
19:00: Waking Up Sober Next to a Story Idea
22:00: The 2008 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award Ceremony
22:30: Meet the Pro(s) Party

Saturday

12:00: Genius is 90% Higher Standards: The “Unnecessary Rewrite”
13:00: Kaffeeflatches: Scott Edelman, Matthew Kressel
14:00: The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction group reading
15:00: You Say “Plagiarism”, I Say “The Ecstasy of Influence” OR
15:00: Kaffeeklatsches: David G. Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, Robert J. Sawyer
14:00: James Patrick Kelly interviewed

I may try and squeeze in other things if I can, but I have to head for the airport no later than 5:30 PM on Saturday, which is unfortunate. Still I am very much looking forward to this convention and especially, meeting Barry Malzberg there.

Thomas M. Disch

It was reported over the weekend that Thomas M. Disch committed suicide over the holiday weekend. I read only one of his books, Camp Concentration way back in October 2000, while sitting in a jury pool in a Hollywood courthouse. I was never called to server that day. According to my list, I wasn’t that impressed with the book (I gave it 2-stars) but that is probably a reflection of my taste and not Disch’s ability as a writer, which is well-known within the genre as being top-notch.

Nebula award recommendation!

When I got home today I had issue #221 (June 2008) of the SFWA Forum waiting for me. The Nebula Awards report is included in these issues and I always skim through that section. So I’m skimming the section on Novelettes and whose name and story should I see but my own! That’s right, there is (at this time) one recommendation for “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer“. I think I know who the culprit is, but I have to say, wow, that’s pretty cool!

And speaking of stories, the latest issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show (issue 9) is available today. This issue has a story by davidbcoe called “Cassie’s Story“. The price of admission ($2.50) is worth it just for that story, let alone all the other good stuff in the issue. (I met David and hung out with him and Edmund Schubert at RavenCon in 2007.)