Archive for November, 2009

Endeavour Award

To my astonishment, I seem to have won the Endeavour Award!

Space Magic was selected over worthy competitors Anathem by Neal Stephenson; Ill Met in the Arena by Dave Duncan; Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Stories by Ken Scholes; and A World Too Near by Kay Kenyon by judges Joe Haldeman, John Helfers, and Sarah Zettel.

Thanks to the judges, everyone who read books for the award, members of the Lucky Lab Rats crit group, Mary Hobson for suggesting I try to get a collection published, Deborah Layne for publishing it, and Kate Yule for love and support.

The award comes with a $1000 check and an engraved glass trophy. I really did not expect to win it.

Good writing news

Word count: 8891 | Since last entry: 5201

Last week I sold two stories in one day: “A Passion for Art” to Interzone and a reprint of “Nucleon” to Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia.

I originally write “A Passion for Art” way back in 2000, inspired by a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago after the Worldcon that year; I believe it was the first story I wrote after Clarion. I got it critiqued at a workshop at the following OryCon, and the responses I got there convinced me it needed serious work. I set it aside… and for reasons lost in the mists of time I didn’t get back to it until 2008, when I cleaned it up for a different convention workshop. I didn’t wind up sending it to that workshop, but decided it was in good enough shape to submit. It was rejected by 8 other markets (including sitting at one magazine for 145 days, ending with the magazine’s death, then being resubmitted when the magazine revived and being immediately rejected) before settling at Interzone.

“Nucleon” is one of my earliest and most popular stories, and this is its fifth reprint. It was a little long for Retro Spec but I sent it along anyway because it seemed perfect for the market. Apparently the editor agreed.

This coming weekend is OryCon, where I will be appearing on a bunch of programming, including the Endeavour Award ceremony — where I expect that Space Magic will lose to Anathem, but hope springs eternal — following which I will portray a crazed director in Opening Ceremonies. Anyone up for dinner after that? I’ll be starving.

If you’re in Portland but not attending OryCon, perhaps you can come to Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton for the third annual Sci-Fi Authorfest where a whole bunch of SF authors who just happen to be in town for some reason will be signing books for the Thanksgiving weekend shoppers. We’ll be ably defended by the stormtroopers of the Cloud City Garrison of the 501st Imperial Legion.

Finally, even though I do not have a story in Polyphony 7, I’m pleased to see that it has a chance to finally be published — if you, the book buying public, support it by pre-ordering it. See this blog post for details.

Michael Swanwick on the sense of wonder in writing

Spotted this gem in Michael Swanwick’s interview with Rick Lkeffel in the World Fantasy Convention program book:

“As a writer, I consciously try to make what I write exciting for the reader — to give him or her more than just a really well-written change on something they’ve read before. I try to give each story something that the reader has never encountered before. Something as big and obvious and wonderful as a giant striding the downs with dinosaurs and tribes of stone-age elves living in the forests atop his head is worth any number of polished and lapidarian phrases.”



Word count: 3690 | Since last entry: 1502

Still plugging away on the YA fantasy. I feel my brain trying to impose plot, but I’m trying to continue just driving where my headlights can see.

Luke McGuff posted a video of a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, happy dog (ETA: fixed link), to which I commented “I have never before heard Doppler shift on a squeeky toy.” For this feat of scientific detection I have been named an Improbable Research Investigator.

I received a fat envelope from F&SF, which I tore open with great excitement. But it wasn’t a contract… just a rejection with some suggestions on tightening the opening. Alas. (And no, it wasn’t a subtle rewrite request.)

In his year-end round-up of Realms of Fantasy, Rich Horton calls my “Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven” one of the best short stories in the magazine this year.

Artisan booksmith Todd Sanders is hand-making a few bound copies of my zeppelin story “Love in the Balance.” You can see a picture of the work in progress here.

On Sunday November 29, I will be participating in Sci-Fi Authorfest III at Powell’s Books in Beaverton. This multi-author booksigning event starts at 4:00 PM and includes Lilith Saintcrow, Camille Alexa, Barb and J.C. Hendee, Devon Monk, Brenda Cooper, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, Alma Alexander, Louise Marley, and others, plus the Cloud City Garrison of the 501st Imperial Legion.

The OryCon 31 program schedule has been posted. Gosh, that’s only two weeks away!

All hail the Sucky First Draft

Word count: 2188 | Since last entry: 2188

After far too many weeks of research, noodling, and outlining, none of which seemed to be going anywhere, I decided to adopt a new strategy: just start writing. I’m driving cross-country in the dark with no map, no destination, and no visibility beyond the reach of my headlights. It feels weird and I can see plenty of problems in what I’ve written so far, which I know will have to be heavily edited when I’m done, but at least I’m putting down words and it feels good.

This is an unusual writing strategy for me, but for the moment it seems to be working. This book is not like anything else I’ve written because I’m already familiar with (a version of) the characters and setting and because it’s structured as a collection of related short stories. I was beating myself up about the linking überplot and character arc that ties them all together, but I’ve given up on that for now. I’m just writing one story about these characters (not even necessarily the first story in the book), and when I’m done with that one I’ll write another, and after I’ve written a few I bet I’ll understand what bigger things are happening and I’ll be able to put the stories I have into the correct order and insert the necessary bits to expose to the reader the überplot that, in some subconscious way, was there all along.

I’m putting a lot of trust in my subconscious here. This is kind of the opposite progression from what Jay Lake did with his New Model Process a year or two ago, but then his process and mine started off very different and I’m sure we have different lessons to learn.

Alas, the writing isn’t going any faster this way — still about 500 words a day — but at least I’m moving.

World Fantasy Con

I attended my first World Fantasy Convention in Seattle in 1989, when a friend was running Hospitality and needed people to help. I didn’t really enjoy it — it’s basically a professonal conference for writers, editors, and agents and has little for the fans. That was before I was writing fiction professionally. Today it’s one of my favorite conventions of the year.

The convention started out a little shaky. Our Southwest Airlines flight from Portland to San Jose was running about a half-hour late, and we were just starting to wonder what was up when I got this rather strange email on my phone:

However, as the gate agent explained a minute or two later, we didn’t actually have to fly PDX-SJC-LAX, LAX-PDX-SJC. It turned out that the plane had been delayed by mechanical problems to the extent that it jeopardized people’s connections in LAX, so they skipped the SJC stop and gave the few of us who were actually getting off in SJC tickets on an LAX-SJC flight that left LAX almost immediately, so that we only spent about ten minutes in LAX. Although this change turned our one-hour nonstop flight into a five-hour detour, I think it was well-handled: they communicated the problem well, gave priority to people with connections, and provided an immediate solution to the rest of us. Kudos to Southwest.

Once we got there, this year’s WFC was one of the best I can remember, indeed one of my favorite cons in a long time. Being on the West Coast, a lot of my writer friends were there; the hotel and its location, close to many fine restaurants in downtown San Jose, were excellent; and there was a great bar where everyone could hang out (unlike, for example, the Montreal Worldcon where there was no single obvious gathering place).

I didn’t attend a lot of programming that I wasn’t on. I was actually on two program items: a reading from the four DayBreak Magazine writers, which was remarkably well attended considering it was opposite the mass signing, and an uproarious Improv Storytelling event with Jay Lake and Mary Robinette Kowal about which someone later told me “I peed my pants laughing.” Most of my time was spent hanging out in the bar, the halls, and occasionally a party, talking with my friends and peers.

This seemed to be my con for meeting cool Portland people I hadn’t known existed: Lee Moyer, Victoria Blake, and Carlton Mellick III. I also met and was blown away by Seanan McGuire and Kate Secor, who fling off quotable quips like some cats shed hair — now I know how some people feel around me and Kate. (Just one example: I debated with Seanan whether the ASL sign for “moose lobotomist” should end with the sign for “doctor” or the suffix “-ist.”) I also got to hang out with some people I’d met before but never spent a lot of time with, including Grá and Jennifer Linnea and Laura Anne Gilman. I hadn’t realized I was getting Grá and Chris Reynaga mixed up, but now I think I’ll be able to tell them apart.

Most of the con, though, I spent hanging out with writer friends from all over, whom I will not attempt to enumerate for fear of missing someone. I don’t think I schmooze very effectively at these things — I should have been chatting up book editors a lot more than I did — but I got a lot of good writing advice and a few useful rumors as well as a lot of laughs.

At one point in the con I suffered a bout of Imposter Syndrome. What am I doing here? I whined to myself. I don’t even have one published novel!. I got over it, though, and shortly after the con Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted an entry in her Freelancer’s Guide series that helped me to understand what was going on in my head during that time. This quote in particular, from Robert Silverberg, nailed it: “My career, marked as it has been by triumph after triumph, has often seemed to me like nothing but a formidable struggle.” We don’t see our own successes, only our problems. Read Kris’s post for more useful insights on the hazards of success.

Apart from that one moment of bleakness, though, it was an excellent excellent con and I’m really looking forward to next year’s WFC even though it’s in Columbus, Ohio.

Oh, one other thing. This was my first con with an iPhone and I got into Twitter in a big, big way. There was a lot of Twittering at this con; see this post by Scott Edelman for one perspective on just how useful this minimal communication method can be. (My story “horrorhouse” was also inspired by Twitter.) So, for my own future reference as much as anything, I’m including my tweets from the con below:

10/28/09 11:19 AM: Flight change: our direct flight PDX-SJC is now shown as PDX-SJC-LAX-LAX-PDX-SJC. (Not really — but we are now changing planes in LA.)
10/28/09 3:20 PM: Only spent about 10 minutes at LAX; now on board plane to SJC.
10/28/09 6:32 PM: After a short side jaunt to LAX, we have arrived at #wfc2009! About to go for tapas with Sara Mueller and her friends Chris and Chris.
10/28/09 7:43 PM: Sangria Oobleck! “Sounds like a Bond villain.”
10/28/09 10:32 PM: Was afraid book bag this year would be paltry on account of the economy. But no! Bigger than ever! Some good stuff too.
10/29/09 10:18 AM: Breakfast at Bijan Bakery & Cafe. Pastries 10, service 3. Good quiche, free wifi.
10/29/09 2:31 PM: Visited the outdoor History San Jose museum; nice cheap lunch at tacqueria at Willow & Vine; now at The Tech for the Star Trek exhibit.
10/29/09 9:46 PM: Ellen Klages’s Google Hand beats Google on iPhone in timed test!
10/30/09 8:01 AM: Awake. Spent entire evening in the bar. Much good conversation and laying of fiendish plans. Shower now, then search for breakfast.
10/30/09 8:25 AM: Kate found a place that’s supposed to have good chilaquiles, about 15 minutes’ walk away. Leaving shortly.
10/30/09 9:39 AM: Not sure whether the name of this place is 5 Spot or Chivas Grill but the food is good.
10/30/09 10:47 AM: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on likeable vs. interesting characters: “If I were Watson I’d take a frying pan and whack Holmes on the head.”
10/30/09 1:49 PM: RT @Shineanthology: David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse” is is now live at DayBreak Magazine: and .
10/30/09 1:55 PM: I will be reading from my DayBreak story “horrorhouse” tonight (Friday Oct. 30), 9 PM, Crystal Room. It’s not in the program book!
10/30/09 3:07 PM: I’ll have my zeppelin call your zeppelin. We’ll do lunch.
10/30/09 7:27 PM: We ordered the sushi boat at Kazoo. Good thing we ordered the small one!
10/30/09 9:12 PM: Time for the DayBreak reading in the Crystal Room! (Tweeting about this particular story is extremely apropos.)
10/31/09 12:01 AM: Spent evening in con suite, crashed ~12am. @LAGilman accuses me of wimping out, insists on seeing me up later Sunday. Yes ma’am!
10/31/09 8:34 AM: Awake. At the SFWA meeting. Why?
10/31/09 9:01 AM: Just FYI, @nkjemisin has the most fabulousest hall costume EVAR.
10/31/09 10:42 AM: Michael Swanwick compares steampunk to NASCAR: both are “revolutions of joy” taking pride in exciting technology.
10/31/09 10:45 AM: How to kill steampunk: drive a brass stake through its heart and bury it at a train crossing
10/31/09 10:50 AM: Anne Vandermeer is reading from Brilliant!
10/31/09 11:10 AM: I actually hate it when other people post about events (that I’m not at) as frequently as I’ve been posting about #wfc2009 — sorry folks
10/31/09 11:42 AM: Listening to @gregvaneekhout read Kid vs. Squid. Hilarious! Next, @jay_lake, @MaryRobinette, and me doing Improv Storytelling
10/31/09 2:00 PM: Falafel lunch w/@LAGilman & @KateYule. Nap time now. It may surprise you to learn that being “on” like that takes a lot out of me.
10/31/09 3:09 PM: Cool reading by Zoe Washburne #imaginaryRealWFC2009
10/31/09 5:32 PM: …brief gloomy bout of Imposter Syndrome…
10/31/09 9:20 PM: Even worse than having your e-published story pirated is having it used as bait on spam/virus sites.
10/31/09 11:08 PM: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell them panel raised literally buckets of money for Variety Children’s Charity
10/31/09 11:25 PM: Remember folks: Spring Back, Fall Over.
11/1/09 8:47 AM: This conversation with @seananmcguire and @aiglet is so dripping with tweets that I cannot possibly do it justice.
11/1/09 10:21 AM: At the at-con post office, sending a big box of books home. This convention is dangerous.
11/1/09 2:21 PM: Skipped the banquet in favor of dim sum with square dance friends (Mayflower) and a visit to a yarn shop (Pearlescent).
11/1/09 4:32 PM: It’s reached the point in the convention where I have to count my brain cells and make sure I have enough to get home…
11/1/09 5:53 PM: Every time I tweet, another brain cell dies. “With my last brain cell I tweet at thee!”
11/2/09 11:16 AM: Had breakfast at Bijal and saw Kij Johnson, just like the first morning of the con. Now at SJC for the flight home.
11/2/09 12:39 PM: After surprisingly good sushi at Sora in the airport, we’re on board the plane to Portland. And there’s wifi on this flight!
11/2/09 3:56 PM: Home safe to find THIS as the view from our front porch. Good thing we moved the cars before we left.