SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series for 2013

We have now nailed down the dates and hosts and some of the readers for all the SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series events in 2013, so mark your calendars:

Portland readings:

  • Wed Jan 30, 2013: James Patrick Kelly (host), Felicity Shoulders, Grá Linnaea
  • Wed Apr 24, 2013: Mary Robinette Kowal (host), Tina Connolly, Nisi Shawl
  • Wed Aug 14, 2013: Laura Anne Gilman (host)
  • Wed Oct 16, 2013: Peter Orullian (host)

The Portland events are held at McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland, OR 97211, and run from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.

Seattle-area readings:

  • Tue Jan 29, 2013: Cat Rambo (host), Felicity Shoulders, Grá Linnaea
  • Tue Apr 23, 2013: Mary Robinette Kowal (host), Tina Connolly, Nisi Shawl
  • Tue Aug 13, 2013: Laura Anne Gilman (host)
  • Tue Oct 15, 2013: Peter Orullian (host)

The Seattle-area events are held at the Wilde Rover Irish Pub & Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033, and run from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.

All events are free and open to the public. We’ll have booksellers on hand and all the authors will be available to sign.

I hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun.

See for more information and to RSVP (not required, but encouraged).

How Not to Spam

This morning I found a message in my spam folder from an aspiring science fiction author, offering a free ebook and requesting feedback, “Likes,” and blogs. It was a nice enough letter, but clearly bulk mail, not personalized in any way. This was my response:

Thought you might like to know that your email landed in my spam trap. And, well, technically it is spam, because it’s a commercial email from someone I’ve never done business with before. As spams go, it’s pretty pleasant and inoffensive. However, I’m not likely to read your book (not a fan of the subgenre, sorry) or help you publicize it (I already have dozens of real-world friends who are making the same “please help me publicize my book” request on a weekly basis). Good luck!

He replied with a nice email thanking me for the pleasant reply, having received some nasty ones. I responded:

Alas, I’m not really surprised about the nasty responses. We are all so overwhelmed by uninvited commercial messages — they’re on our TV, every web site, email, Twitter, Facebook… — that when we actually have a chance to yell back at the source of one I can see that some people would really let fly, not caring that the source was an individual who’s just trying to make a buck. So, even though I think this campaign is probably not a good idea, I’m sympathetic.

You probably would have done better to approach people you actually know. If you don’t know any prominent writers, maybe some of the less-prominent writers you know do, and you could ask them to introduce you. If you don’t know anyone in the SF writing community (and if that’s the case, you really should have started doing this long before your book was ready for release, but it’s never too late to start) you can attend science fiction conventions, join a local writing group, maybe join SFWA. Participating in social media — mailing lists, joining Facebook groups, leaving comments on blogs — is a pretty good way to form online relationships. But when I say “participate,” I mean to hang out like you would at a party, don’t be all “buy my book!” all the time… maybe even ANY of the time. Keep doing this until you have created actual relationships, to the point that asking your prominent writer friend “hey, my book’s out, would you mind mentioning it on your blog?” is seen as a natural request rather than an imposition. Yes, this does take time, by which I mean years, but a) it’s fun, and b) building a career is not the same thing as selling one book.

Thanks for asking, and good luck!

After I wrote that I realized that other people might like to read it as well. So here it is!

Dragged back to Facebook, kicking and screaming

I left Facebook over two years ago because I didn’t like their corporate practices, their privacy policies, or their user interface. I didn’t like the games, the ads, or the constant invitations to events and pseudo-events I couldn’t or wouldn’t attend. And managing my friends list was a constant chore.

I’ve been off of Facebook ever since, but it’s been getting harder and harder to avoid. A nonprofit I’m involved with used Facebook to coordinate a recent publicity event. You have to be on Facebook to enter some contests. People are always sending me links to pictures, polls, and articles that are locked behind Facebook’s garden wall. The final straw was that I was unable to participate in the auction of Mark Bourne’s toy robots to support Clarion West. Refusing to have a Facebook account these days is like refusing to have a credit card — an understandable choice, but it makes life harder.

So, I’m back. You can find me at I still don’t like their corporate practices and find their user interface atrocious, but they’ve made one important change: they’ve added “subscriptions,” which means that I don’t need to be “friends” with a couple thousand strangers in order for them to see what I post. I will only be friending people who are my actual real-world friends; everyone else is welcome to subscribe. This will, I think, greatly reduce the hassle factor that drove me away before.

This is actually Phase Two of my revamped global social media strategy, but the cart rolled past the horse. Look for Phase One in the coming week.

“Last Days of the Kelly Gang” podcast

My steampunk power-armor story “The Last Days of the Kelly Gang” from Armored has been turned into an episode of the “Journey Into…” podcast!

Podcaster Marshal Latham heard me read the first part of this story at the SFWA reading a few months ago and immediately requested to podcast it (I think because he wanted to find out how it came out). I recorded the story for him and expected that he would clean it up and ship it out. But what I got was much better than that: a full-cast performance, with a real Australian as Ned Kelly, and sound effects and everything. It’s amazing. My narration is the weakest part of it.

Go. Listen. I hope you like it!


Skyfall is a heck of a movie. Beautiful cinematography, outstanding acting, amazing stunts and special effects. It hews tightly to the conventions of the Bond franchise, yet does it all in a fresh and intriguing way. “Bond, James Bond,” “shaken, not stirred,” the meeting with Q, the fancy car with ejector seat… all are present, as expected, but handled unexpectedly and with a dry understated wit. But though the film is structurally identical to every other Bond film, it’s substantially darker and deeper than any of them.

As usual, the film begins with a spectacular extended pre-credits fight scene, but this one ties in with the rest of the film much more tightly than I can recall seeing before. There are exotic locations and stunts (a brutal fight silhouetted against the digital billboards of Singapore is outstanding) but they are surprisingly gritty and often Blade Runneresque, and the final standoff in the dark and fog is simultaneously reminiscent of every other Bond climax in the secret lair and a complete inversion of that trope. Not high-tech in the least, it’s feisty and handmade. And there are Bond girls, to be sure, with the expected misogyny, but each of them is given a very different send-off than what we’re used to, and Bond’s primary female companion this time is M (Judi Dench, brilliant as always). The longstanding relationship between them and the complete lack of sexual tension give this film an emotional core that I’ve never seen before in a Bond film.

In many ways Skyfall reminds me of one of my favorite films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It shares that film’s themes of age, death, loss, and obsolescence, and like that film it ends with a new beginning, a revitalization of the franchise that acknowledges and continues its history yet also reinvents itself with new characters and new energy.

See it.