Speading the Word about the ‘Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin’ Documentary and Kickstarter Campaign

I recently learned about this feature documentary about Ursula K. Le Guin and the fundraiser that the filmmaker, Arwen Curry, is currently running through Kickstarter. It looks like a wonderful project, and Arwen Curry has been filming and working closely with Le Guin for a number of years; the film is scheduled to come out in 2017.  The project has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, but to get the funds from the grant released, the producers have to raise the balance of their budget, which is $200,000.  While they set their initial Kickstarter goal for $80,000, they’ve already doubled that, and with two more weeks to go, it looks like there’s a good chance they’ll get the full amount and then be able to focus entirely on finishing the film — I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll make it!

As anyone who knows me (or who’s read much on this site) is well aware, Le Guin is both my favorite author and my greatest inspiration as a writer. It may seem that I go on about her a bit much, but it’s hard to put into words the significance of the epiphany I had when I first discovered her work.  As I mention in my bio here, it was because of her that I learned that there was such a thing as social science fiction, and realized that all these story ideas I had running around in my head fit perfectly into that subgenre.  (And one could argue that much of my fantasy is essentially social SF with a fantasy-type setting and a few other elements that give it that fantasy feel instead.)

Because Le Guin writes both SF and fantasy and a wide variety of other things — including poems, essays, plays, contemporary fiction, and children’s picture books — she also provided an example of the kind of writer I want to be, since I’m interested in writing many things and wouldn’t want to be pigeon-holed into any category.  And as soon as I was old enough to fully appreciate the brilliance of her style, it also contributed to inspiring me to strive toward that level of mastery as a writer. Continue reading

White Sky Featured at Speculative Fiction Showcase

White Sky is the featured new release on the Speculative Fiction Showcase today.  This is a great site that features books that have recently been released.  It also has regular posts with an extensive list of links that have anything and everything to do with speculative fiction, including articles, reviews, and interviews with authors.  The gals who run this site do a really nice job, and it’s exciting to have my book included.

The excerpt I chose for this venue is one that hasn’t been posted elsewhere; it’s part of a scene I particularly like, in which Jem first meets the old Torvik rebel, Avakab.  It did occur to me (after the fact!) that someone looking at the blurb and this excerpt together might assume that Avak is the man referred to in the blurb, but he isn’t — while he’s pretty intimidating, he’s not the ‘villain’ in the story.  (Compared with old Avak, that man is, IMO, much less impressive and yet much more sinister!)

Cover Reveal for White Sky

White Sky Front Cover

Here’s the cover for White Sky, the first volume of In the Shadow of the She-Wolf. The cover was ready some time ago, and it’s the final copy edits that have ended up taking more time than I’d anticipated. I’m rather surprised at how many little things I’ve found that I want to tweak in a manuscript that has already been pored over countless times, over a span of many years. (Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, considering how much of a perfectionist I am!) 😮

One thing that’s made it tricky is trying to approach the edits as if the book were written by someone else, and putting on that last polish — clearing up spots that could be even smoother or clarifying small details — without trying to change the author’s style. Repeatedly trying to update the manuscript to match the growth and evolution of my style is what put me in danger of spending my entire life writing and rewriting the same book in the first place(!), so there had to be a place to draw a line. To find that balance, I’m certainly trying to make the book the best it can be, but I’m also endeavoring to respect the younger version of myself who wrote it. As I once mentioned here, I believe you have to look at it like an artist who can show off their paintings and remark that some were done in their blue phase or their abstract phase — which they’ve moved on from — and still be proud of those paintings and the way they reflect that stage of their journey as an artist. Continue reading

Queries, Quandaries, and Just Saying No

It’s become common for literary agents to use a ‘no response means no’ policy in which they only reply to queries that interest them and no longer send out rejections in response to all the other queries they receive.  (So if you’re one of those writers who aspires to wallpaper a room with rejection slips, you’re really out of luck now — even with the switch to email over snail mail you could still print them and stick them on the wall, but if you don’t even get anything back . . .  Well, let’s just say you’ll have to find something else to decorate that room with.) 😉

The serious issue, of course, is that most writers find this lack of response adds to their stress level for a number of obvious reasons.  It can make you feel as if you’re sending your carefully prepared submissions out into a void, and you can’t necessarily be certain that your query was rejected; there are always cases where someone receives a request for materials six months or more after they queried.  (Heck, there’ve even been cases where someone got a request after so much time that the manuscript had already been picked up by another agent and published!)  So it makes it harder to get a sense of where you are in the process and how many of your queries are truly outstanding versus those that have probably been rejected.  (But maybe not.)  And unless the agent has an online submission form that confirms receipt, there’s also that nagging question of whether one’s query might have been lost or gotten trapped in an overzealous spam filter.

I’m pretty sure most writers really don’t like this policy — and would choose a definite rejection over uncertainty — but I’ve noticed that when the subject comes up, many people insist that it’s perfectly reasonable, and are quick to point out that of course all good literary agents must devote most of their time to their clients, while they don’t owe queriers anything at all.  Although those things are very true, I don’t believe ‘no response means no’ is a necessary evil we should blithely accept.  Furthermore, all the emphasis on the need to be thick-skinned shouldn’t stop us from being sympathetic to writers who find the process exasperating.  Neither should we refrain from engaging in conversations about whether there might actually be ways to improve the situation.  So while it’s not my aim to ruffle any feathers, and I won’t say that ‘non-respondence’ is necessarily a sloppy or unprofessional practice (as some people will suggest), I will say that I think there are other ways to manage the situation that are more professional as well as more considerate. Continue reading

Story Out in Debut Issue of Straeon

Straeon CoverI’m excited to report that the first issue of the anthology, Straeon, edited by M. David Blake, has finally been released.  It includes my novelette, “Rains of Craifa, Figure 1 – Girl with Shavlas”.  (Just in case you’re wondering, a novelette is a long short story between 7,500 and 17,500 words.  Another FYI — while the following discussion relates what inspired the story and discusses several facets of the theme, it doesn’t include any spoilers. ;))

This is a story I wrote a number of years ago (like many of my writing projects), and it was originally entitled “Rainy Season”.  The title was changed because — not surprisingly — that one has already been used numerous times.  It’s also a positive change since I like how the new one adds a little extra to the story by providing a hint about what happens afterwards.  Also, although some of my own titles are simple, I actually have a fondness for long, elaborate titles, both because they are so distinctive and because they may be quite poetic as well. (A couple of memorable examples I often think of are Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” and “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand”; Harlan Ellison has also had quite a few very long and very unique titles that are pretty tough to forget.)

Naturally one of the advantages to pulling out a story after having not looked at it for some time is that it helps you view it objectively. (As I get older I seem to find it easier to do that even if the manuscript in question has only sat for a couple of months . . .  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not!  ;)) Being objective also helps make one more aware of things like symbolism. When my sister was studying Literary Criticism for her MA in English and showed me some of her assignments, I confess we laughed over how the serious critics often dissect a story in such depth that the resulting analysis seems absurdly elaborate (and sometimes rather far-fetched).  The ‘lit crit’ folks would probably have a field day with this particular story, as there are many layers of symbolism and many ways in which all the elements tie together. Continue reading

Genre Definition Revisited: Thoughts on Science Fantasy

It’s occurred to me that my current WIP, The Heart of Elebfar, might be labeled as ‘science fantasy’. Since the entire story takes place on one exotic world, it technically also fits the definition of a ‘planetary romance’ — although it’s certainly not ‘space opera’! But ‘science fantasy’, like many subgenre classifications, can be a bit nebulous, as it essentially just means something that combines elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

Some say science fantasy is fantasy ‘dressed up’ as science fiction, while others say it’s science fiction that includes fantastic elements that are not explained via science. But I think that brings up the question of how much of the science in science fiction is truly explained. It seems that, even in a lot of hard SF, the essence of it is about speculating that a certain premise might be scientifically plausible — either in the future or on another world — more than it is about trying to explain just how it might be plausible.

And if we’re talking about social science fiction, it’s accepted that future technologies or alternate biological conditions may be an essential part of the foundation of the story, but no one expects the author to spend time exploring how those things might actually come about. What’s important is how they would affect human society and the lives of individual humans in that society (as discussed in my previous post about the definition of SF). Continue reading

A Misguided Definition of Science Fiction — And Why I’m Proud to Write ‘Girly SF’

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about Paul Cook’s post at Amazing Stories, in which he pontificates on why a lot of science fiction actually isn’t science fiction.  I just read a great post summarizing much of this discussion on Cora Buhlert’s blog.  While I agree, as most do, that Mr. Cook has every right to his own opinion, I also agree that the manner in which he expressed it was offensive.

Whether or not it was unintentional, the article does come across as sexist, and as a big Gene Wolfe fan, Paul Cook’s disparaging attitude toward Wolfe’s work certainly didn’t impress me either.  (He also made the error of claiming that Wolfe’s brilliant tetralogy, The Book of the New Sun, shows the influence of Orson Scott Card, when Card’s work actually came after New Sun.)

One line in Cora Buhlert’s blog post about the reactions to Paul Cook’s discourse particularly struck a chord with me.  While discussing the prejudice against human relationships — both emotional and physical — and the apparent distaste for the human body itself in much hard SF, she remarks about the “dearth of sex, childbirth and descriptions of food” in science fiction.  This made me think of several things I find significant. Continue reading