Friday, May 22, 2015

Off to ConQuest

I'll be on the road most of today (Friday) driving to Kansas City for ConQuest 46. My first panel is 10 a.m. Saturday, so I have all day. It's pretty much a straight shot north from where I live in East Texas, but it's almost 500 miles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cue Wilbert Harrison

My schedule for this weekend at ConQuesT Kansas City's Original Science Fiction Convention, with fellow panelists listed:

Saturday 10:00 AM Tips and Traps: Navigating the World of Short Story Submission
Jack Campbell, Jr., Steven X. Davis, Lezli Robyn

Saturday 1:00 PM Predicting Future Governments or Societies
Jan S. Gephardt, Victoria L’Ecuyer, Dr. Stan

Saturday 2:00 PM Space Opera: Then and Now
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Robin Wayne Bailey, Rich Horton, Jim Yelton

Saturday 4:00 PM Are We First, Alone, or Screwed?--How Have New Discoveries Changed How We Look at the Fermi Paradox?
Thomas Trumpinski, Robin Wayne Bailey, H.G. Stratman

Saturday 5:00 PM Why indie bookstores are on the rise again?
Brent Bowen, Zo Allen, Dennis Young

Sunday 10:00 AM The Burden of "Metropolis" (M)
Jean Corbin, Jude Marie Green, Allison Stein

Sunday 12:00 PM Editors Are Not The Enemy
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Chris Gerrib, Robin Wayne Bailey, Clair Ashgrove

Sunday 3:00 PM Reading

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The slush pile

I didn't write any new short stories the first four months of the year while I was engrossed in writing my novel "Another Girl, Another Planet".  A week ago I began to get back to writing short fiction again. On May 6 I wrote and sent off a new story, "The Yellow Flag" - only 1,800 words - that was bought immediately by Jason Rennie at Sci-Phi Journal, who published my Hugo-nominated "On a Spiritual Plain" last year. The amazing fact was that it was only four hours from when I started the story until I submitted it and heard back from Jason. That' got to be some kind of record.

I also wrote - that same day - a flash piece which was sent off to Analog as a Probability Zero submission. I think it's obvious some story ideas were bottled up and ready to be poured out.

Since then I've caught up on my submissions, logging in all the rejections that came in since January and finding the stories new homes. Right now I have a total of 17 stories in various slush piles.

One thing I noticed, as I went back and updated my submissions log, was that my submissions turnaround seemed to slow down in the last quarter of last year. Looking back, I realized how little free time I had because the corporate drone who I was working for was working me so hard. The Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune was bought by a newspaper chain last summer, and one of the little tricks and dirty secrets of these types of operations is that they give their employees workloads that simply can't be accomplished in 40 hours, in effect making the journalists work off the clock. I think the publisher was working me to the nub hoping I'd quit, but I'm pretty stubborn and he had to finally fire me on Jan. 2.

During the last half of last year I had very little free time, an it shows in my submissions log. In the period from September 2014 until the end of the year I wrote only one short story. It's also clear from the various dates and the apparent lag times how busy I was.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thoughts over coffee and (turkey) sausage

Even some of the harshest critics of "On a Spiritual Plain" have admitted the core idea was clever and/or original. The most common complaint - and let's face it, a lot of people go into their reviews with a bias because of the Sad Puppies involvement - was that it was "poorly executed".

One follow up comment to such a review said "I'd be interested to see how this could have been handled by a more competent writer." You know what? I agree! But I'm the one who stuck his neck out, took the chance, and made the effort. I did the best I could, at the time and under the circumstances. It's very seldom anyone writes a story where people sit back after reading and say, "This could not have been done any possibly better." There is always room for improvement!

Every story I write is a step on the path towards becoming a better writer. The stuff I write this year shows improvement from the stuff I wrote last year, or ten years ago, for that matter. I believe that as long as you're alive, you're learning. Once you stop learning and growing, you start dying. We're all going to die eventually. So many people in life are always to late to everything, but they get a head start on dying by losing their enjoyment of learning, and their sense of wonder.

I feel sorry for people who, because of social and clan bonds, miss so much of the enjoyment of life. I guess there' s an advantage of coming from poor immigrant stock. I never had anything to live up to.

I think if people would just stop checking authors' resumes first and read the stories, they might find some great stuff out there. They might also enjoy not having to do contortions to justify reading some fiction they are supposed to like because of social, political and religious prequalifications.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Some surprises

Some people who have gone into reviews of stories that made the Hugo ballot through the efforts of the Sad Puppies have an obvious bias and start off with a bad attitude, but I've seen at a couple of cases where, in these reviews, aspects of "On a Spiritual Plain" surprised them

For example:

"I have to admit that I was surprised to find this kind story on both of the Puppy slates. Their mission statement was to bring manly fun and rousing adventure back to SFF, but instead they offer here a calm and quiet story...."


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the chaplain, although a Methodist, serves all the Terran religions on the planet.  After the death of the second man, a Hindu, the chaplain "called up a copy of the Bhagavata Purana and read it."  ... The Sad Puppies are on record as disliking calls for diversity in fiction, but, as this story shows, perhaps there's a little leeway here."

Latest reviews

"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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