Here Be Deadlines

This is a flyby post because I’m on deadline (What happens when you go to a writers’ retreat and give a talk about why you love deadlines? You get bigger deadlines.)… which means really good things for 2015, but for right now … aieeeee.

So have some picspam and links to nibble on -

Sheila Williams, the venerable editor of Asimov’s, and her daughters answered 10 Questions for GeekMom. How cool is that? She talks about growing up in science fiction and fantasy, the ins and outs of the editorial process, and the amazing Dell Magazine Award.  (But wait, there’s more! Is Sheila Williams a Geek or a Nerd? Find out!)

My story, “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” appears in Asimov’s this month. A couple reviews already!

And I’ll be talking about wasps and tech with SFSignal very soon too.

Here’s where I was last week, a writers’ retreat in the Pacific Northwest:


Hard at work at RWV2014 (photo: Andrew Williams)

And here too (Powells Book Store, in Portland OR <3 <3 <3). (more…)

On The Scientists in Your Popular SciFi Movies

We saw Pacific Rim again two nights ago (yes. Hush.) well, I saw it again. The Chemist saw it for the first time. We both loved it. Visually gorgeous and intelligent, enormously fun.

And yet, sitting next to a PhD biochemist who did his post-doc at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, who I think is pretty amazing, I started thinking about the scientist meme in sci fi movies.

It’s not as prevalent in books… Not always.

But when sci fi scientists reach the big screen, they tend to look like this:

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    Dr. Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown, Back to the Future

And this:

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    Dr. Hermann Gottlieb, Pacific Rim


My Little Shoggoth: Evolution of an Eldritch Horror

Say you want to put a little Lovecraftian horror into your life. Let’s take a moment to consider the shoggoth, and how it has evolved in cultural perception.

The shoggoth, in all its glory, is described in Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”:

… a plastic column of fetid black iridescence… a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light.

Readers, shall we see whether 82 years has domesticated the shoggoth? I think we shall… (My latest post is up at Apex Publications for their month of The Weird – check it out!)

Some Funny News:

UFO2Over the weekend, when I wasn’t slipping on banana peels at the local coffee shop, I learned that the UFO2 anthology has accepted my story, “How to Feed Your Pyrokinetic Toddler”.

So, despite all of my best attempts at becoming a stodgy stuffed shirt, someone thinks I’m funny. Or at least they think one of my stories is. I’m delighted because this story is completely inappropriate, highly pear-shaped, and was a lot of fun to write.

UFO2 is, like its predecessor, Unidentified Funny Objects, a collection of humorous science fiction and fantasy stories. UFO2 will feature Robert Silverberg, Esther Freisner, Mike Resnick, Ken Liu, Tim Pratt, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim Hines, me, and many more*.

Hey, do you write funny? *Because you could be in this anthology too. The open reading period is May 1 – 31 and submission guidelines are here.

UFO2 is a kickstarter-funded anthology. I’m not going to tell you that you should help back it, because I’m obviously biased. But if you like backing highly entertaining and suspiciously funny anthologies, I’d say this is a good place to start. Plus, then you’ll get to read about the care and feeding of pyrokinetic toddlers. You know, in case that should ever become a thing.

The Sneaky Lathe of Poetry

Lathe: n. A machine in which work is rotated about a horizontal axis and shaped by a fixed tool.

Reblogged from my monthly column at Apex Publishing.

If you are not the sort who enjoys poetry, you might think April (being National Poetry Month) is the season for eye-rolling over enforced rhyme schemes and cringing at public displays of meter.

But even if you skip town for the month, poetic voice still shapes your experience in sneaky ways. The results will catch you unawares.

Take some of your favorite titles, as one example.

Don’t look at the stories (or poems), yet. Just the titles. The ones that carve meaning and sound into the smallest of spaces. Swirsky’s “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” (Apex Magazine), and Valentine’s “A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones” (Clarkesworld). Go back further: Ellison’s ”I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.”

Now look deeper. Look at structure. Poetic forms are reshaping fiction, from the brevity of flash to the use of sectioned prose.

Poetry broke from its restraints a long time ago. (Continue reading…)

Gratitude: Ghost

photo (16)Now and then, I interrupt the digital media nattering, writing how-tos, and food-in-fiction posts for some old-fashioned gratitude. It’s that time again.

The mobile of my childhood is 34 feet long and weighs 225 lbs. It spins irreverent between medieval tapestries and Saint-Gauden’s sculpture of Diana, itself originally conceived as a weathervane.

Wind. Movement. Change. Even indoors, Alexander Calder’s Ghost rings the changes each second.

To see it properly, you have to stand beneath it, then run up the stairs, then catch it from the balcony. Ghost requires you to change perspective, even as it changes. The Philadelphia Art Museum guards will not take kindly to your running, but do it anyway.

On its own, Ghost is engineering, and balance. It is wing and wind.

In its current context, Ghost is whimsy and defiance. It interacts, where other art is still.

I am grateful to know it. And grateful to see it from many perspectives – as a child, as an adult, and somewhere on the steps in between.

Apex Books Blog & SF Signal Mind Meld

Last week, on SF Signal’s Mind Meld on food in science fiction and fantasy, I joined authors Laura Ann Gilman, Sherwood Smith, A.M. Dellamonica, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Bradley Beaulieu, Leah Peterson, Kat Howard, Joanne Anderton, Aliette de Bodard, Rose Fox, Linda Nagata, Michael Martinez, and Judith Tarr in answering the following question: “Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?” It’s great fun, everyone is brilliant, and the list of new reads is epic.

This Wednesday, I’ll join the blog crew at Apex Books. I’m very excited to be part of this project – Publisher Jason Sizemore has put together a great group of writers, and fantastic monthly themes.

The first topic? Noir. Problem: I don’t know anything about Noir. So I bribed Gregory Frost and Jonathan McGoran, both Philly writers well steeped in Noir, to help me fill in my knowledge gaps. Tune in Wednesday to see how we did.

PS: my friend A.C. Wise is also going to be making appearances at Apex Books’ Blog. Very exciting!

Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… – do you need them all?

A question to the floor: pinterest2
What social media tools do you use and for what purposes? We could talk all day about Facebook (or on Facebook) – where many writers have fan pages, or post most updates – but let’s go a bit further afield too.

  • Pinterest – Launched in 2010 as a ‘virtual pinboard,’ Pinterest can be used for research (putting photos in buckets), inspiration, and conversation. Check out some really well-curated pinboards for examples: Arin Dembo, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Jenny Lawson, Sara Mueller, and Craig EnglerMine’s a bit sloppy, but I’ve found it a useful place to store things in buckets, so I know where to find them. Broadcast type: public.
  • Tumblr - Founded in 2007, but rising in visibility recently. The tumblr technique is called short-form blogging by the company. I’m new to this one (which is the reason for this post). In some ways, Tumblr is also a pin-board, though its visual interface is linear where Pinterest’s is more of (more…)