February 5th, 2008

there!, Hello

Blacker Than the Blackest Black Times Infinity...

Last weekend, hntrpyanfar and I traveled down to Nanuet, New York to visit lordsaphon. It was a great trip and a fine visit to someone we haven't seen in about eight or nine years (?!?). We hung out at the hotel playing card/board games, visited the Palisades mega-mall (a 4 story sprawl dedicated to consumerism), played some shuffleboard and pool at Dave and Busters and watched a bunch of DVDs. Now, Trista and I have been exposed to Venture Brothers, the first disc or so of Robot Chicken: Season 1, and the hilarious Adult Swim 'toon, Metalocalypse (which chronicles the workings of the most popular metal! Band! In! The! WOOOORLD! This one band has risen to become the twelfth largest economy on earth -- larger than Belgium, Wikipedia tells me).

Oh. My. Freaking. Goodness!

I loved them all, but... Metalocalypse gives me purest joy! In a blacker than the blackest black times infinity, and more brutal than raising children (!) way... I am a total fan, now.

Wow, is all I can say.
there!, Hello

Publication News: First Contrib Copy of the Year

So, over the weekend, I got my first contributor's copy of the year. For a story, "Dust on Crust" I've published with a brand new sf magazine, called Golden Visions Science Fiction. As I did with my "Heed the Hellbound", here's a bit on the origin of this story...

While I do not have a concrete answer as to the origins of all the stories I've written/published, this is one that I can say I do. It was born from wrath.

The origins date back to an old conversation, really. Well, it started out as a brief exercise. hntrpyanfar and I have played around with skiing for a while (a lot of fun, really).

So, once upon a time, a postdoc fellow spent a year in my lab. An Italian, he was quick with a joke, very hands on when he talked, and yet had an ego the size of Rhode Island. He made it quite clear that he had the PhD, while I did not. Therefore, I took great pleasure in proving him to be wrong, whenever I could. It was a friendly rivalry, I suppose...

So, one day, we got to talking about skiing (he was an afficionado, of course), and we got to talking about how skis really work. Somehow we got on the topic of temperatures when skis won't work. The postdoc argued with me. There is no such thing as skis not being able to work. They ride atop the snow, he said. They would always work. This provided me with the fantastic chance to show him how wrong he was (in YOUR FACE!).

This falls back to the whole PV=NRT thang from physics/chemistry. For the science challenged, this equation deals with the relationship between pressure (P) and temperature (T); when one of these increases, as long as everything else is held relatively constant, so does the other; skis being these long solid objects strapped to your feet apply a pressure across snow/ice. This pressure causes a change in the temperature which causes the frozen water to melt a little bit. The skis actually glide along this trail of water. This is also why ice generally gets slippery. You step on it, and the pressure under your boot/shoe causes a temperature change. If the outer conditions are such that this is enough to melt the ice, slip slide you are down on your duff. However, it is conceivable that this temperature change will NOT be enough to cause the ice to melt. If the outer temperatures are cold enough, then your mass/weight will not be great enough to cause the temperature to change enough to melt anything. Ice becomes similar to rock, not slippery at all. In such conditions, skis won't work.

Rubbed his nose in it. Educated the Oh-So-Smart guy with the Ph.D. and off we went on another day.

Until the time came when I heard about an anthology seeking stories incorporating science fiction and sports. I started thinking about science fiction and sports. What sport? Well, I started out with a boxing story (ala Robert E. Howard), but that did not work out.

Then, I recalled my wrathful victory... And I started considering skiing on Pluto. I started doing some research (not a terrible amount, since I'd already done some hands on work), but I started reviewing the types of conditions. "Dust on Crust," it turns out, is one of the most dangerous conditions, where powder lays atop ice atop a layer of powder. Something in this term really sang to me. As Shakespeare admired Marlowe's The Massacre of Paris as a "Good title!" so, I set out with a title, and a basis for a story.

I wrote a draft, tried to pare the piece down to the requirement (was it 500 words? 1000? I can't recall now). Flash fiction is a challenge in word sanding... There can be nothing extraneous, and yet it must be a story: beginning, middle, end, character, situation, resolution. Not easy! Particularly since my ideas seem to be big these days (perhaps bigger than they ought to be), taking up plenty of elbow room.

I turned to a skiing piece. Well, needless to say, the story I quickly wrote and submitted to that anthology did not find its way in. No harm, no foul.

I don't give up on my fiction anymore. When I was in my teens/twenties, I wrote a story, sent it out, if it got rejected, I might send it somewhere else, but usually not. As I was submitting to magazines like Cemetery Dance, Asimov's, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, needless to say, I got zero publication credits. While there is merit to striving toward the best possible markets, one should heed Robert Heinlein's rules on writing (despite what you think about the man's fiction, his thoughts on writing are valuable).

In this case, let me direct the attention to
Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold.

After a story you've written gets rejected (and boy howdy, will they), move on to the next market. A good rule of thumb is to start with the best paying markets and move slowly downward from there. I don't always listen to this rule of thumb, and I should. An even better rule of thumb is to avoid "exposure only" markets if at all possible (charity gigs do not count, here).

When I revisited this story, I realized it was not really a completely gelled piece. While much of writing is brief moments of inspiration followed by heavy incidents of editing/revision, good writing also involves a cold, rational handling of the frustration born of discovering "Hey, you know what? This story really SUCKS... How can I make it better? What am I trying to say?"

Time came for revision... Pretty much from the ground up. Needless to say, it took me a bit of time to fill out the missing pieces.

So, I ultimately decided to take a chance on a new magazine market. I'm proud of my story, but I don't have many hard sf credits (and I tried my best to include some real world physics into the mix of the story). The editor responded quite favorably to the story. I'm in the premier print issue, and my name is nestled amongst several others on the cover. I'm pretty proud of that story and that sale...

Golden Visions is a perfect bound magazine (that means softcover with a spine). While it is certainly a first effort (there are a couple of errs, but nothing terrible egregious), the editors have made a fine effort of feeling their way through the process. It looks pretty nice, is weighty in the hand and offers a whole passel of fiction and such for the sf lover.

By the way:
The spec-fic sports anthology has since seen the light of publication. Title: Sporty Spec. It's a great little book, full of some fine, fun flash fiction. It's even got one of elenuial's first publications! Buy it, enjoy it!
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