Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

I decided to have a post consisting of links to sites, articles and blogs that might be useful for potential submitters to our little zine (and submitting stories in general). I’ve taken the liberty of listing these links in easy-to-follow categories:


Writing craft:







Why are these important?

Writing fiction (short stories or novels) isn’t a pursuit that you will ever fully master. Its universal mantra goes something like this: “Lifelong learning is your friend.”



The business of writing:





Why are these important?

You want to be knowledgeable about this writing thing, don’t you? And by writing I mean everything that goes with the physical act of typing your fantastic tale.








Why are these important?

First impressions are important, right? What should you do (or not do) to create that first impression? Click the above.




http://www.writingexcuses.com/2009/03/29/writing-excuses-season-2-episode-25-the-seven-deadly-sins-of-slush-stories/  (THIS IS NEW!)








Why are these important?

This may be a reality check for some out there. Cold. Brutal. Helpful.



Author fan site-blogs:









Why are these important?

These sites can be fun but are also venues where issues of our industry are debated. Check them out regularly and you’re bound to find something 









Why are these important?

Some might ask, “Why should I read reviews for stories I didn’t write and zines or anthos I’m not in?”


Well…Short answer: One, you’ll get a taste for the type of stories a specific zine publishes (without buying/reading said zine). Two, if you pay attention, reviewers can highlight what works and doesn’t work in specific stories they review.



Genre news:

http://charles-tan.blogspot.com (especially his daily “Links and Plugs” post)



Why are these important?

You want to be in the know about the field, don’t you? You don’t want to trawl the whole internet yourself, do you?



Editors skulking around the blogosphere and the wider internet:






Why are these important?

If you have to ask, then I want you to go to the principal’s office. Now!


Note: Some of these resources provide “lessons” in more than one of the above categories. There may be overlap, but rarely duplication of learning.


That’s all – for now.


Keep writing and submitting!


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I was inspired to start writing speculative short stories after reading Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester. The story broke a lot of preconceptions I had about short fiction and the limits that were inherent to the form. For example, before reading the story, I had gotten it into my head that because of the length he setting, scope, and pacing had to be limited and slow.


The story contained several characters that reminded me of people I had encountered in real life. Coincidentally, Fondly Fahrenheit also involved subject matter from my academic life and interests of mine. All of this prompted me to research Alfred Bester and I soon discovered some real life commonalities. One of these commonalities was that Alfred Bester left short story writing to write comic books for a while, penning one of my favourite superhero comics, Green Lantern.


One of the most interesting bits of weird trivia is that Alfred Bester was often credited with composing the Green Lantern Oath that went a little something like this:


In the brightest day,

In the blackest night,

No evil shall escape my sight,

Let those who worship evil’s might,

Beware my power,

The Green Lantern light!


I’m writing this from fanboy memory, so I could’ve gotten some of the words wrong – my apologies to the more scholarly fans out there. The weird part is that he had been quoted as saying that the oath existed before he began writing the comic.


A recent post over at Boingboing.net about a Magic Lantern museum got me thinking about Green Lantern again.


The result of my musings is my conclusion that Green Lantern should be every writer’s favourite superhero.




Well, for those of you not familiar with Green Lantern, he or she (there used to be a GL Corps with hundreds of these appointed space-policing Green Lanterns) derives his / her power from a ring which he/she needs to charge with a green lantern (hence the name). Once charged (yes, like a cell phone), he /she is able to fly and create just about any weapon / vehicle / whatever out of solid green light.


You’re probably thinking: Hey, mildly interesting, but why should GL be adored by us writer folks?


Okay, sorry for all that background (infodump). The reason for my contention can be found in Green Lantern’s limitations and weaknesses, namely:

  • A green Lantern’s creations are only limited by his / her will power and imagination. This holds for writers too.
  • A Green Lantern ring must be recharged regularly, because it can only hold finite charge of energy. This holds for all writers (even the full-time ones), because we need to recharge our writing batteries with outside interests and real life.
  • The original GL Corps rings were all weak against the colour yellow / gold. To translate into writer language: Never pay too much attention to your own press and praise (gold). Keep striving to be better.
  • Alan Scott, the first GL, possessed an older GL ring that was weak against wood. However, even with the risk of flying into a tree during a low air chase, he soldiered on with the mission as his successors would one day do. Writers should keep in mind that although technology has changed, the mission (to write) stays the same.
  • The GL corps was comprised of heroes from different worlds across the universe and each guarded different sectors of space. Although, we’re all writers, each of us occupies a different point in “writing-space’. Learn from each other but follow your own path.


Wow, I surprised myself with how motivational this post has become. This is where my ‘charge’ has run out on this topic. Do you have a favourite superhero? Does he / she embody an ethic that you feel can help in your writing?


As always, keep writing and keep submitting!

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Our slushpile suggests that Why-dunnit is not as popular as the Who-dunnit or the How-dunnit. Although quite a few submissions have combined all three types of mysteries, the full why-question-centric tales are not forthcoming.

I guess many writers believe that if you already have the ‘who’ and ‘how’, then the ‘why’ (although important) is just not intriguing enough to be the focus of a story.

Not so, I say. The why-dunnit represents some interesting opportunities in terms of original plotting.

The mysteries in why-dunnits are linked to questions of:

  • Motive (in crime mysteries); and
  • Why an unexpected event has occurred (in non-crime mysteries).

When a crime is committed, and there are several witnesses and/or a mass of evidence identifying the guilty party (who) as well as the method used (how), the motive (why) could make for a great tale if:
The ‘who’ doesn’t make any sense – there may be better suspects or an apparent lack of motive.

Tip: The answer to the ‘why’ is often character-driven (i.e. what the characters want or need) or as a result of movement from the status quo to alternate state of affairs. Characterisation and setting play a role in this regard and may even be clues.

A note on speculative mysteries in general:
A writer may infuse speculative elements in the ‘who, how, or the why’ of a story. Some tales are successful because all three aspects are given a speculative treatment. In others, only one question relates to the speculative domain.

Keep writing and keep submitting!

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JB Dryden made the comment that television produces more a consistent quality of Speculative fiction than film. That got me asking myself: “why?”

JB went on to mention the tendency of film to grab the nearest Specfic novel as the basis of their projects. Television does the same on occasion, but with a slight difference:

  • TV tends to use the book as a loose basis for the show’s pilot while movies tend to follow the book more closely. Filmmakers often worry about how the book’s fan base will react when Character X doesn’t throw his hat on the table as he does on Page 523 of the novel. TV creators often add elements (e.g. additional characters) to the mix and don’t worry so much about the book fans.

Another point to consider is that TV has it own original Speculative shows that are not based on any books. These shows have produced trends of their own. A few years back, some television critics were discussing shows like Lost, Heroes, and The 4400, to name a few. Well, actually, it was much less of a discussion and more of a shredding and the crux of it went something like this:

These shows won’t ever work, because:

  • There are too many characters;

  • There are too many divergent storylines that don’t seem to have anything do to with each other (in the first few episodes).

Obviously, these critics were wrong, because not only have these shows survived but the number of Specfic shows with similar “problems” has increased during the last couple of years.

However, the success of these “problems” tells us that TV writers (and creators) have realised that:

  1. You can’t underestimate your audience’s intelligence or their ability to process a large amounts of diverse (and/or incomplete) information (as would be the case with too many characters and too many storylines);

  2. Specfic viewers are always looking for something different.

I think the above lessens aren’t just for Movie writers, but for novel and short fiction writers as well.

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In my previous post, I mentioned my short story featuring a Technological Singularity in a historical setting. I thought it would be a good spark for a discussion on inspiration. 

Firstly, I should make it clear that I didn’t set out to write about a technological Singularity in ancient times. It was more a case of me wanting to write a short story based on one of my other interests: Archaeology. 

Specifically, I wanted to posit a SF solution to an Archaeological “what-happened-back-then?” mystery as well as use themes of ‘temporal arrogance’ (specifically, thinking that the present is the pinnacle of all scientific progress since the dawn of civilization) and ‘cyclical knowledge development’ (in this context, discovering/formulating new knowledge [previously unknown in the present] and being unaware that the idea or concept was already being used in the distant past). 

Now, you might say, “Hey, but the present is the pinnacle of all scientific progress.” 

Well, in the annals of archaeology, there are some examples of evidence to the contrary. For example:

  • Some of the interior building blocks of the Egyptian Pyramids are cut with such precision that they can only be reproduced by modern lasers (and in some instances the lasers came off second best).
  • The Minoans developed a system of indoor plumbing, but after their empire fell, the later Greek empire couldn’t reproduce the technology during centuries of their reign. It was only centuries after the Greeks, during the Roman Empire, that a similar indoor plumbing was developed.
  • The Mahabharata, India’s most sacred and ancient texts, speak of weapons that produce all of the after-effects of modern-day radioactivity – brilliant lightning filled the air, victims crumbled to ash or burnt beyond recognition, survivors from the surrounds found that their hair and nails fell out, food became toxic, unborn children died in their mother’s wombs, sand became vitrified, etc. Whether you believe these events really occurred or that the Mahabharata are simply religious allegories or the world’s first Science Fiction stories, these tales point to two possibilities. 1) Pretty vivid and ahead-of-their-time imaginations; 2) A lack of knowledge preservation (recording) among ancient people.

 The point is: Perfectly linear scientific progress appears to be a myth.  Apparently, progress didn’t occur in a straight, rising line – there were some huge dips and even some earlier peaks (in some respects, some as high as so-called modern times).  

An interesting aside: The Indian texts describe climate-altering weapons. The US government has undertaken the task of researching such a possibility in Alaska – it’s called HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Project). A military application of the research would enable a weapon to make targeted weather alterations – just like in the ancient Indian texts. 

Back to our feature rambling session:I have a background in Science (the approach), so I’m always trying to explain things that as yet have no explanation. Enter the aforementioned Archaeological mystery. Without going into too much detail, conventional explanations just didn’t solve the mystery adequately, because there was no Archaeological evidence supporting any of these explanations. So, with my Specfic writer’s hat on, I decided to go the way of the ancient texts and NOT limit myself to the “this solely belongs in this era” mentality, which would’ve cut down the number of possible explanations dramatically. Basically, I didn’t allow my own preconceptions and temporal prejudices dictate what I could write. 

Then, it hit me: A singularity would explain the lack of evidence supporting the alternate explanations! Not only that, but it also took care of another plot thread I’d been weaving into the tale. The solution was simple and elegant – everything Science strives towards. My theory fit the data (evidence).  

That’s just one of the ways our other interests can inspire a story or story solution.

Stay inspired!

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Check this out

Everyone who knows me knows that I prefer reading short fiction anthologies rather than novels.

My reasons:

1. I like getting 15-plus stories for the price of one long one.

2. If the plot or writing (or insert any aspect) of a novel sucks, the whole novel sucks for me. However, if  plot or writing (or insert any aspect) of a short story sucks, there are 14-plus other stories in an anthology that can make up for it. Similarly, if I like 4 out of 15 plus stories in an anthology, then the anthology gets a passing grade from me. However, if I like 4 out of 15 chapters of a novel, then the novel gets a failing grade from me.

So, rarely does a novel get me excited. This one has got me more than a tad interested and  this one I haven’t read yet or more precisely it hasn’t even been written yet…

This author is participating in Nanowrimo and I have a bit of a intellectual crush on her – at least, I hope she’s a her 🙂

Anyhoo, she said the folks at Nanawrimo HQ advised her to tell as many people online to “guilt her into finishing.” After her novel title got me so excited, I decided to do my small bit to help her in the above “motivational” respect.

I believe in playing fair. So, here’s the novel title that’s got me so aroused (excuse the lack of a better word)… Drumroll Please!:

“The Dispicable Slush Pile Outsourcing Conspiracy”

I believe that all writers should read it (on the strength of its title alone and because she mentioned something about posting part of it).

Tell her I sent you!

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