In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted ...Read MoreRead more
One of my favorite publishing stories is from an established short story writer who tweeted that a story of his had been rejected from a magazine. Within a few minutes of sharing that, the editor of the publication e-mailed them and apologized for the rejection. ‘‘Our new slush reader didn’t recognize your name,’’ the editor said, and promptly bought the story.
The myth of the meritocracy runs deep in publishing. ...Read MoreRead more
I started going about building the science fiction future for my Terra Ignota series, not by trying to predict things that will happen, but by looking for things that have already been changing in the last two centuries, and will with certainty be different in some way in the future. This is a different way of thinking about plausibility, one that comes naturally to me because I’m trained as a ...Read MoreRead more
E-books are game-changers, but not in the way we all thought they would be. Far from taking over print, e-book sales have stagnated at less than a quarter of print sales and show every sign of staying there or declining for the foreseeable future.
But e-books continue to be a source of bitter controversy that divides publishers from two of their most potentially useful allies: writers’ groups and libraries.
Below, ...Read MoreRead more
Most of the time, authors are used to flying solo. Well before we start thinking about submitting work for publication, we’re scribbling in journals, writing poems mostly for ourselves, coming up with characters and places and plots for short stories and novels which we think are cool—us, not some mythical other reader who floats in the aether, ever out of reach. As we mature as writers we become more aware ...Read MoreRead more
Like most people trying to stay above water in this tricky economy, I’ve been looking into ways to use my time more effectively. I have a bushel of novel and short story deadlines, a busy day job, and I’m feeling increasing pressure to sell more work now while the getting is good.
To get even this far, I’ve given up a lot of things. It’s been my policy to play ...Read MoreRead more
We received more appreciations for the late David Hartwell than we had room to run in our March issue, but would still like to share them with our readers. The following memorials from his friends, admirers, and colleagues are just a small part of the outpouring of appreciations for his life. Further appreciations are welcome in the comments.–Locus
I generally do not write memoriams. My first and ...Read MoreRead more
I need to confess something: ‘‘Whuffie’’ would make a terrible currency.
In 2003, I published my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in which all society’s scarcities, even death and energy, have been overcome, and where conflicts over resources – notably, who gets to run Walt Disney World and what they get to do there – are apportioned using a virtual currency called ‘‘Whuffie.’’ Unlike other ...Read MoreRead more
The abysmally low payment terms for science fiction and fantasy short story markets have been a sad topic of conversation among writers for decades. Gone are the days when writing and selling a short story would pay your rent (unless you’re selling to Tor.com).
Rates for writing short fiction are even lower than those for modern magazines and newspapers, which may be hard to wrap one’s head around, but having ...Read MoreRead more
I suppose I wear my influences on my sleeve — most of them anyway. My most recent novel, the dipsomaniac zombie story The Last Weekend, is a tribute to some of them. Mike Berry at the San Francisco Chronicle nailed it: “it is the shades of Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, John Fante and other hard-drinking scribblers who haunt the pages.” One boozy author most everyone has missed so far is ...Read MoreRead more
There’s a passage in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost that gave me pause when I first read it:
“For I must tell thee, it will please his grace, by the world, sometime to lean upon my poor shoulder, and with his royal finger, thus, dally with my excrement…”
Thank goodness for the glossary, which defined “excrement” as meaning “that which grows out (such as hair, nails, feathers).”
I bring this up ...Read MoreRead more
A problem is said to be ‘‘wicked’’ when the various parties engaged with it can’t even agree what the problem is, let alone the solution. As the name implies, wicked problems are hard to deal with.
More than a decade ago, the Federal Communications Commission got its first inkling of a wicked problem on its horizon.
Here’s the problem: around the world, we chop up the electromagnetic spectrum into dedicated-use ...Read MoreRead more
I started writing Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard late in 1989. I’d been writing short stories for a while, but hadn’t sold any. I’d recently completed my doctorate in cognitive psychology and was teaching at a small, liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida, and to this day, more than twenty-five years later, I really can’t say what made me decide to write a novel. But I did.
And it was horrible. ...Read MoreRead more
One thing about fantastical fiction that I like is it’s a universal condition — you find examples from all over the world of writers expressing themselves through the fantastical because sometimes there’s no other way to get across a unique idea or perspective. Everywhere, too, this impulse or way of thinking about the world is different — sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in vastly different ways. So in addition to ...Read MoreRead more
Talk to any career writer, and you’ll hear a lot of anxious worry about sales, about events, about what to say or not to say online, about bad reviews or no reviews, about sexism and table placement and publishers who don’t invest enough in their authors’ careers. You’ll hear about health concerns, about checks that don’t come on time or don’t ...Read MoreRead more
Technologist Anil Dash has a law. ‘‘Three things never work: Voice chat, printers, and projectors.’’ It’s funny because it’s true. We’ve all struggled with getting a printer to work; we’ve all watched a presenter and an AV tech sweat over a projector in a room full of awkwardly shifting audience-members; we’ve all noted the perverse tendency of voice-over-IP calls to turn into slurred, flanged Dalek-speak just as the other person ...Read MoreRead more
I know Thomas Weatherby and Shaila Jain better than anyone else in the world. I know how they think, what they believe, what scares them and what drives them. I know the worlds they move through better than they do, every shadowy nook and every bit of history.
I know this because I created them, and their world.
Weatherby and Jain are the protagonists of the Daedalus trilogy, my debut ...Read MoreRead more
I had a conversation with my spouse the other day about how ‘‘boring’’ my life had become the last few years, ever since I got a real professional job and stopped moving house all the time. My life had become a long marathon in an exhausting desert, and could no longer be carved up into amusing scenes and anecdotes.
That meant that ...Read MoreRead more
Ten years ago I began writing a quest fantasy and went on a journey at the same time. Outwardly it was a physical journey, with real signposts: from fluorescent-lit offices in the Empire State Building to a sunlit apartment in Jerusalem, to a wedding, another apartment, and onward. Like many journeys in fiction, ultimately it came full circle, back to the city where it began. As with a fictional character, ...Read MoreRead more
The Internet of Things is starting to emerge. You can tell it’s just starting, because we’re still using the ungainly name ‘‘Internet of Things.’’ It’s one of those coinages that tells you that we don’t know what a thing is or what it’s for, like ‘‘horseless carriage’’ or ‘‘3D printer.’’
But there’s one thing we do know about the IoT: it involves a lot of sensing. The IoT is what ...Read MoreRead more
While standing in line with my spouse to get onto the Book Expo America (BEA) show floor, we started up a conversation about how easily the plain paper badges could be forged. All you need is a good color copier. As we bantered back and forth, the woman in front of us kept looking at us sideways. The third time she did ...Read MoreRead more
Note: Special thanks to Steve Redwood for his assistance with the translation of this piece.
Between 1985 and 1994 I wrote, more or less, a novel a year. All of them, except Cat’s Whirld and Jormungand, have been lost. Although not completely; somewhere there are typed copies of a few of them, or parts of them; and many of the themes, situations, and incidents of the majority of those novels ...Read MoreRead more
A friend once told me she couldn’t get interested in a book unless it was about people just like herself. She meant 21st-century African American women, but the demographics were not the point. Her comment made me realize I am exactly the opposite: I read books to become something I am not. To capture my attention, a book has to take me to a time or a place or a ...Read MoreRead more
As I’ve written here before, science fiction is terrible at predicting the future, but it’s great at predicting the present. SF writers imagine all the futures they can, and these futures are processed by a huge, dynamic system consisting of editors, booksellers, and readers. The futures that attain popular and commercial success tell us what fears and aspirations for technology and society are bubbling in our collective imaginations.
When you ...Read MoreRead more
From the June 2015 issue of Locus Magazine
Like a lot of new writers, I got through years and years of rejection slips by believing I was simply misunderstood.
I suppose you could chalk a lot of this up to being young. But I also knew very little about writing, or publishing, or how to tell a good story. That trifecta of ignorance led me to invest in a ...Read MoreRead more
For me, it was all about learning, never about teachers, but I couldn’t stop hoping there was a magical How-To-Book-That-Explains-It-All-To-You. Or a great coach who would love to tell me all about How It’s Done.
P.S., there wasn’t, although there used to be a Famous Writers School claiming that for a down payment and your monthly contribution, they would. I did a story about their correspondence course for the New ...Read MoreRead more
Horror is the unloved hound of literature. It’s hard to find it in bookstores, beyond the names that have been representing the form since the seventies and eighties: King, Rice, Koontz, and Barker. Forget about specifically designated shelves; those days are gone. It’s got a bad reputation. Some of that’s due to the lingering effects of the paperback horror boom of the eighties, which nearly choked the market to death, ...Read MoreRead more
Timothy Zahn saved my life.
The story was called “Unitive Factor,” and Google tells me that it appeared in the May 1982 issue of Analog. To be honest, I can’t remember much about it, but the space horses made a hell of an impression. That’s right, space horses: giant vacuum-dwelling whale-like creatures that could jump instantaneously from one star to another, handy for harnessing to your space craft if you ...Read MoreRead more
When I started writing, I thought I was talented. I was six, and I’d written something precocious that attracted praise from the grownups around me, and that praise included a descriptive dimension: I hadn’t just written something that was good – I was a good writer.
Talent is a destructive myth. To call someone talented is to imply that their abilities are intrinsic. Having written and taught for decades now, ...Read MoreRead more
There certainly are periods more auspicious for collaboration than others. Perhaps a fledgling writer with a few sales under her/his belt gets the opportunity to collude with an older established author, with a contract already on the table. Or perhaps one writer conspires with another writer of equal worth to tackle an elaborate novel, one requiring, say, a scientific proficiency one of the two can’t fake and the other can ...Read MoreRead more
I’m asked, often, what I feel about ‘‘the haters’’ or ‘‘the detractors’’ who don’t like me or my work, and I think it’s an odd question, because, to be blunt – I don’t care what those people think. Spewing unrestrained and unabashed vitriol across a page or in a public forum has always been a great way to call attention to oneself, ...Read MoreRead more
I was lucky enough to be at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend, and one of the highlights was a panel on diversity, with fellow panelists Jamie Ford, Ramon J. Terrell, Garth Reasby, and Sarah Remy, moderated by Anna Alexander. It wasn’t the only panel on diversity–there were, by my count, four panels that touched on the topic over the course of the three day con.
I wanted to share ...Read MoreRead more