Tag Archives: Science Fiction

The day my favorite book became my favorite movie.

I first read ENDER’S GAME at age 14. It was introduced to my family by aunt Bronya, one of the sweetest ladies you’d ever meet, and has great taste in fiction. (She’s also a stellar baker and hostess; if you’re ever in rural Missouri, I recommend stopping by.)

After devouring this quick read, I was stunned by its much deeper sequel and the philosophical volumes that followed.  When CHILDREN OF THE MIND came out, dad bought four copies: One for himself, me, my brother, and my then-girlfriend; none of us had to wait. That’s one of my favorite memories of dad: spontaneously generous, thoughtful, and sharing our excitement.From high school onward, I read science fiction because of Card. Oh, I’ve since read Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke, but that came later.

I majored in Philosophy because of science fiction, which was difficult to explain to my professors.THE WORTHING SAGA — which even most Card fans have never read — remains one of the most thorough and convincing treatments of theodicy I’ve ever read. (“Theodicy” is the problem of evil and suffering in a world governed by benevolent and omnipotent being[s].)

When an old friend finds me on Facebook, they’re liable to mention Card. As in, “I still read Card because you got me into him.” So Card has not only influenced my reading and my education, but the warp and woof of my social life, and of course my career as a writer. There are a dozen autographed OSC novels in my home. ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD sit on the top shelf in my office, facing out so you can see their covers. I will buy anyone who wants a copy of either book, no questions asked. Read More →

Reply expected from the magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction on “Perfect Justice”.

Which 400 words would you delete?

deleteWriter’s Digest is holding their annual competition, and a friend forwarded me the info for it.

I always have mixed feelings about contests; they’re hailed as a great way for new talent to break into a market, but that’s only true if you win. And I cannot imagine that contests with cash prizes get fewer submissions than the magazines I submit to. Then there’s the entry fee to consider; submitting work for publication to a magazine only costs me postage. The WD contest charges $20 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. That’s quite a chunk of change just to have someone look at your story, and then (in all likelihood) discard it.

I haven’t yet decided to enter, but the contest rules create an interesting dilemma. The word limit for genre short stories (like science fiction) is 4,000. According to the rules, stories that are 4,001 words will be disqualified.

Perfect Justice in its most recent draft is over 4,400 words. And already I have feared that it didn’t provide quite enough character development, that the plot wasn’t intricate enough, etc. But leaving aside the question of possible improvements, which 400 words are non-essential to the story? Do I go find 400 adjectives and conjuctions I can cut? Or whole scentences? Or a whole scene?

What would you do?

The goal

woahOstensibly, my goal is publication. But publication is just the beginning.

A bigger goal is a full-time writing career. But the time/money relationship is very incidental; there are politics and processes involved which have nothing to do with raw talent or imagination.

The REAL goal, the one I don’t think I have met yet, is for my reader to finish a story I wrote, and say (very Neo-like):

“WOAH.”

The feedback since starting the blog is very helpful, but it’s also very dry. My readers acknowledge that I am professional, that I have skill, that a story works. What they don’t say is, “Damn, that story blew me away.”

And I’m not saying it should have…yet. It’s only been a few weeks since I began devoting this much time to my writing career.

But that’s the goal. And I want you, my friends, to understand that’s where I set the bar. Not on publication, not on wealth, not on accolades or awards or reviews.

If my science fiction doesn’t make you think, if my fantasy doesn’t awe you, if my horror doesn’t chill you to the bone, I’m not the writer I strive to be. And I need your help to get there. That’s what this blog is about.

OUCH!

yousuckRemember the goal with submitting Woman’s Best Friend? I was going to have so many other balls in the air by March (when a reply was due) that I’d almost forgotten about this story, thus let the circle of new submissions continue unabated.

Well, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction got back to me early. REALLY early. Barely 30% into my next story, I got their reply in the mail.

It says:

Dear Mr. Peters:

Thank you for submitting “Woman’s Best Friend,” but I’m going to pass on it. This tale didn’t grab my interest, I’m afraid. Good luck to you with this one, and thanks again for sending it our way.”

Remember the stage fright I described when I painstakingly formatted this baby, addressed the envelope and so forth?

Smackdown! “You’re no good, kid!”

Megan (unintentially) added salt to this fresh wound by unwittingly and hopefully asking, “Pass it on to who?” (That should’ve been “to whom,” but nevermind.)  Not pass it on to someone, pass on it, I explained to her.

Past rejection letters have been phrased very generally, and my first one even encouraged me to send more work. They’re usually signed “the editors” and use the less blunt pronoun, “we”. This note (though perfectly professional by industry standards) came across to me as:

Why did you waste my time with this lousy story? I personally found it quite boring. I’d rather watch grass grow, or paint dry…or better yet, race the growth of grass against the drying of the paint and take bets on each. I can’t tell you it isn’t right for us at this time, or that I want to see more work. Maybe when you finally write something interesting, you’ll have a career as a novelist. Until then, I try to keep my desk full of compelling stories, and clearly you don’t have one.

That’s all very extreme, of course, and the editor said no such thing. But that’s the flavor rejection takes. It hurts mostly because — even if this IS just a form letter — it isn’t phrased generally enough for me to assume that I may have formatted wrong, have irreconcilable grammatical errors, or be too similar to four stories they just ran. It says quite clearly, “didn’t grab my interest.”

Well <foul expletive deleted>.

Here’s the problem being a writer, too:

I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THIS STORY READS.

I begin the story behind the curtain; I’ve never read ONE WORD of it without knowing how the scene and story would end. I have no idea how much suspense it creates — or doesn’t create. I have no idea how scary it is — or isn’t. I have no idea how interesting it is — or isn’t. (I’m sure the masters know, but I don’t yet have enough experience.)

This is where I must rely on friendly readers to be test subjects, and to be brutally honest. A co-worker said this story “started slow” — that’s the closest thing I have to a fix for this story being uninteresting so far.

What else could improve it? I realize having already finished it, some of you are already behind the curtain with this one, but you at least had one first impression I never got.

What can I do to make it more gripping?

Woman’s Best Friend in the mail

…and on its way to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. They say they respond to manuscripts in two months.

It’s away

I hashed out typos/misprints one more time (there were still some nobody caught yet — unfortunately I’ll probably find more again tomorrow) and then spent about 90 minutes researching preferred hardcopy submission formats, spent 40 minutes formatting and printing, and finally put the whole manuscript together with a SASE and addressed a large manila envelope.

Woman’s Best Friend will soon be on its way to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for review.

It’s weird to have stage fright for something you won’t hear back on for two months, minimum, but I do. Boy do I. I’m more frightened than Naomi was.

What’s most important is that I get another story finished and submitted LONG before I hear back about this one. If this story is 3 or 4 stories behind me, all of my excitement and energy will be focused on current projects, and a rejection for this one will hardly matter (continuing that cycle indefinately until a work is purchased).

The next project actually will be none of the prior ideas I mentioned, but a whole other pair of ideas I mentally married earlier today. I think I’m going to wait until tomorrow to tell you, though, but my non-geek fans will be pleased it’s another modern thriller instead of outright sci-fi or fantasy.

Step aside, Dean Koontz.