I’m a Book Club Leader: All Shall Love Me and Despair!

October went by in a flash, so here are some personal updates!

NESFA

I was put in charge of the New England Science Fiction Association’s (NESFA) Reading Group, which is a monthly book club that meets in Somerville MA. I’ll be organizing the schedule and leading discussions (really, just asking questions to get readers talking).

I’m excited! I joined NESFA to get exposed to new SF books/ get to know the industry better, so I’m glad to give back.

This November 30th (7pm) we’re reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.

This January we’re doing a throwback and reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.

If you’re in the area, feel free to join!

Other Stuff:
As for writing, I’m nose-deep in NaNoWriMo, and it’s going sorta well. I keep resisting the urge to edit/worldbuild. Hoping to get to that 50k mark! I have some short works I’m editing, and one of them is a rewrite + resubmit request from an editor I really want to work with, so here’s hoping I can succeed!

Also, my baby and I were awesome this Halloween:

beckydevendra

The tiniest officer in Star Fleet

Excelsior!

“Hard” Sci-Fi Is a Made Up Term

Once upon a time, I made an unfortunate attempt to label the kind of thing Poul [Anderson] writes as “hard copy”—work so deeply felt and so carefully crafted that it looks solid no matter from what angle you view it—and I asked for more of the same from other people. Everyone instantly assumed that what I was talking about was sf in which the science was correct, and thus inadvertently was born our present usage of “hard science fiction.”

From James Blish The Tale That Wags the God 

The distinction between “hard” and “soft” is useful but I’ve seen various debates in the Sci-Fi community over whether or not it’s contrived. Nice to know it was all a fluke! Language is funny this way.

Need Beta Readers? Join Critters. Do It.

hemingway_writing_pubDomain

Hemingway, being a boss

I sometimes have panic-attacks about my writing: What if I really just suck and will never make it since I can’t go to fancy workshops like Clarion? I don’t have the time or the money, so am I sunk?  What if I’m just some delusional Millennial that thinks pure gumption will get me published?

Well, maybe those things are true, but what can happen is that previously unknown authors can score agents, or self-publish (with a great marketing plan) and make it. I think that the way to do this is to become a critical reader so that I, in turn, can become a good writer. I’ve written about getting beta readers before, but that can be a haphazard process if you’re just trolling forums and trying to get people to read your stuff via email. I do that for sure, but it’s probably better to submit your work to a secure, private group dedicated to critiquing writers.

Well, that’s what Critters is. I can’t believe it took me this long to join, but it’s been a great experience. I know the common objection to joining groups like this is, “Well, what if I end up just reading bad stuff?” I’ll argue that reading bad work is actually good for a budding writer. Can you articulate why it’s bad? Do you know enough about plot, characterization, POV, theme, setting, and structure to give a good and incisive review of someone else’s work?

That’s something that goes beyond good grammar and usage.

I’ll share a testimony from Matt Dovey here. This was sent out to all Critters members in an email with updates:

Matt Dovey, who sold his (Critter’d) short story, “This is the  Sound of the End of the World” to Flash Fiction Online. {A space opera in 992 words! It should be up in March, which will make it my first publication, just ahead of WotF32. The revisions requested by the editor were both things critters had brought up and I’d decided against, so let this be a lesson: listen to your critters, people!}

Dovey dropped some advice in a forum I was reading about how great Critters was for him as a writer, so I’m grateful he did that. Community, support, and a chance to get so good you get published? Sign up. You know you want to!

Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future Contest

ribbon_-_honorable_mention
Well, that’s not nothing, folks. I’m pleased. This was my first short story entry in the Writer’s of the Future Contest, so I’m encouraged to submit again and get better.

So many authors have gone through this contest, and many of them start as Honorable Mentions. I did some searching to see how rare it is and found this:

Honorable Mentions are between 5 and 15 percent each quarter. It depends on how many good stories there were.

There is no set number on semi-finalists either but it is approximately 8 to 12 per quarter.

There are 8 finalists always. Those are the stories that get sent to the quarterly judges and the 3 winners are chosen from the 8 finalists.

I’m going to get a certificate in the mail from the publishing house, and I promptly found a market to submit the story to. What a nice feeling- the wind is in my sails today!

How to find Critiques and Beta Readers For Science Fiction

 Illustration of Gernsback's speculative article on what cities will be like in the futureAnne R. Allen has a great pots up called Beware Groupthink: 10 Red Flags to Watch For When Choosing a Critique Group.

Frankly, lots of it gave me the willies. The particular challenge I’m having with critiques is in finding someone who knows how Science Fiction works. I worked with a wonderful mystery author in 2010 who read all of my short stories. She gave me great pointers about plot and structure, but she often told me things like: “I’m trusting you with that electromagnetic radiation thing.  Can that happen? Beats me. I don’t read much Science Fiction.”

So, the challenge is not just in finding a good group of intelligent people who know how writing works, it’s in finding people who aren’t scared off by the expository writing found in most Sci-Fi. I’ll try to illustrate the problem. Let’s say, this is the opening line of a book:

“Sammy woke up to find the tiffrits out of the garden again, and she was very angry.

Sci Fi readers will say, “Oh cool, we’re going to find out what a tiffrit is!” These readers will expect me, the author, to do that without a ridiculous info dump that tells instead of shows through my narrative powers.

Non Sci-Fi readers panic. “What the hell is a tiffrit? Is this author high? Do I just not know what it is and everyone else does?”

I’m finding that this is a common barrier. Orson Scott Card advised that all writers have at least one “wise reader” that is nearby and willing to explain any confusion they feel to the author objectively. This works as long as they don’t try to re-write everything and understand what you are trying to do with your fiction.

So far, I have about three great beta readers that I impose upon: you guys know who you are!

If anyone would like ME to be a beta reader or do a critique swap, email me! I’m ready and willing, and plus, we authors need to help each other out. rebecca DOT Devendra AT gmail.

Excelsior!

I finally Read The Martian

martian

As I began to read this little gem I became convinced that the narrator and I would be bosom pals if he ever existed. This is the problem with most of my imaginary friends, and now I’m sad. I guess I’ll go buy a few cats, start breaking in a cane I can wave at the neighborhood younglings, and re-read passages in this book and chuckle like a crazy person in public.

This is a great plan. Go me.