Need Beta Readers? Join Critters. Do It.


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!

The X-Files are back!

The premiere last night wasn’t good but I just don’t care. Why is that? Nostalgia?

I was a wee tot in the ‘90’s so my parents didn’t let me watch the show. I did sneak it sometimes: I would peek at the TV from a crack in my bedroom door and go back to bed with nightmares.  It made a HUGE impression on me.

You can always tell who the virgins are; the people who never even heard about it because their mom’s probably watched Opra or Friends instead.


The series has spawned some terrible movies and excellent fan theories, and now I’m glad to see it back on the air. It just seems right.

Solarpunk: Green Sci-Fi?

Nothing more punk than solar!

Nothing more punk than solar!

So, I’m kind of a negative person. (Hey, you SHUT UP!) This tends to mean that when I come up with a sci-fi plot, it’s probably best described as dystopian.

I feel like the sci-fi genre is built on dystopia: see this thing you are about to do? Here are some consequences you didn’t think about, and now we’re DOOMED!

Well, enter Solarpunk, a new sub-genre I came upon in my internet meanderings. The basic point is something like this: Try to think of a future that inspires hope in people, and not despair. And what’s more “punk” then living off a grid by getting your energy from the sun? Stick it to the man! You can’t tax sunlight!

That seems pretty cool, but it does have a purpose: sci-fi showed us what starships and space stations could be, and we get pretty close to that at NASA some days, right? Well, try to inspire that wonder in something eco-friendly. Frankly, my generation has grown up with this climate-change stuff hanging over us: we’re all doomed, no hope, no one will make anything better, blah, blah, blah. Well, time for some HOPE. What do we think is achievable? What forces do we have to overcome to see a Solarpunk world?

Says Adam Flynn:

Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.

Sarena Ulibarri has a similar observation:

One way to motivate change is to make it uncomfortable for people to be where they are — that’s the strategy of dystopia: if you continue on this path, look where we’ll end up. Another way is to make it comfortable for people to be where you want them to be — that’s the strategy of solarpunk: look at this beautiful world we could build. Can science fiction directly influence science or policy? No, nor should it. But it can influence what people see as possible, and what images people default to when they think of the future. 

Honestly, I think of Miyazaki and the fictional worlds he built with his animation. His characters always regret picking a fight with nature, and they are all so deliciously human about their faults. Just watch Princess Mononoke.

People under 30 are presented with radical individualism or trans-humanism as solutions to the mess of life (these themes are prevalent in sci-fi), but we find ourselves longing for something more sustainable and less dreary.

That’s kind of cool. And I think it’s kind of telling that I can’t think of anything right away to add to a Solarpunk genre, which means it’s harder to write about hope than despair.

Aren’t humans funny?

Entering Writers of the Future

WOTF-Vol-31-1-678x1024Welp, I’m going to do it. I won’t enter until I feel 100% that nothing else can be done to this story, but I think it’s something the contest judges will like. I got to 8,000 words last night and I plan on trimming it down and making sure I absolutely love it before sending it off.

Been reading through volume 31 and found lots of new authors to check out and love, including Auston Habershaw and Kary English.   (I feel like I fangirl all over Kary.)

I also joined the forums so I can meet fellow entrants and commiserate with other freelancers. Nice group of people- very kind and supportive and ready to give advice. Most of them post their contest status, and a lot make the “Honorable Mention” category, which is like another way of winning. I figure this is a good way to get noticed by other editors and to expose my work to people I admire….no pressure!

I finally Read The 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.

Frank Wu is Awesome

He had a great post today that I think is worth sharing about the Hugos.

Puppies, I am not unsympathetic to your desire for more stories about spaceships, aliens and robots – and distain for most urban fantasy and mopey teenagers in dreary dystopias. Hey, I love military SF (yeah, Forever War!), too, and I’m bored by genre work that doesn’t have a cool idea – maybe even a hardcore science idea – at its core…

Read the rest here. I’m impressed! If everyone is invested in good works- stories, authors, editors, then we can make the Hugos more about fun than vitriol.

More like this, please! Offer solutions, stop yelling.

SO SAY WE ALL. (sorry.)