Friday wondering: to comment or not comment?

Fri 20 Aug 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Posted by: Gavin

One of the perpetual questions around here is whether to provide feedback to writers when they send us something that’s not for us. Some writers love it, some hate it. And everyone knows that our response time has slowed horribly over the last year (sorry) so why spend extra time? Occasionally I’m asking to see another story, sometimes I’m trying to be helpful or useful. I received this email the other day in reply to a note I added about a story I turned down. It’s not the first such letter nor no doubt will it be the last (how many rejections-of-our-rejections have we received?) but perhaps I should short circuit them and not include notes at all?

This isn’t about this letter in particular (be nice, impolite comments deleted). I’m just curious what people like: comments/no comments; feedback/no feedback.

Thanks for taking the time to make a handwritten note on the rejection letter for my story, “TITLE.”  You wrote, “This was fun but a little reminiscent of ‘The Cold Equation’ or James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Think Like a Dinosaur.’”

I’ve never heard of these works. Were they recently published in your magazine? Or were you simply trying to say “TITLE” is derivative and unoriginal?

If it was the latter: I realize there are other stories on the topics of teleportation and genetic engineering, and even more stories involving children. I’m not surprised my story reminded you of others you have read, but I’m not sure why that is a problem. The mere existence of similar works is not a solid rationale for rejecting a story. Literature should be judged on its own merits rather than what others have achieved or—even worse—the arbitrary, preconceived notions of what constitutes “good” writing. Based on your note, it appears that you may want to think more carefully about the basis for rejecting the works you receive.

The collective unconscious runs deep, especially for writers. I recently saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that was so strikingly similar to “TITLE,” it gave me chills. The episode was called “The Masterpiece Society” if you want to look it up. I don’t feel threatened by the similarities because I know “TITLE” is different. I wrote “TITLE” when I was 20 years old and saw the Next Gen episode about a month ago (I’m 24 now). In different time periods from different perspectives, the Star Trek writers and I explored the exact same topics. How’s that for science fiction!

Just a thought.

Best good wishes,


Free books, songs, arguments

Tue 10 Nov 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Posted by: Gavin

BSCreview has 3 free copies of A Working Writer’s Daily Planner 2010 to give away.  Want Want Freebies?

Lev Grossman included Kelly’s Magic for Beginners in a list of “the six greatest fantasy books of all time.” Ladies and Gentlemen, start your arguments.

Richard Nash calls out BEA (via Shelf Awareness) on their rather silly decisions not to have a big party and not to let in the grand reading public. BEA is dying and no one seems to care. The American Booksellers Association has sensibly started a new thing, the very successful Winter Institute where publishers and booksellers get to meet in peace. Book fairs (hello Brooklyn!) do tremendously. ComicCon is spinning off secondary fairs like no one’s business. Kids are lining up to get into manga fairs. Someone else is going to take up the slack (hello again, Brooklyn, LA, Washington DC, Miami). Putting publishers in front of the public is no bad thing. We went to a huge indie book fair in Italy that was 4 days long and bigger than the Javits Center. People love that stuff — come on BEA, get like AWP and other smarter conferences, let the people in.

Hal Duncan has songs (with Neil Williamson) and a successful pay-per-view (or whateveryoucallit) going on on his site.

There have been two fascinating reviews (one website, one blog—there are many on the blogs but I just happen to be posting right now) of Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes: Paul Kincaid on SF Site,

Time and again, in innumerable different ways, we see hints about the ways that the stories we tell shape the actions we take…. This is where the circle is broken, and if events drive us incessantly towards tragedy as stories must, it is a very different tragedy from what has gone before.

Cloud and Ashes is not an easy book to read, but it is incredibly worth while making the effort. Any sense I have given of what goes on here is inevitably only partial, there is so much I have had to omit, major characters, significant plot lines. Above all, I have barely hinted at how much it plays with gender roles, how much it has to tell us about the role of women in shaping the world, indeed how every potent active character is female. It is a book you will barely grasp, but it is a book whose hold on your mind, on your memory, is assured. It is a story about story, and stories are what we are all made of. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

And She Who Must on LJ:

I loved it, and it still took me about a month to read it; it’s quite long, and very, very rich. After a few pages I’d have to stop and digest what I’d read. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – indeed, I was in no hurry to reach the end, I didn’t want it to be over.

Lone Star Stories on paper

Fri 10 Apr 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

The Lone Star Stories Reader CoverEric Marin emailed us to say that the The Lone Star Stories Reader is now available as a free PDF download here. It is a great collection (although I recuse myself from talking about my story, “Janet Meet Bob”) with stories by Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, M. Thomas, Sarah Monette, Catherynne M. Valente, Tim Pratt, & more. I think it’s worth popping for the paper edition myself, but to try it out, why not download it.

Eric says:

I am asking that anyone who downloads and enjoys the anthology spread the word about the book and Lone Star Stories in general. I will be curious to see what effect the download has on visitors to the LSS Press and Lone Star Stories sites.

Cream City Review competition

Sat 15 Nov 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Posted by: Gavin

Kelly, along with Lee Martin and Arielle Greenberg, is one of the judges for the Cream City Review writing contest:

Deadline for current year’s contest: December 20.
Fee: $15/story (no longer than 30 pages) or 3-5 poems, payable to Cream City Review
Each entrance fee includes the Spring 2009 cream city review wherein the winners will be published.

Prize: $1,000.00 plus publication.

Address your submission to one of the following:

The A. David Schwartz Fiction Prize
The Beau Boudreaux Poetry Prize
or The David B. Saunders Award for Creative Nonfiction

and send your entry to:
cream city review
Department of English
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
PO Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Submissions must be typed, double-spaced, and include the author’s name and address plus an SASE (for results only). Simultaneous submissions are acceptable as long as cream city review is notified in the event the manuscript is accepted elsewhere. The reading fee, however, is non-refundable.


Thu 24 Apr 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Posted by: Gavin

This has nothing to do with Trickster gods (excepting The Coyote Road, which has lots to so with it). Instead it is just a tricky headline to make you wonder what we’re on about now. It’s Locus finalist celebration day—thanks to John K. for the heads-up!

Chocolate bars for all!

YBF&H 20It is excellent—and we are very grateful to each and every one of you who made your butler go vote—to see John Crowley’s unendingly brilliant Endless Things on there, along with The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection, and, and this is a lovely surprise, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Holy Xerox Printed Zine Batman! What’s that doing there? (Um, basking?) Guess we’ll keep it going after all.

The finalist list is a reminder that 2007 was a strong year, especially for men writing in this genre. That’s not snarky, look back at the list. Congratulations to Elizabeth Bear (“Tideline,” Asimov’s Apr/May 2007) and Connie Willis (“All Seated on the Ground,” Asimov’s Dec 2007; The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, Subterranean), the only women in short fiction. SF novels are all men, then Fantasy, YA, and Debuts are all pretty mixed—and all are very strong categories (below the cut). Too much work to look at more except perhaps there should be a PR campaign by any women artists in the genre?

It will be fun to see who wins but the real winners, said without cheesiness—especially after serving on award juries—are readers who use this as a reading list to see what’s good out there at the moment.

Read more

Monstrously Bad Sex

Sat 23 Feb 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

The Award.


Wed 26 Sep 2007 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

It’s time (well, past time, but who, besides the late-fees administrator, is counting?) to renew SFWA membership. We are wondering about skipping membership and just donating the money straight to the Medical Fund? Any thoughts?

Bartleby’s Revenge

Thu 2 Aug 2007 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: jedediah

scrivener icon
If your writing process is anything like mine, each of your projects may consist of a dozen or more documents thrown together in a folder somewhere on your computer. You have old versions of the work-in-progress you’ve abandoned but can’t bear to delete, as well as one or two files serving as scrap heaps, a few for research, some for outlines, notes, and character sketches, and scattered everywhere are images, songs, maps, deeds, ships’ manifestos, cease and desist orders, and maybe editorial advice from friends and colleagues. Mixed up in all this mess is the book itself, trying to claw its way out.

Or maybe you’re a writer with one pristine file, and everything you put into it is perfect, and you never go back or second-guess yourself, or have to refer to anything beyond the world of your own perfect brain. You may leave now.

The rest of us ought to consider using Scrivener. Gwenda recently asked for a yea or nay on this piece of software, and having used it for several months now—both to revise one novel and to start work on another—I can heartily recommend it.

First, Scrivener collects all the files related to the project into one browsable, searchable, cross-referencable master document. You can divide the text proper into chapters or smaller sections, and all your research and outlines are never far off. Drop images into your research folder and view them as you’re writing. Want to see only the documents with a certain character’s name in it? Type the name into the search bar and Scrivener immediately picks them out for you.

You can also change the way you look at your material. Arrange it as a series of interchangeable index cards, view only the synopses in outline form, track word counts, sort by keyword tags, or color code according to your own organizational style. If that sounds like too much clutter, there’s also a full screen option, which recreates the glory days of WordPerfect.

There are dozens of other smart features worth exploring, including a screenplay mode, internal and external links, and snapshots (second-guessing made easy).

Scrivener’s been an invaluable revision tool, as I’m able to see more of the book at once while tracking all the changes I’ve made and all the changes I still have to make. It’s great for collecting research as well, and should serve those who are working on dissertations, novels, comic books, and fortune cookie fortunes.

Keith Blount is a writer who wanted to design a piece of software for writers, and he’s done a fantastic job with Scrivener. Check out the demo here.