Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything
↳ Writing

Testing the King Hypothesis

Ken Schneyer conducted an online survey of writers’ and non-writers’ reading habits to test Stephen King’s hypothesis that too often the audience for short fiction “happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there.”

Ken found that writers and non-writers read novels at roughly the same frequency, but writers tended to read short fiction more often than non-writers.

But what’s really interesting is the difference among writers: while 56 percent of short-story writers reported reading short fiction daily to a few times a week, only 10 percent of novellists did so — to quote Ken, “novel writers read short fiction even less frequently than nonwriters do.”

Maybe King is right, and short story publications are largely supported by people trying to publish in them — or maybe, as Ada Hoffmann argued in Ken’s comments, the people who choose to write short stories do so simply because they love reading them.

Previously: Science Fiction Magazines and Aspiring Writers.

The Journal of Unlikely Cartography

When it comes to maps and fantasy, I’m particularly interested in the ways that maps are used in the course of a story, as opposed to appearing at the front of the book for reference purposes. I’ve posted many examples over the past few years and have a bunch more in my to-read pile.

It looks like next year will add considerably to that list: Unlikely Story is publishing a single-issue Journal of Unlikely Cartography. The call for submissions:

From pirate maps leading to buried treasure to painstakingly-drawn maps of continents that never were, there are endless unlikely possibilities in the world of cartography. Send us your story of a rogue GPS taking a driver down non-existent roads, show us what lies in those unexplored territories labeled “here there be monsters,” give us haunted globes, star charts written in disappearing ink, and spiraling lines on crumbling parchment leading to the center of the labyrinth. As always, we want gorgeously-told tales, gripping characters, and unique worlds to explore. Genre doesn’t matter to us, along as your tale involves maps or cartography in some integral way.

Pays 5¢/word on publication, deadline February 1. I have had considerable difficulty in submitting to anthologies in the past (I write fiction very slowly; the story never quite gels in time for the deadline), but I really, really, really need to submit something to this.

Three Original Anthologies

Here are three forthcoming anthologies of original science fiction and fantasy stories that are seeking submissions from writers this year:

  • Long Hidden (Crossed Genres), an anthology of stories from the margins of history edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. Stories must be set between 1400 and 1920 and contain an SF/fantasy/horror/weird element. 3,000 to 7,000 words, 5¢/word. Deadline (extended to) August 31.
  • Strange Bedfellows (Bundoran Press), edited by Hayden Trenholm, an anthology of political science fiction. 2,000 to 7,500 words, 5½¢/word. Deadline September 30.
  • Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse (Exile Editions), edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, an anthology of Canadian stories “set after a great disaster such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, ecological collapse, etc.” Canadians only, 2,000 to 10,000 words, 5¢/word. Submissions open September 1; deadline November 30.

Yes, I have something in mind for each of these. Whether I can get the stories to cohere in time for the deadline — that’s going to be the trick.

Writers’ Websites

Many writers’ websites suck. Often what you see is a static website that hasn’t been updated in years, coupled with a blog (usually on Blogspot or LiveJournal) where the writer is really active. Or an off-the-shelf Wordpress template that isn’t quite fit for use. Or a too-corporate website that no one would actually return to.

Carrie Cuinn has some pretty good advice for writers about their websites, and cites some examples she thinks works.

I’ve argued this point before: remember why people visit your site (to find out what else you’ve done) and give them a reason to keep coming back (be interesting on an ongoing basis). In my experience writers try too hard to market themselves and frankly suck at it; it comes off badly.

Some Thoughts on Reviewing Books

I’m always a little wigged out when an author links to a review I’ve written of one of their books. It’s happened a few times, usually (but not always) when I’ve written something positive.

It’s safe to say that if you post a review of a book online, the author of said book will see it, because they actively seek them out. Book reviews are ostensibly for readers, but it’s mainly writers who get excited by them, at least in science fiction and fantasy. That’s because so many writers are chasing so few readers. The marketplace is a lot more hardscrabble than it once was, it seems, and authors have increasingly been taking the marketing of their books into their own hands. They have a lean and hungry look; they need their books reviewed.

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Interfictions, Tesseracts

Interfictions, the anthology series of interstitial fiction, is the latest to transform itself into an online publication. It will be open to submissions in February 2013, and pay 5¢/word for fiction (up to 10,000 words, under 5,000 words preferred), 3¢/word for nonfiction, and $20 for poetry. This is a place for writers to send their unclassifiable, unconventional, cross-genre work; see Interfictions (Kindle) and Interfictions 2 (Kindle) for examples, or the Interstitial Arts website.

Submissions are also due by February 28 for Tesseracts 17, the next instalment of the Canadian original science fiction and fantasy series, this time edited by Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon, and for the first time in a couple of years without a specific theme. Pays $50-150, to 5,000 words.

Analog and Asimov’s Raise Their Rates

Analog and Asimov’s have raised their story payment rate by a penny a word, from 6-8¢/word to 7-9¢/word. This is good news, if nothing else a sign that the magazines are doing okay, but not as exciting as some folks are making out. It’s an extra $50 for a 5,000-word story. Their rates are still historically low when adjusted for inflation. The penny a word Astounding paid in 1939 would be 16¢/word today. In 1986, Asimov’s paid beginners 5¾¢/word at shorter lengths and 3½¢/word at longer lengths, the equivalent of 12¢/word and 7¢/word today, respectively. This is, in other words, not the sort of money that people who do things only for the money do things for. But that isn’t new.

Canadian Calls for Submissions

Two upcoming anthologies on Canadian themes, seeking submissions from writers:

  • Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories, edited by Claude Lalumière and Camille Alexa, seeks “any and all permutations of the superhero genre, but with a Canadian perspective.” Canadians only, 2¢/word to 5,000 words, $100 for 5,000-7,500 words, $125 for 7,500-10,000 words. Deadline August 1.
  • Dead North, “an anthology of zombie stories set in Canada” edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. 2¢/word, 10,000 words maximum. Deadline September 30.

Two Writing Workshops

A couple of science fiction and fantasy writing workshops to tell you about: one in Ottawa, the other in Montreal. The one in Ottawa takes place on February 26 on the University of Ottawa campus. It’s a day-long affair led by local authors Derek Künsken, Matt Moore and Hayden Trenholm. It costs $40, with proceeds going toward Can-Con, the local SF convention. Here are the details. I’m going to this one. The one in Montreal, which I can’t attend, takes place on Tuesday evenings from April 3 to May 22. Called Sense of Wonder: Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, it’s led by Claude Lalumière. It costs $175 (less if you’re a Quebec Writers’ Federation member).

Writers Writing About Writing

A couple of things about how writing about writing has turned into writing about the writing business. Catherynne M. Valente is sick of talking about ebooks: “But remember how when we were all kids and wanted to be writers and a big part of that was sitting around with other bookish people and talking about literature? Yeah, me too. Nowhere in there was a deep longing to talk about epub vs MOBI until I can’t remember which one makes techno music.”

And Paul Jessup says that he’s “sick of the focus, always the focus, on the business side of things, on the making the money side of things.”

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Realms of Fantasy Will Move to Online Submissions

Realms of Fantasy editor Shawna McCarthy says her magazine, one of the last genre magazines to require paper submissions, will be moving to online submissions soon. “Not just yet, mind you, so don’t start sending files until we announce it on the website and on our Facebook page. But it will be soon, we promise!” (That still leaves F&SF.)

Writing Space-Based Science Fiction

Noting for future reference: Ten Terrific Resources for Writing Space-Based Hard Science Fiction, a guest post on the SFWA website by Mike Brotherton. Some of them I’m already familiar with; I already have one of the books. One resource I might add to the list is Celestia, the open-source space simulator application: because you can position your point of view anywhere in the universe, I’ve used it to figure out what the nearest stars are to a given star system, which is useful for building a spacefaring civilization, and what the constellations look like from that system, which is handy if you have an astronomer among your characters.

Words in 1907

A couple of interesting posts from Mary Robinette Kowal, whose novel Shades of Milk and Honey has just been nominated for a Nebula, about the use of language in 1907, and the resources she uses to figure out whether or not a word or phrase was in use in 1907 and how somebody would swear in 1907. Obviously the novel she’s working on right now takes place in 1907, but this sort of thing is interesting for anyone who’s trying to find the mot juste for a work of fiction set in any historical period.

Copyediting Science Fiction and Fantasy

Deanna Hoak is a freelance copyeditor who specializes in science-fiction and fantasy novels; her blog is full of entries about copyediting that offer interesting insights into that line of work — which I have to admit I’m more than a bit curious about. (No surprise: I’m both a science-fiction fan and someone whose government work usually involves copyediting in some form or other, though editing draft regulations isn’t quite the same thing.) Posts of hers that stood out for me include Proofreading vs. Copyediting, The Copyediting Process, The Importance of Style Sheets, My Start in Publishing, and Understanding Your Copyedited Manuscript.

Further reading: Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Book, which I read back in 2005.

Analog Goes Digital

Analog is accepting electronic submissions as of next Tuesday, SFScope reports. I think that leaves F&SF as the only major SF market that still insists on paper submissions from its contributors.

At this rate I won’t need any of the U.S. stamps I bought several years back to use for return envelopes.