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Women in Horror Month: Nancy Kilpatrick

Continuing to highlight Canadian fiction writers for Women in Horror Month I have Canada’s grande dame of vampires and all things dark, Nancy Kilpatrick. Originally I was going to do two women a day but right now I have enough to spread the love. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera organization. www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth

Without further ado, here is: NANCY KILPATRICK

Nancy Kilpatrick, Women in Horror, horror, dark fiction, vampires

Nancy Kilpatrick, queen of vampire fiction

Award-winning author with 18 novels, 1 non-fiction book, over 200 short stories and 6 collections of stories, and 13 edited anthologies to her credit.  Currently working on short fiction, another anthology, and a 7-novel series.  Updates at nancykilpatrick.com and on Facebook.

1. Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

I’ve also written some fantasy, mystery and erotica and like to think I would write anything that appealed to me.  I prefer horror and dark fantasy writing because it suits my nature.  If there’s ever anything negative from anyone it’s this comment accompanied by a scowl: “Oh, like all those slasher movies.”  I explain (briefly) what horror is about, from Stoker, Shelley, Stevenson and writers of other classic literature into the present.  Education is everything.

Edge Publishing, vampires, horror, dark fiction, women authors, women's rights

Vampyric Variations, by Edge Publishing is a collection of Nancy’s fiction.

2. Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?

This is THE most important genre because it’s the only one that looks at the dark side of life by confrontation: “We humans don’t know everything.”  It’s rife with undercurrents  and always controversial.  The network of people who read and write in this realm are, like me, interested in the dark side, and that always flies in the face of the mainstream’s preference for happiness, as if happiness is a goal, rather than an occasional state of being.  Reality is more than the sun.  The moon is equally important and some of us prefer it.

Everything and everyone inspires me.

3. Do you feel women are under represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance).

writing, horror, dark fiction, Danse Macabre, women in horror

Danse Macabre, published by Edge Publications and edited by Nancy Kilpatrick.

Women in this realm are both underrepresented and undervalued.  I guess you could say that about a lot of areas.  Women still have a difficult time getting into major anthologies and magazines in this field–check most of these types of publications in this genre and you’ll see few contributors are women.  If a woman writes what’s deemed “women’s horror,” which is generally paranormal, supernatural and/or gothic romance, and/or YA, it’s much easier to get published.

4. Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are what we can do to stem the tide?

I have no answer for this.

5. Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.

women's rights, equality, sexism, women in horror, fiction writing, horror

Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Most horror was, in the past, written by men, and that’s still the case today. Many women write with a unique voice; female concerns naturally filter into our work.  We face more real-life horror–if we didn’t there wouldn’t be so many women’s shelters, or high statistics of rape and murder of women.

Horror is a difficult genre for women to move forward in (unlike, say, the mystery or romance genres, both of which feature large numbers of A-list women writers).  In horror literature, women are not taken seriously because some of what we face is not faced by men, who do not menstruate, give birth, or go through menopause.  Women have enough testosterone floating through their systems that it seems we can relate more to male situations than men can relate to female situations.  I’d like to see that aspect of publishing change, but that involves readers changing and maybe society changing.  In my years in this business, there have been several attempts at broadening the base of best-selling women writers in this genre and with each attempt women lurch forward a notch (mostly in paranormal and YA), but there’s still a very long way to go.

Tomorrow I bring you E.M. MacCallum.

women in horror, viscera organization

THE MISSION

Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. WiHM seeks to expose and break down social constructs and miscommunication between female professionals while simultaneously educating the public about discrimination and how they can assist the female gender in reaching equality.

THE VISION

A world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.

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When Words Collide Writing Convention

 

writing, conventions, When Words Collide, Chizine, publishers

Chizine’s table at the room party.

When Words Collide is a writing convention in Calgary, Alberta, organized by Randy McCharles and a host of helpers. This was its second year in the making and it’s growing too big for the Best Western it was held at. There were a host of panels and a moderate sized dealers room for various publishers to sell their wares. While there was a heavy accent on the speculative in the panels there were also mystery and romance panels. The romance writers had their own party and IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) of Calgary was present.

There are cons that are professional track and some that have fan tracks. WWC is a professional track, with some readings, panels about writing and publishing and parties held by publishers. I combined a trip to Alberta to visit family and friends, and to meet some of the writers I knew through email but had not met in person. I could spend time with friends, participate in writing related fun, and yes, the Aurora Awards were held at this event.

I’m actually a bad convention goer. I go to conventions and talk and drink with

Brett Savory, writer, publsher, CZP, Chizine, When Words Collide, writing conventions

Brett Savory, writer, and publisher of CZP at one of the happy room parties.

people, visit the parties and maybe get to a panel or two. This time I was on a good size of panels so felt less inclined to go to other ones. I had intentions of going to a reading or sitting in on a panel discussion but I only made to part of one reading. I did do a combined reading with Bob Stallworthy who read some really excellent poetry, and Susan Forest, who read part of a story that is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She was also up for a short story Aurora. I read two poems and part of a story, and not too good a reading since I was a little foggy from the parties the night before.

I also did a  live-action slush reading which involved people handing in the first page of a story. Guest of honor Jack Whyte would read the page in his lovely deep, accented baritone. When we as editors would have stopped reading a submission we put up our hands and said why. In truth I have a habit of trying to read through a full submission because sometimes a writer will hit their stride after a while and just needs some editing. The writing might be sucky but they idea might be great and it might be worth salvaging. The panel also had Susan Mac Gregor and Hayden Trenholm.

wriiter, When Words Collide, editor, Susan MacGregor

Writer and editor, Susan MacGregor

The panel I sat on about poetry and how not to make it boring turned out way better than I thought it would. Poetry has a bad rep of being inaccessible. Sandra Kasturi is a great moderator and there were enough people in the audience so it went well with input from the audience and the panel. The panelists meshed well and the audience seemed interested.

The last panel was on sex in fiction; should you put it in, how much when. We had a publisher of erotic fiction, a writer who writes young adult fiction, another who writes male to male erotica and I write short mostly hetero erotica. Many points were covered but I don’t think the panel flowed as well as the poetry panel. It felt a bit like we were trying to get across individual crusades as opposed to looking at how erotic and explicit scenes can be fit in all types of fiction if warranted. Still, the panel was intelligent and well-versed so the audience got their money’s worth. This panel was set against the publisher parties, but didn’t harm it too much.

The parties and the liquids were plentiful, and Bundoran, Tyche, Edge and ChiZine were some

Aurora Awards, nominee, Derryl Murphy, writer, writing convention

Derryl Murphy was one of the nominees in the Aurora novel category.

of the publishers throwing parties. Jack Whyte had to leave early Saturday morning due to an emergency but he was the hub of a scotch party, which involved four bottles of scotch and a lot of pretty interesting talk about sex and writing and all sorts of things. There wasn’t a drop left by the end of the night but there were a few green faces in the morning.

In all the convention was very enjoyable and I met many authors who I had only chatted with

Aurora Awards, writing convention, When Words Collide

The Aurora Awards were presented at the convention and the list can be found on their website.

in the past. This is a great convention for the new or established writer, and for fans who want to take in a few readings and the parties. Next year’s convention will be August 9-11, in Calgary.

The Aurora Awards ceremony was held Saturday night after the banquet. The list of winners can be found on the site. While I was nominated in poetry I didn’t win, but Helen Marshall won for Skeleton Leaves. Her poetry is excellent and anyone should pick up this gem published by Kelp Queen Press. It was worthy of winning.  Oh, and Randy McCharles won for his organization of the When Words Collide in 2011.

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How Writers Get to Be Slaves

writing, paying markets, speculative fiction, authors, paid to write, nonpaying writing sites

Salon.com Stockphoto: NickS

I haven’t talked about writing in a while but with the new year and the holidays out of the way I’ve been doing a submission blitz, as well as getting caught up on some reading for CZP. In my search for new or interesting or well-paying markets I’ve been going through www.ralan.com (the best site for speculative markets) and www.duotrope.com (the best site for poetry and fiction with average response times listed). There are some things that have started to irk me, which have always annoyed me but continue to perpetuate a bad precedent.

Forget about the wage freeze in your everyday job; if you’re a writer, then Charles Dickens made more than you and the amount people are paid hasn’t changed much in decades. That’s a bit of an overstatement. Sure, we hear about the J.K. Rowlings and the bidding wars for manuscripts like The Horse Whisperer, but in fact most writers are not being paid more than they once were decades ago.

In fact, I’m pretty stupid because the best place to make money as a writer is article writing for magazines, where you can average $1-2/word. Speculative fiction has a professional rate of .05/word. A few pay more than this. Many pay less, such as .01, .025, etc. Then there are the “for the luv” markets, those that pay in “exposure.” I don’t send to these markets unless I make a mistake in reading the guidelines. Maybe if I was just starting out I would, to get credits, but the rule is: start with the highest payer and work your way down.

Should you be selling your first SF or fantasy novel you might get $6,000-$8,000 as an advance against royalties, and never see more. I’m talking about the big publishing houses here, not the small or independent presses, and not about ebooks, as I don’t have enough information. But guess how much a first novelist made thirty or forty years ago? The same amount. So if you compare payments to writers against cost of living, we’re making less and less every year. And people expect it all for free.

writing, authors, submission guidelines, nonpaying markets, paying writers

What would you give to have your writing seen? Creative Commons: Greg Gladman Flickr

While I understand the want and urge to publish a magazine or anthology (I want to edit one myself some day) I think that an author should at least be paid something for their efforts. I’ve stopped writing and submitting to the erotic markets because they now want to pay $25 for a story. It’s not worth it at all for me to write something new for that. Meager as it is, my limit is around .03/word though I’ve made exceptions for particular anthologies. For poetry, I’ve been paid anywhere from $5 to $100. I usually will look for $10 or more markets and of course starting at the top.

My first clue that a market doesn’t pay when looking at their site is that pay isn’t obvious. Yes, some say, we don’t get paid so neither shall you, with the perverse logic that everyone should suffer equally. But more often than not they say nothing, as if they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t pay. Just say it up front, folks.

My annoyance meter hit the limit when I looked at www.short-story.me. Not only do you have to hunt to see if they pay (you won’t find it) but they have their contract displayed. Enough magazines do this and it’s not a problem but they’ve even gone so far as to copyright protect their contract. Seriously? It’s quite the contract too for giving away your print and online rights for free and no promise of even a print copy in return for your work. The writer gets to edit, because they won’t, and warrant that their work is theirs, though short-story me gets everything with very little in return.

I emailed them and this is how the conversation went:

I can’t seem to find what you pay on your site. Could you tell me what it is for fiction and flash stories?

Hi
We don’t pay.
Thank you
So you have a copyright protect contract to protect your rights but offer the author nothing? Would you expect a shoemaker to supply shoes for your shoe store, or a farmer to give vegetables to your store without paying them? Think about it. That’s what you’re doing to your writers.

I won’t get an answer, because they don’t care. Writers are considered little better than slaves for these markets. The site is about what you’d expect for one that doesn’t pay its authors. The stories have grammatical, punctuation and usage issues though not a lot. I only read four stories, or parts of them, and the quality is (cough!) okay but an actual editor would have helped. Some are overly descriptive, some have talking heads, or banal or cliché language. Oh well, short-story me is one in probably hundreds of sites that take advantage of hungry new authors. There are sites that don’t pay and take less advantage but the whole overofficiousness of the contract bugged me. This site does give writing advice but I wouldn’t recommend it for submitting. I’d start with the paying markets, after you know your craft.

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Social Media and a Couple of Regular Joes

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When I was at the recent World Horror convention in Austin, Texas I was looking forward to it for a number of reasons. It was a social event, a place to make professional connections, meet new friends, have a vacation and put names to faces. With email and social media I am sometimes communicating to people but I have no clue what they look like. I’m on the West Coast and the rest of Chizine staff are around Toronto and Montreal. Though I’ve met a few, there were many strangers and it was a good time to refresh the old acquaintances and meet the new ones.

Also, as part of SF Canada and the Chicago writers list Twilight Tales, there were names that I’d never put a face to. I got to meet John Everson and Sylvia Schulz, as well as seeing again Yvonne Navarro and Weston Ochse who I had met once years ago. I’d met Dave Nickle (Eutopia, Monstrous Affections), Gemma Files (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns) and Claude Lalumiere (The Door to Lost Pages) before, and Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi are friends. Still, I had last seen them in 2003. That’s a long time.

SF Canada is Canada’s professional speculative writers’ association and though we talk online we’re spread out through one of the world’s largest countries. We rarely get to meet in person. I met some of Chizine’s authors such as Bob Boyczuk (Horror Story and Other Horror Stories, Nexus: Ascension–I met him once many years ago), Brent Hayward (Filaria, Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter). I ran into fellow BC writer Sandra Wickham whose first two sales are in Edge Publications Evolve vampire series, as well as editor of Chilling Tales Michael Kelly, including authors Suzanne Church, John Nakamura Remy who read from Rigor Amortis (zombie love tales doncha know).

There were many other authors, old and new so it’s easy to be flooded with new names. And of course there was Joe, who again I’d only talked to through email. There he is working the con, in charge of the dealer’s room. I’m surprised because I know Joe is awfully busy working for CBC radio and that he doesn’t even get time to write much so I see his name and go, “Joe! So nice to put a name to a face. Colleen Anderson!” “Oh hi,” says he, looking perhaps a bit surprised or maybe that’s his natural look.

So in a typical effusive, friendly Canadian way I chat off and on to him all weekend. “Joe, I didn’t know you had books out. Through Pinnacle, really? Wow, Joe I didn’t know you were writing zombie fiction.” And of course I’m vaguely thinking. Wow, I thought Joe was too busy to write novels and geeze, he didn’t seem the zombie type. He’s never mentioned it but then of course, I’ve never met him and what he says on the rare occasion he posts to SF Canada is never about zombies. Well whaddya know.

So I spend all weekend acting like I kind of know Joe, virtually because I kinda did but only in that nebulous sense where you can say, hey we were at the same party and chatted about Degas. After all, WHC is partly about meeting people and having fun and putting names to faces, right?

Joe McKinney

Joe Mahoney

Well it was, but it  didn’t register until I was home and recovering from lack of sleep (I can blame it on that, can’t I?) that I’d mixed up my Joes. SF Canada’s Joe is Joe Mahoney and he works for CBC. The Joe I was talking to is Joe McKinney, zombie master. I also work with someone named McKinney. What do they have in common (the Joes)? Well I’d never met either before and they both write speculative fiction and they both have grey hair. Duh. Did I feel a fool.

You can see the two Joes here. They both have full cheeks and gray hair so considering I’d only seen a picture of Joe Mahoney once before I think I can understand my mistake. And poor Joe McKinney was either thinking, oh she’s just one of my fans or who is that crazy woman?

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Writing: How to Ignore Women

Here we go again. You’d think a few people might learn by now. And perhaps these fellows truly believe the greatest writers that ever lived or live are all men. But you would think that if they include the very first and the very latest there might even be one woman? Albeit a list of the Top Ten SF Writers of all time is a pretty small list, but still.

Who are Shaun Nichols and Iain Thomson that they would be experts on SF writers? Well, they are techy geeks guys, which by definition makes them SF fans. And they write for http://www.v3.co.uk , some techy geek site that does Top Ten this and that. And as readers of SF they are as qualified as you and me. Here’s a bit culled form their bios on the site. Shaun Nichols is the US Correspondent for V3.co.uk, and primary writer and editor for the Mac Inspector blog. He holds a BA in Journalism from San Francisco State University. Iain Thomson is the US editor of V3.co.uk and was previously technical editor of PC Magazine, reviews editor of PC Advisor and editor of Aviation Informatics.

Now, within the restrictions of the top ten, they decided to go with SF novel writers, not short stories, nor with TV or movies, though they gave an honorable mention to Gene Roddenberry. They mentioned they’re going to get hammered on their list, and seem to be looking at who has had a”key role in inspiring research and eventual technological development.” Okay, that’s one way to put it but their list won’t hold true to all of their choices though the great three, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein, whose fiction did inspire inventions and many of them are named after the artifacts in the books (a waldo is one example).

They in fact wanted to put the writers of Red Dwarf onto the list but maybe it was TV before it was a book? And I’m not sure how Red Dwarf inspired technological development. As well, the authors say, “SF deals with the possible and sets specific constraints on the writer. Fantasy, to my mind, is just an excuse to develop alternative realities with no reference to the real world.” This is a pretty important quote because it means all the SF they mention needs to be Earth-centric. But how? Do the books only need to have humans who once began on Earth? Does it need to refer to Earth in the course of the book? Does Earth have to be central to the plot, because indeed there is much SF that does not take place on Earth or the “real world.” And what exactly constitutes the real world? The real world today, fifty years from now, a thousand years from now, a hundred years in the past or a world that would be if X happened?

The ten names are all recognizable to SF readers: Iain Banks, H.G. Wells, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Jules Verne and Arthur Clarke as number one. Okay, real world and Douglas Adams? Hmm, it’s humor but is it possible? In fact, some of these authors write plausible futures but probable? Not likely. Still, most of them were influential to the genre. David Brin would count as would others not mentioned, but what is really missing are the women. Saying only hard science counts, or mundane SF, might help if the list didn’t have Douglas Adams, or Ellison in that sense. Maybe there weren’t any women of influence in SF, but that’s just not true.

Ursula Le Guin is one who comes to mind. For mimicking parts of US fundamentalism mixed into politics you could even have Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, or Orwell’s 1984. Writers of long ago? What about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein? That’s spawned many a tale and Soviet experiments of truly frankensteinian nature of attaching a pup to an adult dog or two heads to a dog. But maybe she didn’t write enough. Other female authors include Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffery (oops her world is not Earth based), Sherri Tepper, James Tiptree, Kage Baker, Doris Lessing (How many other SF authors have received a Nobel prize in literature?), Pat Murphy and Pad Cadigan who had a book filled with people watching numerous weather channels or food channels and it was called food porn and weather porn. That book prophesied aspects of today.

It would have helped to name more specifically what the writers contributed. But with each of the definitions the writers of the piece gave, there were at least several authors who did fit that description. I think that a woman stepping into the SF ring alone changed the history of much and there should at least be honorable mentions. But Nichols and Thomson can redeem themselves, should they choose to do the Top Women SF Writers of all time, if they’ve read any.

TopSFWritersofAllTime

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Writing Update: March/April

I’ve been busy working on a couple of stories…still…always. Rewriting a couple after some constructive rejections. And still researching my biblical Mary Magdalene story. I’m writing as I research but I have about seven books by my bed on the Dead Sea scrolls, Christ and Caeser, the Gnostic Gospels, the Gospel of Mary, etc. You’d think I was entering the church. I find it very fascinating stuff, the history of the Christian church and the bizarre and sometimes malicious and frequently controlling twists it took to control wealth and people. Amazing. Some day I might research and do a story and have to research Buddhism or read the Qur’an or stock up on Hindu gods. It’s all truly fascinating, and should the Mary story work, I have other ideas there.

I also managed to take the long weekend in Easter and progress on my novel. Not a lot but I was getting to a worldbuilding stage where I needed to figure out the size of the continents as well as how long it would take them to travel by horse and foot. I think I will still have to adjust those numbers downward. You can read the reviews by following the links.

Scarabae

In the meantime, the Evolve anthology is getting some very good reviews. Vampchix says, “Colleen Anderson’s AN EMBER AMONGST THE FALLEN is strong and disturbing, but an interesting take on the new vampire.” You can read the reviews by following the links.

http://vampchix.blogspot.com/2010/04/review-evolve-vampire-stories-of-new.html

http://www.parajunkee.com/2010/03/evolve-vampire-stories-of-new-undead.html

http://anovelapproachto.me/book-reviews-2/

http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/?p=5607

http://whatbookisthat.blogspot.com/2010/03/bwb-review-evolve.html

And last but by no way least, I have sold a story to Harlequin’s erotic wedding anthology. I don’t know the title of the book yet and it will probably be another year till it comes out but the story is titled “Better Wed Than Dead.”

And Cutting Block Press’s Horror Library Vol. 4 has accepted my story “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha.” They loved the story so much (and I love that they loved it) that at first I thought it was a rejection but they said, “It simply…defies definition and certainly skips genres. There was a good deal of debate, not as to if we should take it or not. But, more so, at to what our own personal definition of ‘horror’ is here at +The Horror Library+ and how that definition is totally challenged when facing an incredible story like yours.

Needless to say, we’d like to ACCEPT this story. It’s just…amazing and thought-provoking and quite sinisterly clever. It’s an absolute one-of-a-kind, and we’d love to include it in this year’s collection.”

It should be out sometime this summer and I’m looking forward to seeing who the other 26 authors are. More as I find out.

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The Kiss of Death

One might think this is a euphemism for a vampire’s love bite, or perhaps the last sarcastically sensual act of a femme fatale. However I’m talking about the kiss of death as a writer. Now it can be interpreted several different ways but I have managed to be the kiss of death quite a few times.

What I mean is this: you get an acceptance from a publisher/editor for a piece in their magazine and then you either find out that the magazine is folding with the issue before the one that would have your story/poem in it, or they say, “We loved this story and would have published it, but we are closing down the magazine.” And then the story never ever sells to anyone ever.

If I had a credit list of all the publications that have said they would take the story but so long, I would have sold another six pieces of fiction. Perhaps the worst/best example of this was a new SF magazine to which I sent a story for their inaugural issue. I received a letter back saying my story had been “excepted.” As opposed to “accepted” which means to include, except means to exclude. I thought the story had been rejected but as I read through the letter, the opposite was true. I guess that was the first sign of a doomed publication.

I signed a contract, and they sent me a cheque, and…the first issue never came out. But I still had a contract that said it was theirs until printed. After a year I contacted SFWA and asked the contract committee to help. So they told me to send a letter to the publisher indicating that since the magazine seemed to have ceased to exist that I was withdrawing the story. It was worded differently but didn’t leave my story in limb forever.

When there was a spate of magazines that said they would have published this or that but they were closing down I began to wonder if I was the kiss of death and by accepting my piece they had doomed themselves. Of course, that is nothing but ego and the belief in a power I don’t have. The truth is that many writers would have found themselves in the same boat and that many magazines come and go like the flow of the tide.

Funding disappears, editors get sick, quit or get different jobs (since often editing a magazine is a part time job or a labor of love), or are disorganized, and reader interest may flag for any number of reasons. These all affect the longevity of a magazine, whether it’s online or in print.

A successful magazine takes constant advertising, through ads in other magazines, books, websites as well as promotions: buy a subscription and get a discount, buy this magazine at this convention or launch and get two for the price of one, etc. Magazines have to become known and that means more than just by word of mouth though reviews and other editors, writers, readers or publishers may help, a magazine can’t become complacent because there is always more competition.

Of course a magazine has to deliver what readers want as well but the ongoing, marketing, advertising, printing and distribution is a constant issue to  deal with. These aspects are truly what can be the kiss of death to a magazine, not the author with eldritch power.

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Writing: Aurora Award Nominees

I’ll mention right off that these are not the film related Aurora Awards but the Prix Aurora Awards voted on by Canadian fans/readers/writers for Canadian speculative fiction, art and fan achievement. They differ from SFWA’s Nebula Awards because only SFWA (Science Fiction [& Fantasy] Writers of America) membership can nominate a writer, and only the membership (made up of professional writers, editors and agents) can vote on the nominations. The Bram Stoker Awards, which I also mentioned yesterday are also nominated by the Horror Writers Association and the HWA membership votes on the finalists and winners.

Like the Hugos (for SF) and the World Fantasy Award, Auroras can be nominated by anyone. You can vote for the Hugos if you’re an attendee of the World Science Fiction convention and it is entirely fan based. World Fantasy Awards are juried for the final decision. For the Auroras, you must be Canadian to vote and pay the fee of $5.50 which is missing from the site until you register and pay to vote. http://www.prix-aurora-awards.ca/ This cost pays for the production of the awards and administration of the site. So the Aurora Awards are also fan based. There is also the Sunburst Award for Canadian speculative fiction, which is juried.

Recent years have seen a bit of changing of the categories for the Aurora, and next year will see a more succinct defining of categories since now we have magazines, poems and anthologies lumped together. Here are the nominees for the Aurora Awards and voting closes May 22. These awards are given for French and English works.

BEST NOVEL (English)
THE AMULET OF AMON-RA, by Leslie Carmichael, CBAY Books
DRUIDS, by Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy
WAKE, Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
STEEL WHISPERS, Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
TERRA INSEGURA, Edward Willett, DAW Books

MEILLEUR ROMAN EN FRANÇAIS ( Best Novel In French )
Le protocole Reston. Mathieu Fortin, (Coups de tête)
L’axe de Koudriss. Michèle Laframboise, Médiaspaul
Suprématie. Laurent McAllister, (Bragelonne)
Un tour en Arkadie. Francine Pelletier, Alire [DETAILS]
Filles de lune 3. Le talisman de Maxandre. Élisabeth Tremblay, (De Mortagne)

BEST SHORT-FORM WORK IN ENGLISH:
“PAWNS DREAMING OF ROSES”, Eileen Bell, Women of the Apocalypse. Absolute Xpress
“HERE THERE BE MONSTERS” Brad Carson, Ages of Wonder, (DAW)
“LITTLE DEATHS” Ivan Dorin, Tesseracts Thirteen
“RADIO NOWHERE” Douglas Smith, Campus Chills
“THE WORLD MORE FULL OF WEEPING” Robert J. Wiersema, ChiZine Publications

MEILLEURE NOUVELLE EN FRANÇAIS ( Best Short-Form in French )
« Ors blancs » Alain Bergeron, (Solaris 171)
« De l’amour dans l’air » Claude Bolduc, (Solaris 172)
« La vie des douze Jésus » Luc Dagenais, (Solaris 172)
« Billet de faveur » Michèle   Laframboise, (Galaxies 41)
« Grains de silice » Mario Tessier, (Solaris 170)
« La mort aux dés » Élisabeth Vonarburg, (Solaris 171)

BEST WORK IN ENGLISH (OTHER) :
WOMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE   (the Apocalyptic Four) Editor, Absolute Xpress
AGES OF WONDER Julie E. Czerneda, & Robert St. Martin, Editors, DAW Books
NEO-OPSIS MAGAZINE, Karl Johanson, Editor
ON SPEC MAGAZINE, Diane Walton, Managing Editor, The Copper Pig Writers’ Society
DISTANT EARLY WARNINGS: CANADA’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION Robert J. Sawyer, Editor, Robert J. Sawyer books

MEILLEUR OUVRAGE EN FRANÇAIS (AUTRE) / (Best Work in French (Other)
Critiques. Jérôme-Olivier Allard, (Solaris 169-172)
Revue. Joel Champetier, éditeur, Solaris
Le jardin du general, Manga. Michele Laframboise, ,Fichtre, Montréal
Rien à voir avec la fantasy. Thibaud Sallé, (Solaris 169)
Chronique «Les Carnets du Futurible». Mario Tessier, (Solaris 169-171)

ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT :
Kari-Ann Anderson, for cover of “Nina Kimberly the Merciless”,Dragon Moon Press
Jim Beveridge, “Xenobiology 101: Field Trip’” Neo-opsis #16
Lar de Souza, “Looking for Group” online Comic
Tarol Hunt, “Goblins”. Webcomic
Dan O’Driscoll, Cover of Steel Whispers , Bundoran Press

FAN ACCOMPLISHMENT (Fanzine):
Jeff Boman, The Original Universe
Richard Graeme Cameron,.WCFSAZine
Dale Speirs, Opuntia
Guillaume Voisine, éd. Brins d’Éternité
Felicity Walker, BCSFAzine

FAN ACCOMPLISHMENT (Organization) :

Renée Benett, for “In Spaces Between” at Con-Version 25
Robbie Bourget, and René Walling, Chairs of “Anticipation”, the 67 th WorldCon
David Hayman, organization Filk Hall of Fame
Roy Miles, work on USS Hudson Bay Executive
Kirstin Morrell, Programming for Con-Version 25

FAN ACCOMPLISHMENT (Other) :

Roy Badgerow, Astronomy Lecture at USS Hudson Bay
Ivan Dorin, “Gods Anonymous” (Con-Version 25 radio play)
Judith Hayman and Peggi Warner-Lalonde organization, Filk track @Anticipation
Tom Jeffers and Sue Posteraro, Filk Concert, Anticipation
Lloyd Penney, Fanwriting

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Writing: Anyone Can Write

Yes, anyone can write, just as anyone can paint or dance or sing. Whether they do it well or not is another story. Some people are born with a certain talent, an ability that is more natural to them than to others. But even they must practice and hone their art or skills. People without that inborn talent have to work harder but it doesn’t mean they are inferior to those with the inherent skills. And then again, much is subjective. A person being a great painter may only be because that style has become popular and taken on a life of its own. The painter may know nothing of color, hue and shade but either captured the eye and heart of the public or has been built up as the next best thing to sliced bread. Take Twiggy, the supermodel of the sixties. She was a skinny rail of a kid but the fashion world hyped her until anorexia was the new style for models and fashion.

But back to writing. The advent of computers made it possible for everyone to write. It is far faster than a typewriter and even moreso than pen and paper. Corrections are almost instantaneous. Then along came the worldwide web on top of computers and suddenly we could send anything anywhere. The advent of blogs in recent years is an example of how far reaching our thoughts can be…if anyone reads them.

Which means, just because you can hit the keypad and form words does not mean you know how to write. Writing, like any other skill, takes practice and skill. It takes work.

There are many magazines that pay anywhere from high professional levels to very little, to nothing at all. The payment of the latter is often only exposure and maybe a free copy of said magazine (unless it’s electronic; then you get to bookmark it). I don’t at this point run my own magazine but I do not believe in paying authors nothing and would never do a magazine unless I could pay even a pittance. But it is up for each person to choose, and some authors are so hungry to see their works  in print that they do not care if they’re paid. So be it.

Now the process of submission and acceptance is different for various magazines. Most ask for contact details and choose your story based on merit. However, most of us know that if you are a “name,” someone who has published a fair amount, you are more likely to sell your story than the lesser names. This doesn’t necessarily mean the story is better, and I have found often that a name can write a mediocre tale and sell it whereas we little people must write a stellar story to get past the barrier. And that barrier? Names sell magazines, and publishers will go for a name over a great story most of the time. Simple economics.

Contests and a few magazines or anthologies run a bit differently. They will ask that the stories be submitted anonymously and the story/poem is judged on merit. Some big name authors may not like this because they have to try harder against relative unknowns. But overall a big name writer is famous for a reason and their writing will often rise to the top no matter what.  Writers of a certain notoriety don’t enter contests because they’ve already made their name and make more money than a mere contest could give. Such awards/prizes like the Giller are different because the work  by others.

So I found it interesting that British author Susan Hill (who I have never read so can’t speak to her works) was furious at being asked to submit a work anonymously to a Fringe Festival. Her rant is here: amateurs aren’t as good.

She feels that writing has been democratized and made egalitarian so talent doesn’t matter. Sure, a writer’s fame or ability should be acknowledged and it is, through sales. “But,” Susan feels, “in the mad world of those with well-meaning but lunatic desires for egalitarianism in absolutely everything my fifty years writing 43 books, learning my trade and re-learning it, practising my craft, hoping to improve, reading the best to learn from them,  putting out words in a careful order every day of my life, working with the talent I was given by God – none of that matters a jot.”

I actually wonder what the context of the Fringe Festival venue was meant to impart. I can see how she, as a professional, might refuse if there is no pay but she doesn’t say whether it’s to give a sample of writers great and small, or whatever. And wow, the talent god gave her. I guess we who god did not favor should just butt out and sit back to watch the god-given.

Although she has a valid point about professionals being paid and recognized, I wonder truly at her outrage. Is it ego getting in the way? As I’ve said, the proof of the pudding will show in the pieces. (Who is that B&W picture of anyway? Surely not Susan Hill but maybe one of the dead white writing heroes of yesteryear?) But she says you can’t get a column if a reader doesn’t choose you and the internet is as great a leveler as a publisher or an editor. So why the fury?

She talks about marginalized writers and says, “It matters because some people do some things better than others do – those who have learned and been trained, as well as who have talent.” But she forgets one very important point. We all started at ground zero, placing our first words on paper (computer screen). We are not released fully talented, like Athena bursting forth fully formed from Zeus’s head.

Amateurs become professionals and bad writers become good writers. Is Susan Hill afraid of the competition from the up and comings, worried that she’ll be ousted from the nest of her contemporary cronies? Even if she’s not a great writer, I doubt she needs to worry with 43 novels under her belt. She should  set about mentoring a few of these unknowns if she’s not afraid and stop being furious about a Fringe Festival play/event. It’s not like she was printed anonymously in a magazine.

I can also say that having been a Nemonymous author http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/baffles_and_fables.htm, an anthology where the stories were printed without the author names attributed to the story but listed at the back, that I didn’t feel any slight at all. I had no fury that those better or worse than me were getting more due. It is what it is and the cream will rise to the top.

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Writing: Prix Aurora Awards

In speculative fiction (horror, fantasy, SF, crossgenre, etc.) in Canada there are several awards. One is the Prix Aurora Award, voted on by anyone who is Canadian, to choose the best in short and long fiction, art as well as fan achievements. There are awards for English and French works.

The award categories are under revision and the site is being updated but for this year these are the categories:

  • Best Long Form (English & French)
  • Best Short Form (English & French)
  • Best Work in English & French, Other
  • Artistic Achievement
  • Fan Achievement  (Fanzine)
  • Fan Achievement (Organizational)
  • Fan Achievement (Other)

Long form constitutes any novels over 40,000 words. Short form includes novellas, novelettes, short stories and flash fiction, basically anything under 40,000 words. Other Work is an unfortunate category that will be split up in the future. It includes magazines, poems, graphic novels, screenplays, etc. The rest is self-explanatory.

Anyone who is Canadian can nominate a work. This first step has a mail-in deadline of February 5th, or an email deadline of February 15th. Works nominated are tallied and the top 5 go on the Aurora ballot. People can then pay to vote for the shortlisted works. The awards are given out at Canvention in May so voting will be some time before then once the works have been tabulated.

If you would like to nominate Canadian works published in 2009, you can go to:  http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/ or to AuroraNominationForm. I have three pieces eligible. Two poems, “The Drowning Ones” in OnSpec #77, “Finding Dionysus” published in Barton College’s Crucible magazine,  and the story “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” published in Don Juan and Men.  If anyone would like to read my pieces, to decide if you want to nominate (not that that would mean I get on the ballot) you can comment here I’ll send you the file.

Some but not all of Canadian authors’ works are listed on the Canadian SF Database (because each author enters their work they may be listed in different ways or not yet listed). The works go by year. http://www.canadiansf.com/ So that’s it, go and nominate some Canadian works of speculative fiction for the Prix Aurora Award.

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