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Writing: Friends of Merril Contest Finalist

writing, writing contests, short fiction, stories, competitions, horror, SF

To write or not to write; there is no question. Creative Commons: http://freshink.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

I don’t often enter contests. There are several reasons: most writing contests cost $20-$30 for an entry and you only have one to three chances of being chosen. The odds of submitting to a magazine are much better. However, I will once in a while enter a contest if the price is right and if it’s for a good cause. I also understand that many magazines do a yearly contest, which fuels their production budget and that it’s a necessity but I certainly couldn’t afford to enter every contest to every magazine. I have in recent years entered and placed in the Rannu Fund poetry and short story competition. It’s smaller and Canadian but takes submissions in English from anywhere in the world. And the price isn’t high.

Likewise the Friends of Merril decided to hold an inaugural short story contest. The Merril is a branch of the Toronto public library and the foremost collection of speculative fiction and poetry in North America. There are over 72,000 works stored there and it continues to grow. Judith Merril, an American by birth, was one of the grand dames of science fiction. She was more background and while she wrote and published in the early years, she was also an editor.

So I thought, why not, the contest is cheap ($5), it’s the first time and supports a good cause, it’s Canadian, and I write. All good reasons. I entered one story though I think you can enter up to three and then forgot about it. Yesterday I was informed that I’d made the shortlist. Of the 102 entries they received for the first year of the contest, nine finalists are chosen. I cannot say which title is mine but here is the list:

Climbing Boys

Muffy and the Belfry

My Profit On’t Is

Rikidōzan and the San Diego Swerve Job

The Emmet

The Mobius Garden

The Ties That Bind

Weathermakers

Your First Real Rocket Ship

Even if I don’t win, it’s nice to know a story or poem are rising to the top. I’ll find out in the next month. But as I’ve found with honorable mentions or even winning, there are no guarantee of getting the piece published so it can work in reverse as well. The Rannu Fund competition has just opened to entries from March 1 to May 31. I’ll probably enter this again as I’ve been shortlisted, won second place and been judge. Now it’s time to win first place, should the gods and the judges (who might be the same) so decide. :D

And I have finally worked out the kinks and finished the story “Nightingale.” Now I need to shunt that into the feeding tubes of the submission engine and see what comes out.

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Writing Update

writing, publishing, poetry, fiction, stories, horror, dark fiction, magazines, anthology

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It’s time to do another update on the writing front. Right now everything is happening quickly and I’m very busy so I can’t even keep up with myself. A new poem, “Sundance,” is up at Chizine, actually it went up last week, as part of the mega-issue, which is being done to raise donations to keep the magazine free. Chizine, as a magazine, has been going for ten years and had a sponsor who left the magazine high and dry last year when they didn’t pay promised fees. This has meant many of us have continued to work for free or nearly nothing so that the writers could get paid. If you want to read some stellar fiction and poetry there are thirteen weeks’ worth with over a dozen pieces in each week. “Darkside” was published about a month ago on  Chizine as well.

Besides Sundance, my poem “Shadow Realms” is coming out soon in Witches & Pagans #23. The poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” was published last year and is nominated for an Aurora Award. A third poem, “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” will be coming out in Bull Spec but I don’t know what issue yet. These last two magazines are print only. As well, the reprint of the poem “Obsessions” should be coming out soon in gothic anthology Candle in the Attic Window from Innsmouth Press. While these poems could all be considered speculative, “Kore’s Innocence” and “Leda’s Lament” are part of a Greek revisioning series.

On the fiction front, my story “It’s Only Words” specifically written for The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, will be the opening story in the anthology. It’s going to print as we speak and is edited Des Lewis. “Tasty Morsels” should be out sometime this summer in Polluto #8. They call themselves a magazine of anti-pop culture. These two publications are out of England. “A Book By Its Cover” was also bought for the Mirror Shards anthology, which is a collection of horror stories about augmented reality.

I’m also on a steampunk kick and sent one story, about blimps, off into the submission world. I’ve just finished a second, which I wrote specifically for an anthology but no idea if it will be accepted. It would be considered horror or at least dark. The third, “Nightingale,” is still in the works as I have to figure out how my protagonist breaks out of the antagonist’s trap. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor and the Nightingale” but very different. I still keep meaning to get back to my novel and really need to do so soon. I just have to get the brain to stop churning out other ideas. I think I’ll get this last story out of the way and backburner the rest so that I can get back to the novel in July. My goal is to have the novel completed by next year so I do have to get going.

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Writing: Kiss of Death Acceptances

Perhaps the only thing worse than not getting a story or poem accepted is to have it accepted but to watch the magazine fold, the anthology be canceled, or the supposed publication fade into the ether, never to be heard from again. This probably happens to everyone at some point, but I have had it happen at least seven times. I then begin to wonder, do I have some sort of  superhero (or villain) power where I cause the publications to die? The moment they accept my piece, the end is near–the kiss of death.

Of course that’s sort of a reverse ego thing and if I really did have that power there are a few publications I would like to use it on. Not for rejecting me, mind you. That’s part of the business, but in the past when editing and writing, I was cheated out of money by one magazine, and got so much BS from another, along with a lengthy battle to be paid, that they deserved to fold (and I believe have by now).

But the truth is, especially with the proliferation of the internet, that it’s easier and cheaper to run a magazine (such as online), but it still takes skill, knowledge and consistency. Perhaps the best nonpublication I had was  a magazine called Offworld Magazine. If you’ve never heard of it it’s because they didn’t even get number 1 out the door. They did pay for the story (called a kill-fee in some mags should they choose to not publish, though this one did not have that caveat). However, when I received the letter that said my story had been “excepted” I thought it had been rejected, not “accepted.” To except is to exclude. Hmmm.

Then there were the Tampa marketing anthologies, a list of themed anthologies by this company I had not heard of before. These days, there are many many publishers and small start-ups and new ventures so sometimes it pans out to try something new, after carefully reading the guidelines. It was low paying but still seemed worthy. As can be seen here there was little response from the company and the first anthologies were supposed to be out in June of 2009. After no response and several query emails you tend to chalk these things up to yet more unfulfilled pipe dreams. Then last November I received an email from someone who was asked by the head honcho to get the project done and he was accepting my piece. I asked which piece as I had submitted several, and when was this going to be published. I didn’t wish to pull my piece from other possible submissions unless I had some guarantee. He said he’d ask the big guy…and I never heard from them again.

I’ve sold several poems that were subsequently unaccepted because the magazine forgot they had them or lost them or changed their minds in the next two years. I had a story accepted to a noir erotic anthology and then it was held because they were splitting the anthology into books 2 and 3 and I would be in book 3. And then the publisher canceled book 3. I did get a kill fee on that one too. I’ve had a magazine say, “We loved this poem and would have taken it but we’re closing our doors.”

Sometimes there are odd little anthologies that pop up like “Quantum Planet of the Arts,” a collection of surreal (or something) fiction that was supposed to be published last year. After several emails to the editor who said they were delayed but still planning to publish, (and that she would send my email to the publisher) I heard nothing. My last email this year was a note to her saying, I will presume this venture dead. I heard no response so I think I presumed correctly.

There have been a couple of erotic magazines with the same result, communication dropping off to nonexistence. Circlet Press, always a slow mover fell into that realm in my books. They never replied and I presumed them dead. But instead they win the prize of the slowest rejection letter every–seven years! By that time I had sent the piece out many times (maybe published as I don’t remember what it was). After a certain length, really, a why bother should probably be the best plan. But it is frustrating when publications don’t bother to tell you they’ve rejected your stories, or they’re way behind or they’re folding. It’s part of the biz. I do have two stories languishing in magazines that seem to have dropped off the face of the earth, though I’ve had some private communication. I send those pieces out in the meantime but leave them with the magazine in case they ever get through their slush. It’s been nearly two years with some of them so I’m not exactly holding my breath here.

I recommend www.ralan.com as the best place for speculative markets with updates and the grave of dead magazines. I can say at least that my superhero power of writing and getting pieces published is better than my kiss-of-death power. I’ve had more accepted pieces published than not and that is a relief.

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Insanity Has Invaded My Life

You’d think I was on holidays without posting for a week but with work being overly busy, some extra projects and a party, I just didn’t have time to write.

Last night (now a week ago) I decided to start a bit of the Great Purge. You know, when you have been hanging on to things because of some sentimental reason; you’ll fit those jeans again, you liked that person’s poem, you might get back into that career, you haven’t filed these papers in soooo long, you just had to have that collection, etc. The aspects of life that make up the Great Clutter. For many people we stop at this.

My genes are set toward the pack rat, the clutterer, the collector, the hoarder. My mother is a collector and pack rat; my sister tends more towards the hoarder. The difference is organization and if garbage is involved. Maybe in the long run there isn’t a lot of difference. I have a lot of stuff; ornaments, arts, jewelery, books, papers. The latter two are part of being a writer. I keep these books for reference; I keep copies of stories, poems, articles in hard copy because of the possibility of computer meltdown. I keep all publicity items: reviews, newspaper articles, fliers for readings, photos, newsletters that mention an award or something that was published, rejection and acceptance letters (the last two are partially for income tax purposes).

It adds up after a while. Then there are all those hobbies I do: jewelery making, belly dance, sewing, medievalism, calligraphy, etc. etc. And before I know it, every bookcase is full, carefully arranged, but with books on top of books; my closet is full of costumes and fabric, my shelves are full of beads.

I live in a space big enough to fit two comfortably, or if I lived 200 hundred years ago, or in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, big enough for a family. In North America we do tend to expand to fit the space. Bigger cars, more junk food and higher obesity, more space, more stuff. My stuff isn’t like some people’s stuff. I have had friends where every piece of wall and every surface in their places were completely covered with stuff. This wasn’t junk piled helter skelter. There were ornaments, collectibles, memorabilia, books, records, things, arranged neatly and dusted at least twice a year. Compared to these friends I’m positively zen, and I dust four times a year. Of course there are my zen friends who think my place is a bit…full.

Like many North Americans, I seem to live at a hectic pace of working and then doing other things in my free time, from taking classes to pursuing other hobbies, to of course, writing. Many of these activities would take up significant time, and still allow time for socializing. All of them together means I’m often up late, flitting from project to project with many things in the works for a long time, and usually sleep deprived.

So though my shelves and closest are neatly stacked there are pockets that I haven’t got to in year. The preliminary purge cleaned out a box (the size that paper for photocopiers come in) of books that I sold to a second-hand bookstore, and another box of magazines that will probably go to the garbage. Omni, Scientific American, Wired, some that I kept for reference but there is just so much. And if you look at my shelves there is still no space on them. I have a pile on my floor of other items and clothing to donate to charity and still there is a lot. So the Great Purge will have me go room from room and sift through the last ten years of items that made my life. My den is the smallest room and yet the most densely packed so it will take the longest but I’m determined to whittle. This will be a several month project I think but in the end hopefully I’ll have more space to do what I really want. I have a two-drawer filing cabinet in which I have no idea what papers lurk. I store my rejection and acceptance slips but weed them every five years but I don’t know what’s taking up the other 2/3 of the cabinet.

Perhaps in the weeks to come I’ll write about my expedition into the strata of my life. Like an archeologist/anthropologist I will come across items from my past that will see ludicrous or profound. And maybe just maybe I’ll rediscover some buried treasures.

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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: Poetry Markets in Canada

I’ve been asked by people where to send poems and what markets there are in Canada. Like the US and probably other countries, there are usually numerous literary magazines, either sponsored by universities and colleges or privately run.

Literary magazines can run the gamut but usually put out a perfect bound (a glue square-edge binding) trade size book, with fewer in a magazine format. The reason for the size is often the break for mailing rates, as well as what is visually pleasing. Of course there are many online magazines or those that do paper and digital at the same time. In Canada, the literary magazines could be funded by the university, provincial or federal arts grants (though these have been cut back to the demise of various arts organizations), advertising or by running contests. The latter has become a popular choice in the last ten years or more, where the magazine will hold a yearly writing contest and the entry fee can be anything from $5-$30 depending on the contest.

The bad thing with this is you only have one chance to win, or three if they have first, second and third places. The good thing is that the magazine continues to run and can pay their authors for their work. Literary magazines will vary in pay for poetry. Many may have a set rate, $50/poem, $10/poem plus a year subscription, while others will have a per page rate such as $25/page.

Other magazines are called genre magazines though I argue that they too are literary even if the focus is on fantasy or science fiction. Some of these are well-established and pay as well as the literary magazines, which on average will pay anywhere from $25-$100 a poem. A hundred bucks is a good price for a poem, unless you’re Margaret Atwood. Then you probably get more because your name will help sell more issues.

The genre and small press magazines are more likely to pay for poems by line or even by word though a fair number also have a set price that they pay . When you get to the small small press, mom and pop magazines run out of the basement of someone’s house it can be a smaller amount paid for a poem. Some of these magazines might only pay in copies and I would never submit anything without at least getting contributor copies. After all, how would you even know they printed your piece unless you had a copy and every writer should be paid. I personally don’t submit unless pay is offered for a poem and I don’t really send my poems anymore to places that offer $2 or $5 but I might. And I do send to some reputable magazines that pay $10/poem.

My reasons might vary with the seasons as to where I send. Some magazines are small and chapbook size  (8.5X11 pages folded in half and stapled usually twice) as this is a simple method for people who do not have the budgets for larger sizes and is a popular small press format. My own chapbook of speculative verse, put out by Kelp Queen Press was of this format.

It used to be that magazines, especially the literary magazines only accepted submissions through the mail. With the advent of computers in everyone’s home, more people started writing poetry and with email they would send off every little drib and drab set down. Magazines find the quality of the submissions is lower when they come through email, and therefore to discourage every would-be writer, they stuck to the snail mail method where people seem to take more time on their piece before they send. This is changing and many magazines are using the online submission format. You register and log in, uploading your file and adding some notes. You get an email receipt and can track where your submission is in the process and the magazine can track when items were received.

Most magazines ask for 3-5 poems at a time. It’s best to follow those rules and follow their guidelines (many of the college run magazines close for the summer when students are away). As to where to send your work; well it should suit the market you’re aiming for. Whereas genre markets require a particular genre and literary markets require the literary genre, when it comes to poetry there is more leeway. Poetry has often encompassed the mythical and surreal, using metaphor and simile liberally so a poem with angels or even a minotaur will have more chance of being accepted in a literary magazine than a story would. Most magazines have an online presence and may have a sample of the writers they publish. It’s always wise to read through these and get a feel for what they prefer or buy a copy if you can afford it.

OnSpec, Chizine and Neo-Opsis are three English language speculative magazines that accept poetry (I’m afraid I’m not up on the French-Canadian markets). Descant, a literary magazine out of Toronto, is open to some speculative elements. In no particular order, some of the literary magazines in Canada are Malahat Review, The Front, Broken Pencil, Capilano Review, Prism, Prairie Fire, Antigonish Review, Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, Grain. There are just as many if not more in the US and the best place to check for poetry markets is www.duotrope.com. For speculative specific markets www.ralan.com is the place to go.

The biggest part, as I’ve said before, in getting poetry accepted is perseverance; that’s both in writing and rewriting and in submitting. But there are many, many markets (even with the economy slump) and places for sending poetry.

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Writing Update March

I’m way behind this year on submissions. Normally I do a blitz in January. But this year I was working on a large editing project for a client. I just seemed to busy to hunker down. Right now I’m trying to get a story rewritten for one anthology and write a new story for another anthology, as well as work on my novel. And I’ve been trying to get my taxes done. So I don’t think I’ve submitted anything new yet this year.

I’ve received some rejections for stories sent out from last fall, but yesterday saw some reward. I arrived home to find a letter from Barton College saying my poem “Finding Dionysus” was awarded second prize and will be published in Crucible. As well, there was an email from Shroud magazine saying they had accepted my story “A Kind Hand” for publication in issue #6.

Yesterday I said that perseverance is a large part of writing and becoming published. I’ve also talked about revisionist poems. Although “Finding Dionysus” is from Persephone’s point of view it’s not as revisionist as some of my others but is part of a series I’ve done on Greek gods. The poem was written about six years ago but as is often the case with submissions, an editor’s preference can be for a particular type or style of writing. As well, magazines may have themes or just published a piece with a similar theme. I was once told by one magazine that they had just published a torso story and they couldn’t take another or they would be seen as a fetish magazine.

“A Kind Hand” is a tale of perseverance in the writing. I started the story probably ten years ago, wrote a bit and let it sit. I liked the idea but for a while wasn’t sure where to go with it. I was basing it off of a Germanic folktale about Berchta (a hearth goddess) so I had the plot but I wanted to give it a more human aspect. Some stories flow out easily and all at once. Others come out in fits and spurts and seem to be a jumble. “A Kind Hand” was somewhere in between and when I wrote on it, it came out fairly smoothly. However, taking so many years to write the story meant that I had to keep rereading it to figure out where I was going. Also, one’s style can change from story to story and year to year. I had to try and continue in the style in which I had started, which I really liked.

Once it was done I sent it out but also sent it to a friend to read. He made some good comments so I brought out the threat aspect a bit more and once it was rejected, sent the story out again. I think I had only submitted this one a few times before Shroud.

Looking at start to finish on the poem was probably seven years. The story was ten or more years in the process. I have ideas like this, that I start because I had an image in my mind, but perhaps no plot, or no ending. They sit and sometimes I do finish them. There are those stories that I complete but am not satisfied with so I maybe send them out once and then they wait for a rewrite so that I can figure out how to make them better. Rarely does a story or poem flow out quickly, all in one piece, with minimal rewriting. And rarely does it go from creation to publication quickly. My quickest was probably “The Fishwife,” which flowed out in no more than three days, needed a minimal rewrite and sold to the first or second place I sent it. Still, with the time taken for submitting and the selection process of the magazine, it was about a year.

This doesn’t even include the time from acceptance to publication. The tardiest rejection I ever received was seven years. Some pieces that have been accepted may be  a year (or more) from acceptance to actually being published.

And last, as fantasy editor of Aberrant Dreams, I have released all stories but one back to the authors. The magazine is going through some structural changes and it was becoming far too long in holding stories. I hate giving up good stories but it wasn’t fair to hang on indefinitely. I have two letters to send out, releasing one more and letting one author choose if he wants his accepted story to sit in the to be published pile or if he’d like to withdraw it. Then we wait for the restructure.

Time is not linear in the world of writing and submitting, nor on the publishing end of a magazine. Patience and perseverance really help.

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Writing: Cone Zero Authors & Reviews

Finally, the authors of the anthology/magazine Cone Zero can be revealed and I can say that I wrote “The Fathomless World.” I had hoped for more reviewing of the story but clearly it wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Still, it didn’t receive any scathing review either though all the reviewers seem to have been careful in not pointing out the ones they didn’t like. It’s one anthology that I did read through and found the quality quite high. I didn’t agree with some of the reviews and found a few stories too long, boring or clunky but that was very few.

It was a fun idea and if I get anything that rings a bell for the next one, Cern Zoo, then I’ll enter submit to the anthology for that one too. Below are the names of all the authors tagged to their stories as well as a bunch of review links. And if anyone is interested in submitting a story to Cern Zoo, here’s a link to the guidelines: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/cerne_zoo__guidelines.htm

“The Fathomless World” by Colleen Anderson
“The Point of Oswald Masters” by Neil James Hudson
“Cone Zero” (page 23) by Sean Parker
“Cone Zero” (page 33) by Kek-W
“Cone Zero, Sphere Zero” by David M. Fitzpatrick
“An Oddly Quiet Street” by Scott Tullis
“Always More Than You Know” by John Grant
“Cone Zero” (page 129) by Grant Wamack
“Going Back For What Got Left Behind” by Eric Schaller
“Cone Zero” (page 147) by Stephen Bacon
“The Cone Zero Ultimatum” by Bob Lock
“Angel Zero” by Dominy Clements
“How To Kill An Hour” by A.J. Kirby
“To Let” by Jeff Holland

 

http://filthycreations.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=smallpress&action=display&thread=77&page=1#812 
http://tinyurl.com/b3woac
http://tinyurl.com/5ovc8v
http://ahaunteddollshouse.blogspot.com/2009/02/cone-zero-nemonymous-8-edited-by-d-f.html
http://distanceswimmer.livejournal.com/1082.html

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Writing: The Sad State of Poetry in Speculative Fiction

Waaay back, when I first started to get serious about writing, I wrote poetry. Okay I started writing poetry at the angst-ridden edge of twelve, and shelved much of it until my twenties. Eventually though, my poetry grew up and ventured into the world.

My first professional sale was for a whole $1.45 and yes it was a science fiction poem to Star*line. I continued to sell a poem here and there for usually five bucks and a copy of the magazine/book. Then I hit it big and sold a poem to Amazing Stories; $36 USD. Wow! And from that, I was invited (they actually contacted me) to join the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), THE professional organization for science fiction writers throughout North America. (I  don’t think I’d ever heard of SF Canada way back then.)

Thirty-six dollars and SFWA membership. SFWA works on a third of the pie idea. Three pro sales makes you a real writer. One or two-thirds makes you an Associate. You still pay the same amount but you get fewer privileges and can’t vote for the board or the Nebulas. What does it get you? That may be a different post but there is a wee bit of prestige, a very wee bit if you stay Associate forever.

I’ve sold more poems and stories since then, but everything must be speculative obviously for SFWA’s requirements. The publication that your piece appears in must meet the demands of a high production number, be a long running publication, pay pro rates, be American (and a few, very few Canadian magazines), etc. for membership qualification. Oh and poetry, well SFWA decided to drop it like a hot potato. No longer can you become a member on poetry alone. Not even if you’re the best poet in the world. Bruce Boston is probably the best Speculative poet out there. Certainly the most well-known. Canada’s own Sandra Kasturi is no pale shadow either. And there are numerous more.

But here’ is thesad state of the beleaguered poem. Someone got it in their head that because a poem is a hundred words or a hundred lines then why, it’s gotta be easy and fast to write. I’ve spent days, even months writing a poem (in some cases, years, but not constantly). I doubt it was any poet who said, scrap the poems from SFWA. And if three measly poems were just too few for a full membership, then why not make it six or nine or a dozen? Nope, SFWA allows stories, novellas, novelettes, books, even flash fiction in the right circumstances (though I hear that’s iffy) but poetry. Ick. That stuff is for intellectuals pontificating down their noses. Who reads it?

And really, that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Who reads poetry? There is a small point here that I believe poetry is part of the old bardic tradition and really is meant to be heard and seen. Look at poetry slams (a discussion for another day). Many people read it…sometimes, for it to still be bought in some places. But enough? And poetry, well it’s unfathomable, bizarre, esoteric. And spec poetry has just gotta be worse. Doesn’t it? I mean aliens in a story gives you time to paint an elaborate picture, but a vignette? Well, we don’t have time to look at that.

Sigh, there was an era where everyone was taught to read poetry. And what is “The Cremation of Sam McGee” if not speculative poetry? Poetry doesn’t have to be unfathomable or above people’s heads though I’ve had the most straightforward poems rejected by editors who said their audience wouldn’t understand them. Say the poem is confusing but don’t lower the intelligence of your readers, please.

Oh and did I mention that speculative fiction is the worst paid genre out there (except, would you believe, erotic fiction)? Yes, I can write a poem and receive $100 for it from Descant, or a story for a lit mag and get anywhere from $100-$1000, or I can write an article for anywhere from thirty cents a word to a dollar and more. Sure ,there’s a range but if you’re writing poetry and speculative poetry, well you really are the dregs of society. Not even as good as the tentacle waving scum of speculative story writers. No sirree. You’re filler on those pages that don’t have a story long enough.

That is the sad sate of speculative poetry. Alas. And this attitude is often held by those who have never written it or tried to understand it. SFWA has some pretty old-fashioned ideas that makes me wonder on the value of continuing to be a member when I’m a small time Canadian writer.

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Writing: Demise & Panic

In the writing world, whether mainstream or speculative writing, survival depends on sales. For some literary magazines put out through universities, grants and other funding are often delegated to be able to pay the writers. But still a magazine of any style hopes to have a high viewer rate and sell subscriptions, guaranteed revenue for the future. In the case of a university funded magazine, the funding might be cut if the subscription numbers go down.

With individual or private magazines, they are sometimes owned by companies or individuals. In all cases they need to make money to survive unless a rich person is altruistically funnelling money into a labor of love and though they hope to sell out, don’t have to, to keep going.

With the recent panic in the economic rivers, we see various businesses tossing themselves on the banks, gasping for survival, their eyes goggling about and seeing little. In some cases the rivers are still flowing but a ripple has moved through, frightening everyone to make for land before the drought hits. Hmm, it makes me wonder. Is there a need to hunker down, to cut staff, to close offices or is it all anticipation of the worst, and that anticipation is what brings about the apocalypse?

Well, whatever the case, it’s hitting the speculative writing world as well. Realms of Fantasy has just announced that their April 2009 issue will be the last. http://sfscope.com/2009/01/realms-of-fantasy-closing.html I’ve always wondered how all the little paper magazines survived, and have suspected (but have no basis in fact) that sales were never great. The era of the great pulp magazine is truly gone, those sales were dependent on a relatively untried format and genre, the mass marketing of such and more successful when TV was infantile and the internet not even a spark in Daddy Gates’ eye.

Of course, if you’re running a magazine in the US and you sell to 10% of the people, that’s still a respectable number, compared to 10% of Canada’s population (one reason why a writer always wants to sell in the US first). So in some ways the speculative/SF/fantasy markets are hurting as well. Fantasy and Science Fiction has also announced that they’re going quarterly from monthly.

For us little writers it does mean that pickings will be slimmer, especially for the still generic brand writer. Alas. What to do? Well, as I have seen over the years, magazines come and go, publishers consolidate, shrink and grow. Everything is in a constant flux and publishing is an incestuous business with houses often changing hands, being swapped for a better fit. So it goes. I’ll just continue to write and submit.

I’ve also finally fired myself up and started writing on my novel again. Not hugely productive but productive nonetheless. The only way I can keep myself from being distracted is going off to cafes and restaurants and spending some money to sit there and write on my laptop. Luckily I work well with ambient noise. If I’m at home I fritter away the time on all sorts of things, never quite getting to that novel.

I started again two weeks ago and have about 8,000 words. To make it feel like I’m actually accomplishing something I’m writing through one viewpoint character’s chapters  before going back to do the other two. It means I’ll have to smooth over the chapter transitions but then this is first draft. I’m not worrying too much about perfection at this point, but just writing and getting the story down. It feels good to be moving ahead. I’m into the second chapter of one of my antagonists.

By the time I finish the book and am looking at marketing it to publishers, maybe things will be more stable. Maybe they’ll want a book that takes place on another planet that deals with economic, political and religious downfall. It might echo this world, but if it does, it’s not intentional. In the meantime I will watch the markets and continue to submit. Really, every few years there is a culling and if one can just find another stream, we’ll survive (So I used all sorts of metaphors here. What the heck, I’m not being paid for this.)

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