Tag Archives: SFWA

Writing: The Trouble With SFWA

Creative Commons: gnuckx, Flickr

SFWA stands for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. They’ve been around for almost 50 years and protect the rights of speculative writers, which  includes legal and emergency medical aid, ironing out contract disputes, putting pressure on publishers (there is a bad boys list) and otherwise helping writers. They also maintain a list of professional markets, and to be a full Active member you must have sold three pieces, of at least $50 each, at the rate of .05/word or more. Or have sold a novel/novelette for at least $2000.

Further professional qualifications include that the publisher/magazine must have been in existence and publishing regularly for at least a year, pay the above professional rates or more, and have a distribution of at least 1000 copies. It used to be that this was 10,000 copies, if memory serves correctly, but I imagine it’s a sign of the times that not even mass market publishing houses print 10,000 copies of most books anymore. When the Canadian dollar was .50 to the US dollar there was never any consideration for the difference in rates, although it’s called SFWA and not SFWUSA. Five cents a word might have counted but when you can put the population of Canada into the state of California, it was pretty hard to hit those early distribution rates of 10,000 copies in Canada.

While SFWA does a lot of good, it’s also the old boys’ club and resistant to some change. The advent of small presses and POD (print on demand) has upset the apple cart in many areas. Costs of printing have gone up, readership of paper books is going down, and the economy is floundering. The dinosaurs need to evolve or they’ll be nothing but sludge. SFWA still cannot accept that flash fiction exists, or tweet markets. Instead of finding some in-between ground, they decided that a sale must be .05/word to be professional but if your story is 900 words or less, it won’t count. They could fix this and say at least four (or some number) sales of flash fiction or a combo of short and flash, etc. would be equivalent.

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Mary Beth Griffo Rigby, Flickr

Some change has happened, but last year, after nearly 20 years as an Associate member (having one professional sale based on the above criteria) I ended my membership and joined HWA (Horror Writers of America) instead. There are several reasons I did this. When I first joined SFWA they invited me, on the basis of selling a poem to Amazing Stories. At $36 that wasn’t bad money for a poem, even now, and I think that was around 1986. When I sent a copy of a contract for a story sale that met the requirements (and that after a year of my letters being completely ignored) I was told that my poem didn’t count and that I now had a 1/3 Associate membership, again. One step forward, one step back.

So not only did SFWA decide that poetry was no longer a valid art form nor worthy of notice, but they’d ungrandfathered me. I wonder if they would have booted me out if I didn’t have that second “pro” sale, except they probably wanted my money. Then I sold an erotic fairy tale to a Harlequin anthology. There was my third sale. (You can vote when you’re a full member.)  But guess what? Harlequin decided to do a vanity press line and SFWA disapproved (and rightly so), but instead of banning or disqualifying that particular imprint, SFWA disqualified Harlequin and all its imprints. Now Harlequin is one of the biggest publishers in the world. They’re rolling in the dough and not hurting, so why they thought they had to lure in hapless newbies with a vanity line, I’m not sure, and they should have their wrists slapped for that. But SFWA’s ban really only affected writers. Harlequin doesn’t care. I’d actually sold the story before the ban but was paid after.

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Will SFWA embrace the digital age? Creative Commons: Tony Hutchings/Getty Images

SFWA has helped me in the past with an iffy contract and they do at least have some standards but they need to evolve a bit more. I also joined HWA this year because I wanted to see what they’re like. While I haven’t even had time to look at the benefits yet I can tell you that I’m full-fledged voting member, and I did this on my credentials as a poet alone. I could have probably done it with fiction credits but the contracts I could find were for the poems. In HWA’s case their pro rate is the same for fiction but for poetry you must have had at least 10 poems published for at least $5/poem or .25/line. In fact, their definitions are more detailed but also more extensive than SFWA’s.

Arguments can be made that if I was a better writer I’d have been a full member long ago, and that of course holds water, but I’ve sold mostly to Canadian markets and even good writers sometimes can’t get their feet in the door of a tight market when a known name will sell more magazines. It will be interesting to see if HWA serves me better of if SFWA did. I could go back to SFWA at any time if I wish.

I’m a very strong advocate for poetry and anyone that’s worked on a poem can tell you it takes as long to write a poem as to write a story in many cases. Some poems take me years to perfect. I truly detest when someone pooh poohs a form of writing because it isn’t as long as a novel or a story. It’s a snobbery that not even the literary world aspires to. They have their own as many literary writers turn up their noses at “genre” writing. Half the time Margaret Atwood swears she does not write science fiction.

But any organization that recognizes poetry will probably get my vote over ones that ban it.

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Writing: Award Nominees

The recent couple of months have seen various nominations for writing awards. Taking place in Brighton, UK on March 27  at the World Horror Convention will be the Bram Stoker Awards for horror or dark fantasy. The nominee’s are:

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A NOVEL

Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan (Harper)
Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Quarantined by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
Cursed by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL

Breathers by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
Solomon’s Grave by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
Damnable by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN LONG FICTION

Dreaming Robot Monster by Mort Castle (Mighty Unclean)
The Hunger of Empty Vessels by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
Doc Good’s Traveling Show by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION

“Keeping Watch” by Nate Kenyon (Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror)
“The Crossing of Aldo Ray” by Weston Ochse (The Dead That Walk)
“In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss (Postscripts #18)
“The Night Nurse” by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN FICTION COLLECTION

Martyrs and Monsters by Robert Dunbar (Dark Hart Press)
Got to Kill Them All and Other Stories by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
A Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O’Neill (Apex Book Company)
In the Closet, Under the Bed by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN ANTHOLOGY (EDITING)

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
Poe edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
Midnight Walk edited by Lisa Morton (Darkhouse Publishing)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION

Writers Workshop of Horror by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
Cinema Knife Fight by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)
Stephen King: The Non-fiction by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN POETRY COLLECTION

Double Visions by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
North Left of Earth by Bruce Boston (Sam’s Dot)
Barfodder by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
Chimeric Machines by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)

It’s nice to see that there is something for poetry in the Stokers when SFWA removed poetry completely a long while back as even a legitimate form of writing in the speculative field. http://www.whc2010.org/banquet-nominees01.html

And speaking of SFWA the 2009 Nebula award nominees have been announced. The awards will be given on May 15 in Florida. As well, the Andre Norton award for young adult fiction and the Bradbury award for screenwriting will be given. Here are the nominees:

Short Story

* “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
* “I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov08)
* “Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
* “Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
* “Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jun09)
* “Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan09)

Novelette

* “The Gambler,” Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct08)
* “Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jul08)
* “I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said,” Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec09)
* “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Eugie Foster (Interzone, Feb09)
* “Divining Light,” Ted Kosmatka (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Aug08)
* “A Memory of Wind,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com, Nov09)

Novella

* “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s,” Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
* “Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
* “Act One,” Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar09)
* “Shambling Towards Hiroshima,” James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
* “Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford (Interzone, Oct09)
* “The God Engines,” John Scalzi ( Subterranean Press, Dec09)

Novel

* The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
* The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
* Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
* The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
* Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
* Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

Bradbury Award

* Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount, May09)
* District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug09)
* Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec 09)
* Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, Jun09)
* Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May09)
* Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus Feb09)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

* Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
* Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
* Ash, Malinda Lo (Little, Brown and Company, Sep09)
* Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
* Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
* When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
* The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
* Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

For more information, visit http://www.nebulaawards.com or http://www.sfwa.org

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Harlequin Begins Vanity Press

Anyone who knows anything about vanity presses knows that they’re not respected on several levels when it comes to publishing and being published. A vanity press is called thus because it caters to a would-be writer’s vanity. In other words, a work may be published without any editorial process taking place. This means any piece of drek, shopping list, or untethered ramblings will be printed if one has the funds to bring it to fruition.

Vanity presses often take advantage of unsuspecting new writers who aren’t aware of the full process. For a fee the press will publish your book. Or you have won a contest and your poem/story will appear in the lovely print edition and you can order a copy for $34.95. The publisher doesn’t pay you for your work and basically puts your work, no matter how bad, into the volume so that you, your friends and family will buy copies to show that you’re a published author, not realizing that this isn’t the real realm of publishing.

What happens is that writers are paying the publisher and that’s who buys the books. It isn’t readers interested in the story, just a very small group or just the writer. Little to nothing is spent on marketing and what is, is aimed at the person who submitted the work.

In the past I submitted poems to a poetry contest, only to find out I had “won” and that it was a vanity press. I withdrew my pieces and never looked at those “publishers” again. Self-publishing is also considered vanity press even if someone else (a printer or book packager) puts the book together. A person who pays on their own (as opposed to so-called winners) to have a book edited, laid out, printed and bound is usually considered to be vanity publishing unless they’re trying to put out other books besides their own. They might still have to go through the very hard work of marketing and distribution. Without these important elements, the books sit in the basement.

Small presses should not be confused with vanity publishing. Those who venture on their own to publish their books do so for a variety of reasons. The book may have been turned down by agents and publishers, or the person may want to get a message out there or just sell on their own for whatever reason. Sometimes a self-published book is picked up by a major publisher. But that is a very rare thing. Otherwise, a person makes a cost outlay of anywhere from $1000 to $10,000-plus for editing, production and publishing of their book and if they’re lucky, they may recoup what they put into it. Often they don’t make back their cost so the pay to play.

It is alarming and very odd when a  well-established publisher decides to start another imprint whose sole purpose is to be a vanity press. Harlequin is the biggest romance publisher in the world and has a huge sell-through rate on their titles. They shouldn’t be hurting for money. But they decided to team up with a print-on-demand vanity press call Author Solutions. After outcries from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Harlequin has taken the name of Harlequin Horizons off of the imprint.

Harlequin reported amazement and as of today changed the name to DellArte Press Book Publishing Services. However, RWA said Harlequin books would not be eligible for any awards and SFWA said all Harlequin books/stories would not count as eligible as a membership fulfillment unless they removed themselves from self-publishing. I doubt the name change will be enough for RWA and SFWA.

I can’t help but wonder why Harlequin even needs to get involved. They’ve been branching out into supernatural and SF romance and shouldn’t need to dupe dewy-eyed writers into parting with money to see their names in print and in hopes of getting to be a Harlequin author. Letting a would-be author think they have a chance of getting their story picked up by first self-publishing it is disingenuous. I checked out DellArte, which has little price packages that start at $599 to $1,599, but that only gets you 5 to 25 free copies, and after that you’re paying extra. That doesn’t cover a full edit at all either and even at $342 (editing services)  it will give you a partial review of a chapter or two. You’ll pay for other copies and I’m sure by the time you’re done you’ll have forked out at least $5,000. If the cover price of a trade paperback (the size they’re advertising) is $14.99 (very cheap and probably higher) and you get it at say, 40% off of cost (the regular retailer discount), that means you make $6 and would need to sell around 833 copies to break even.

Not that many if you’re marketed like Stephen King. But chances are there is little marketing and you’ll have to do most on your own. DellArte offers in the upper end of prices a standard publicity program, which really amounts to a written press release. You still have to do the marketing and distribution is probably all in your lap. So you’re in the same seat as if you went out and found a printer on your own. I’d be interested to know why Harlequin even thought they needed to do this. For various takes on this, follow the links.

 http://www.sfwa.org/2009/11/sfwa-statement-on-harlequins-self-publishing-imprint/

http://www.dellartepress.com/

PublishersWeekly

I also wrote them as if I was a new author with my book ready to publish in 1-3 months. They said someone would get back to me and what I received was a computer generated reply, which follows:

Congratulations on starting a new chapter of your life by exploring self-publishing. We are glad you contacted DellArte Press to start your publishing journey.
 
DellArte Press is designed to help aspiring romance and women’s fiction writers publish their books and achieve their dreams. No matter what the end goal for your book is we have the resources and staff to help you reach that goal. Our professional support team will walk with you every step of the way, so please let us know how we can assist you.
 
Your first chapter in publishing is to explore our Standard and Specialty Publishing Packages. Please visit our Publishing Packages page on our Web site to see how each package uniquely meets your publishing needs. We also offer additional services you can add to your package to give your book the professional and polished edge it deserves.
 
We’re here to help you select the best package for you, and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your specific book and your goals. If you are ready to get started right away, you can call us at(877) 217-3420 or e-mail
customersupport@dellartepress.com.
 
Publishing with DellArte Press offers several advantages:
Discovery Opportunities – Titles published through DellArte Press will be monitored for possible pickup by DellArte’s traditional imprints
Global Distribution – Extensive distribution networks through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and others ensure that your book can be purchased by anyone, anytime, anywhere
Creative Control – It’s your book from start to finish
Professional Editors – Choose to utilize our editors to ensure your book is error free
Effective Marketing – Hire a publicist, have a video book trailer created, set up an author Web site and more
Accessible Support – Easy access to our professional support staff so you’re never left to answer questions on your own
Next Steps: Define Your Desire
 
Your next step is to define your goals and desires for your book. Whether you want to publish just for fun or to achieve commercial success, we can help. One of our Publishing Consultants will work with you to determine the best options for your publishing needs so your goals are met. In the meantime, if you have questions, please call (877) 217-3420 or visit our Web site at
www.dellartepress.com.
 
We understand that your time is precious and you may not always have a lot of time for yourself. We encourage you to indulge your passion for writing and begin the next chapter of your life as a published author. We look forward to working with you to help make that dream come true.
 
Sincerely,

The Dell Arte Press Team
DellArte Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: (877) 217-3420
Fax: (812) 355-1561

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Writing: Is It Just About the White Guys?

 SF Signal (www.sfsignal.com a good site for SF news) has seen an explosion of comments over the posting of one new book coming out, The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley. MammothDebate It seems this collection of mindblowing stories, “the 21 finest stories of awesome SF” has not one woman in it or author of color and this has caused quite a hullabaloo.

 There are still more writers in SF who are male than female but that gap has closed a great deal from the early days of SF. There are even fewer authors of color. So it could be that in a sampling of stories that came in that the best were from the white males. However there are several factors that work against this supposition for editor Ashley (who I believe made an oversight more than an intentional choice to exclude female authors).

The Mammoth series of anthologies can be on anything; road trips, horses, brides, vampires, SF. The scope of the series is large and many of them originate in the UK. The Mammoth books also usually tend to have many stories in them (part of the whole mammoth imagery). This book failed in that department by only having 21 stories. Anthologies in general sell less than any novel so an editor and publisher must look at what will sell the book. In that case you will always want a few recognizable names that most readers will know. This alone will narrow the scope of an anthology And of course the books do have themes. Other anthologies might be for a region or a country and there can even be anthologies on the best new SF by women or gay men or whatever.

There are many restrictions on an anthology that will limit whose work is published. The payment for a story may be too little for some authors to submit. Other anthologies are invitational. If you’re not asked, you can’t write for it. Some are partly invitational, and some editors might post their guidelines in exclusive areas (such as members of SFWA may submit, but only members). But going through slush piles of hundreds or thousands of submissions can take a very long time and editors often have a timeframe to work within. Therefore, when an anthology that is not open to any writer makes the claim as having the best, the most awesome or mindblowing pieces, it can be challenged as being exclusionist or elitist. When that claim is made and there are no women either, it ruffles quite a few feathers.

When I edit I look first for the best story or poem. I don’t look at the author’s name or credits, nor what their gender or color is. But when you have invited several people to send in stories and have reprints from others (some for the name) then there is still a possibility to include both genders. It could be that the editor only received stories from males but it is still so narrow a focus that questions arise as to the intent.

On top of this Mammoth book not living up to the usual range of many stories and including SF from women, it also has cover art derivative of the 60s and 70s. But I also don’t know what the editor said in his introduction. Maybe these were mindblowing stories for him when he was a teenager, or smoking pot, or in a geographic area. Maybe he really liked these stories and ignored even past works of authors such as: Le Guin, Tiptree, Tepper, Cadigan, Cherryh, (Mary Shelley if we want to go to the advent of SF & women writers), Norton, McCaffrey, Bear, Henderson, Butler, Scyoc, Hambly, etc. I haven’t read the stories so they could all truly be awesome SF, but I just think some women could be in there too.

Because there has been a history in writing to exclude females in the past it is still a touchy subject. Doing my degree at UBC I saw this attitude, especially in some parts (instructors) of the English department. The only good writer is a dead white male, followed by a live white male. This attitude is changing but it means that editors do have to be aware of the stories they’re receiving and if they want their anthology to be indicative of the overall demographic of writers. Not to mention that there are many many women readers and many of them read SF and fantasy.

I have a feeling that editor Mike Ashley is shaking his head, realizing belatedly that he inadvertently created a hornet’s nest. One writer at SF Signal said that she had been asked to submit, so women were included in the submission process. I could just as easily pout that Canadians had been excluded, but I don’t know the nationality of all the writers, and even if there are only US and UK writers, well, that happens a lot, depending on where the guidelines were listed and whether it was invitational. And at only 21 stories, Ashley probably only asked a select few and chose some reprints on his own. I’m also sure his next anthology will have many more women in it.

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Canadian SF Giant Dies

Phyllis Gotlieb left the mortal coil on July 14. She is probably not a name known to many in the world of speculative reading yet she was known by many writers. She was a steady writer; though not as prolific like Rob Sawyer or Charles de Lint, she was in her own way a pioneer in the field.

Judith Merril was known as the grandam of science fiction and Phyllis as the mother of Canadian SF. She began writing and publishing when there were fewer writers in the field altogether and very few women. Canada was a pipsqueak next to the US, yet Phyllis was making her mark. She was a founding member of SFWA, and the only Canadian at its time of inception in 1965.

Phyllis began writing when science fiction wasn’t as popular as it is now, but was a fan of the early pulps. She was known for her poetry and during a writing block in the 1950s her husband suggested she write science fiction. She sold her first novel Sunburst in 1964 and the Sunburst award is named after Phyllis’s book.

Phyllis was known for her no-nonsense, wry wit and intelligence. She was an active member of SF Canada and has been quoted as being instrumental in encouraging such young writers in their careers as Robert Sawyer, Cory Doctorow and Sandra Kasturi.

It’s no easy thing to be a writer in a country with a small population, be a woman, and be writing in a field that wasn’t very popular, yet Phyllis was pretty much the first Canadian speculative writer published and continued unabated, publishing her last novel in 2009. Her matter of fact Valentine’s poems to her husband Kelly were often amusing and hilarious. She gave insights that made one think deeper and longer about topics and sometimes cut straight to the chase without the sugary coating.

SF Canada will miss Phyllis greatly, and I’m glad that we had a chance last year to award her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her contribution to SF and Canadian writers will be felt for a very long time.

Condolences and memorial messages can be added here: http://www.benjaminsparkmemorialchapel.ca/MemorialBook.aspx?snum=125855&sid=134769

An Interview with Phyllis from Challenging Destiny: http://www.challengingdestiny.com/interviews/gotlieb.htm

CBC’: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2009/07/15/phyllis-gotlieb.html

The Sunburst Award: http://www.sunburstaward.org/

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Writing: British Fantasy Awards & Stuff

I’m listing the recent announcement of shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Awards. I am not nominated but the anthology Cone Zero that my story “The Fathomless World” is in, has been. But then, none of the stories from the anthology have been nominated so I wonder if that bodes ill for the anthology winning the award.

Of course, for me it would have been better if my story was nominate but that’s okay. And it’s too bad that some of the reviews really just recapped the book and my story didn’t make much of a splash. Pooh. I liked it but perhaps the most informative review was a very late, after the fact one, where the reviewer decided to leave his notes as haiku, partly because it was so late. The one which I’m sure was for “The Fathomless World” said something like, “more style than substance.”  That would be the middle line of the haiku if you count “style as a two-syllable word.

So it goes. I thought it had substance but I also did it in a mythic style. I continue to send works out and work on new ones. Unfortunately the whole economic crisis has affected story markets to the point that I’m thinking I should just be working on my novel and skip the stories right now. For speculative fiction, whether horror, fantasy, science fiction or other, there are not a lot of markets to submit to right now. Some have gone the way of the dodo, while the majority of the pro markets (those that pay five cents a word or more) are closed to submissions or on hiatus. A sad state indeed.

And it’s always been a sad state that the pay for speculative fiction has been so low. Definitely not a make-a-living type of wage. Literary markets as a whole tend to pay somewhat better but many of them also pay the equivalent of $100 a story, which many anthologies do. Some literary markets pay anywhere from $15-40 a printed page, which again could work out to the same amount.

Why do we write then? For fame? Partly, though that’s a long hard road. Hardly for fortune. And maybe most of all, because we love words and our minds just keep filling with them and we want to tell a story and share in the mysteries of what-if. And not onto the shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Award.

BEST ANTHOLOGY

    Cone Zero(DF Lewis) Megazanthus Press
    Myth-Understandings (Ian Whates) Newcon Press
    Subtle Edens (Allen Ashley) Elastic Press
    The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19 (Stephen Jones) Constable & Robinson
    The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror(Ian Alexander Martin) Humdrumming
    We Fade To Grey(Gary McMahon) Pendragon Press

BEST NOVEL (THE AUGUST DERLETH FANTASY AWARD)

    Memoirs of a Master Forger(William Heaney/Graham Joyce) Gollancz
    Midnight Man (Simon Clark) Severn House
    Rain Dogs(Gary McMahon) Humdrumming
    The Graveyard Book(Neil Gaiman) Bloomsbury
    The Victoria Vanishes (Christopher Fowler) Little Brown
    Thieving Fear (Ramsey Campbell) PS Publishing

THE PS PUBLISHING BEST SMALL PRESS AWARD

    Elastic Press (Andrew Hook)
    Newcon Press (Ian Whates)
    Pendragon Press (Chris Teague)
    Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham)
    TTA Press (Andy Cox)

BEST COLLECTION

    Bull Running for Girls (Allyson Bird) Screaming Dreams
    Glyphotech(Mark Samuels) PS Publishing
    How To Make Monsters(Gary McMahon) Morrigan Books
    Islington Crocodiles(Paul Meloy) TTA Press
    Just After Sunset(Stephen King) Hodder & Stoughton

BEST NOVELLA

    “Cold Stone Calling” (Simon Clark) Tasmaniac Publications
    “Gunpowder” (Joe Hill) PS Publishing
    “Heads” (Gary McMahon) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Narrows” (Simon Bestwick) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Reach of Children” (Tim Lebbon) Humdrumming

BEST SHORT FICTION

    “All Mouth” (Paul Meloy) Black Static 6, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press
    “Do You See” (Sarah Pinborough) Myth-Understandings, Ed. Ian Whates – Newcon Press
    “N” (Stephen King) Just After Sunset – Hodder & Stoughton
    “Pinholes in Black Muslin” (Simon Strantzas) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Caul Bearer” (Allyson Bird) Bull Running For Girls – Screaming Dreams
    “The Tobacconist’s Concession” (John Travis) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Vague” (Paul Meloy) Islington Crocodiles, TTA Press
    “Winter Journey” (Joel Lane) Black Static 5, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press

BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL

    30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow(Steve Niles/Bill Sienkiewicz) IDW Publishing
    All-Star Superman(Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely) DC Comics
    Buffy Season Eight Vol. 3: Wolves at the Gate(Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/ Georges Jeanty) Dark Horse Comics
    Comic Book Tattoo Tales Inspired by Tori Amos(Ed, Rantz A. Hoseley & Tori Amos/ Various) Image Comics
    Hellblazer: Fear Machine (Jamie Delano) Vertigo
    Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician(Andy Diggle/Leonardo Manco & Daniel Zezelj) Vertigo
    Locke and Key(Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez) IDW Publishing
    The Girly Comic Book 1 (Ed, Selina Lock) Factor Fiction
    The New Avengers: Illuminati(Brian Bendis & Brian Reed/Jim Cheung) Marvel Comics

BEST ARTIST

    Dave McKean (The Graveyard Book) Bloomsbury
    Edward Miller (Vault of Deeds) PS Publishing
    Lee Thompson (The Land at the End of the Working Day) Humdrumming
    Les Edwards (Various)
    Vincent Chong (Various)

BEST NON-FICTION

    Basil Copper: A Life in Books (Basil Copper, Ed, Stephen Jones) PS Publishing
    Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook) BBC Books
    journal.neilgaiman.com (Neil Gaiman)
    Mutant Popcorn(Nick Lowe) Interzone – TTA Press
    What Is It We Do When We Read Science Fiction(Paul Kincaid) Beccon Publications

BEST MAGAZINE

    Black Static(Andy Cox) TTA Press
    Interzone(Andy Cox et. al.) TTA Press
    Midnight Street(Trevor Denyer)
    Postscripts(Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers) PS Publishing
    SFX (Dave Bradley) Future Publishing Limited

BEST TELEVISON

    Battlestar Galactica (NBC)
    Dead Set(Zeppotron/Channel 4)
    Dexter (Clyde Phillips Productions)
    Doctor Who (BBC Wales)
    Supernatural (Warner Bros TV)

BEST FILM

    Cloverfield (Matt Reeves)
    Iron Man(Jon Favreau)
    The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
    The Mist(Frank Darabont)
    The Orphanage(Juan Antonio Bayona)
    (With thanks to SFWA for supplying the list.)

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Writing: Selling Poetry

I was asked if you can actually sell poetry. Yes, there are many places that will pay. And believe me, I’ve bounced my stories and poems around a million places. I could show you reams of rejections. This is the real world: those of us who write speculative fiction (fantasy, SF, horror stories or poems) are always trying to get the great rates of 5 cents a word. That’s a pro rate for all sorts of notoriety and pro status.

In “literature” (said with one’s nose in the air), there are small press magazines, often but not always supported by universities. Some pay pittances but often you’re paid between $25-40 a printed page for stories and anywhere from $25-100 for a poem. Truly, when I started submitting I didn’t think I’d ever get $100 for a poem and it’s now the highest I’ve been paid. Interestingly the other two high points were $50 for poems in the Canadian Stars as Seen anthology, mainly because editor Sandra Kasturi is a consummate poet herself and probably haggled for that amount.

The second amount was, ironically, also speculative, my first real pro sale in Amazing Stories (when it still existed) at $36 US. It’s the sale that got me into SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) as a semi pro. You need three sales to be full pro and even though I’ve sold stories since, it’s mostly to the Canadian markets and hence not “recognized” as pro for lower rates that don’t convert to 5 cents or the once 3 cents a word. Not to mention, SFWA decided that poetry doesn’t count anymore, falling into the mainstream troglodyte thinking that poetry isn’t real writing and doesn’t take as much work. Yet to write a poem can take many days. You can become a full member in HWA (Horror Writers of America) on poetry alone.

 The more common rate for poetry is between $5-$20 a poem. You won’t get rich selling it. You might not get people to your reading. There is still an odd idea that poetry is unfathomable and read in a monotone. Also called “Spoken Word” poetry is like a really short play or soliloquy. It’s dramatic, fairly succinct and plays on words and images.

There are many markets for poetry and the best place to find a comprehensive list is to go to http://www.duotrope.com and search. You can specify romantic, cowboy or fantasy poetry to name a few and if you’re willing to go with a market that pays a token or a pro fee. It is most important to read the guidelines. If the magazine says we don’t take rhyming poems, then don’t send them rhyming poems. If they detest chicken poems don’t send them any. All you’ll do is annoy the editors. They see a lot of submissions. Know your markets and know your field. Practicing writing and reading published poetry will give you and idea of what styles are liked by different publications, and help hone your skills. If you like a poem, why do you like it? Analyse it to figure out what works. Is it a turn of phrase, an image, a word? Trying writing some verse to the poem to get a sense of the author’s style.

Never believe that you can improve. And submit. Receive your rejection with good grace and then submit elsewhere. Every time I send out a poem I look it over, tweak it and then send it out. Sometimes I’ve sold a poem (and it’s been shortlisted or nominated for an award) that I wrote up to ten years ago. Poems don’t go stale and you can improve them. Selecting poetry is very subjective so what one editor loves another will hate. Keep trying and you’ll start to sell some. It’s all about perseverance in your craft and in submitting your works.

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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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Sucky Drivers & Yahoo Tracking

Yes, yes, I’m going to post some observations on the bad drivers in Greater Vancouver. I didn’t last week, because surprisingly I didn’t see anything overt.

The first winner this week was an unmarked police car (which I can always identify by the nubs on top of the roof, the very dark glass and the shade o’ grey paint) license # 657 KGV (BC). If you get right behind them you can also see the police lights inside the rear window. Not only did these guys turn left in an intersection where the light was well into red (usually two cars can get through a left turn who are already in the intersection) but they also decided to change lanes with no signalling.

Granted a lot of people don’t signal, that still doesn’t make it right. It’s one of my pet peeves. If you’re a good enough driver, you should be able to do all your road maneuvers AND still signal. And it does warn people of what you’re going to do. Usually a line creeper is an indication that someone is going to change lanes. Back to the cops. Even an unmarked, but still noticeable, police car should follow the rules and police are supposed to be examples of and uphold the law. Oh right, how could I be so stupid? They’re bigger on flaunting it these days, beating up innocent people and getting overzealous in tasering. Why would they do something as simple as obey road signs?

Okay, well, they’re not alone in sucky driving. Yesterday was  a bonus crop with goldy and yet very dirty Mr. Chev Cavalier (licence #484 JSA) going 40 km in a 50 km zone and then speeding through the playground and school zones of 30 km and going 50 km. Nice going guy, inconsistent in all ways and irritating to everyone. Some cities have laws that if you go too slow you can be ticketed for obstructing traffic.

Then there was Mr. Key Food Equipment, white van #16 (licence # 6515 KA). Nice going as I was coming along at a good speed and you suddenly pulled out from the lane beside me, no signalling, no warning. I had to slam on my breaks. There is a law here too that says whether you signal or not you change lanes when SAFE to do so. There was nothing safe and I fell like calling your bosses. Hope you didn’t wreck any equipment with your race car driver tricks.

But…there was in fact a light in the highway to hell. Mr. Sporty Black Toyota with the sunroof,(licence # 365 HVV) hats off to you and kudos for excellent driving. We both were getting tired of the doddering traffic (and yes I speed a bit, like most Vancouver drivers–actually most speed a lot) and go about 10 km over the limit. At one point I got stuck behind a slow car and signalled (yes signalled) to move into the right lane. Mr. Toyota was coming up fast so I motioned for him to go by. He actually slowed down to let me in.

Since we were going about the same speed he also didn’t feel the need to zip in front of me and slow down and at times I was in the one lane and he in the other. He continued to signal and never cut anyone off and in fact caused no problems compared to the other annoyances and downright dangerous drivers. You cops could take a lesson from this guy. It just goes to show that there are some people who can drive well and still follow the rules of the road, and do it politely.

Other than that, the writing world, like everything else is rumbling as magazines fold or re-evaluate their structures with the current money crunches. I haven’t seen any anthologies folding yet. As always, www.ralan.com is the best place to find up to date info on speculative markets.

And for anyone who is on any yahoo group, you’ll want to read this and decide if you want yahoo snooping into your every move:

SFWA reported this and I feel it’s important enough to share. Yahoo is Tracking Group Members and basically being a spy and snooping where they don’t belong. Talk about Big Brother. Hey guys, didn’t you hear, George Bush is gone!

If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo. Look at their updated privacy statement at http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/details.html.

About half-way down the page, in the section on *cookies*, You will see a link that says *WEB BEACONS*. Click on the phrase “Web Beacons.” On the page that opens, on the left find a box entitled “Opt-Out.” In that section find “opt-out of interest-matched advertising” link that will
let you “opt-out” of their snooping. Click it and then click the opt-out button on the next page. Note that Yahoo’s invasion of your privacy – and your ability to opt-out of it – is not user-specific.
It is MACHINE specific. That means you will have to opt-out on every computer (and browser) you use. Nice, eh? More insidious than corn. Maybe the name yahoo is better suited than we thought.

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Writing: Things to Watch Out For

Below is listed an ad, which was reposted to a writer’s list I’m on. Markets like this disturb me for several reasons. Albeit many short story markets only pay about $100 these days (some pay more and some less), but to actually pay only $100 for a 30,000 word story amounts to highway robbery on the publisher’s part. One cent a word for that length would equal $300. You do the math on just how little you’re getting paid. Of course, if you write the low end 1,500 word story you’ll get about .07 a word.

Article writers get paid on average between .75 and $1.25 a word. SFWA says that professional rates for speculative fiction should be at least .05 a word. That would be $1,500. Now I’ve sometimes sent my stories to places that pay .03 cents or so. I’m still a fairly no name writer and there are many many writers out there. But there comes a point when you have to figure out what you’ll prostitute yourself for, and I won’t sell myself as cheap as below.

That low payment could fall into acceptable but what really gets me is that this publisher is asking for all rights. I don’t know if this includes moral rights and I’ve talked about how that is the last right anyone should ever give up, but even so, they want all rights. For $100. Wow. That’s not just first anthology rights or first electronic print rights, or first North American rights. That’s all rights. Which means you can never sell your story again, never get more money to make up for the measly hundred bucks these guys gave you to steal all your rights. You pretty much don’t own your story anymore.

If you work for a company and write on their dime, they in essence own all rights. However you still have moral rights in that you are credited with the work, unless you sign those away. Considering the big grab that these guys are doing, I wouldn’t put it past them to take moral rights too. And all rights means that they could turn your piece into a film and you wouldn’t get a penny, or they could hack it up to read like drek and you’d have no say.

Now sometimes these things are worded badly because new publishers don’t understand which rights they should ask for. But I find that the statements about “if you’re a new writer” tell me they know pros will not submit to such a place. As well, they do warn you that if you aren’t happy with all rights being taken, then don’t submit. There are other huge media magazines that buy all rights. The Cricket (Carus publishing) and related childrens’ magazines are one. However, they tend to pay more and I don’t really submit to them either.

The problem with all of this is that you get magazines and publishers who often say, we can’t pay you anything. We do it for love and you have the privilege of getting your work published. However, the flip side is that they have the privilege of publishing your work and without writers they would have no magazine. If they find writing of worth, then they should pay what they think it’s worth. I think it’s okay for a new magazine to start small, not pay much but aspire to hoping to pay more for stories as they grow. I understand that people want to put out magazines and with the internet it’s much easier, but everyone who can should be paying for the work. I too want to start a magazine one day but I won’t do it until I know I can pay at least .03 a word to start. I don’t want to dishonor writers, of which I’m one.

Writers are always the last to be paid, the ones that are often stinted in how much they get as well. Opulence magazine for which I wrote some articles, did the same thing; ripping off their writers and not paying them for years while the fat cats at the helm got glossier cars and homes. I’ve written about Opulence elsewhere. Of course individual magazines have to either get grants or raise funds through subscriptions and advertising. Still, writers should not be the ones that get less because all the other costs are more.

Oh and Vincent Hobbes, the novelist? Well, it seems the only writing he has done has been published by Hobbes End (one book) and there is very little information on this publisher. So Vincent published his own work and made a company. That makes me doubly cautious. But each person has their own brain. It’s up to every writer just how little they think their work is worth. Of course, if I said each of my stories was worth a million bucks, and that’s all I’d accept, I’d still be waiting to publish my first piece.

Novelist Vincent Hobbes is seeking short stories for an upcoming project which will feature a compilation of strange and bizarre stories. His publisher is currently accepting submissions from any author interested in
having his or her work published in a novel.

Manuscripts being accepted will include anything from the following fiction genres:
Horror
Supernatural
Science-fiction
Fantasy
Psychological thriller
Mystery

Requirements: Word count may be anything from 1,500-30,000 words. We are seeking stories that are original and not previously published. Interesting storylines with a preferable twist at the end to captivate the reader is desired. Think Twilight Zone. All stories must be tasteful-not overly gory, no inappropriate sex scenes, or an over use of profanity.

All submissions must adhere to the following guidelines:
Single-spaced 12-point font, Times New Roman Cover sheet must be included with all proper contact information

Whether you are a new author seeking to promote yourself, or simply someone who wants your family and friends to read your story
in a published and widely distributed piece of literature, this is a rare opportunity to have your name and story published.

You may submit your story via mail or electronically. Details are as follows:

If mailed, send copy to:
Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

If sent electronically, send to:
publisher@hobbesendpublishing.com
Attn: Short Story Submission (subject line)

Deadline is October 1st, 2008

Terms: Full rights, both printing and media, will be purchased outright for $100.00 per story. Therefore, it will be un-publishable elsewhere without express permission from the publisher. Any author who does not agree to such terms, please do not submit your work for this project. Also, the best story will receive a bonus from the publisher.

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