Tag Archives: speculative

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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Writing: SF Canada

SF Canada is the professional writers group for Canada, for speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) http://news.sfcanada.ca/ It is similar to but different from SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) which is the grand mal professional organization. SFWA has many more members and therefore money, clout and able to legally aid their members.

SF Canada allows membership to Canadian writers who have sold some works, but does not have as rigorous requirements as SFWA. Therefore, SFC represents Canadian speculative writers who may and may not yet have achieved a full professional status. It’s also there to foster community and support, as well as to promote the publishing and sale of works by members. It’s small, it’s Canadian.

The board of directors, like most boards is volunteer run. I have become the president as of Saturday. It’s not a lot of work but I’m hoping we can continue to foster community and bring more notice to our writers and our genre. We’ll see how that shapes up but with the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary this year, it’s a good opportunity to feature our local (Canadian) talent.

There has been discussion in the past that Canadian fiction of any genre has a different flavour than that of US authors. I don’t know if it’s true in speculative fiction but books have been written about how the landscape, in one way or another, features in many Canadian books and films. Perhaps there’ll be a larger discussion of whether aliens created by Canadians are more Canadian than alien. We’ll see.

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Bookworms 2: Worlds of What-if

Although my family was fairly middle class, my siblings (as well as me) were avid readers. My older brother liked to read about the Napoleonic wars, Roman civilization and who knows what else. He later became a politician in Alberta. He also read science fiction and when he moved out I discovered various SF novels lying around, such as Frank Herbert’s Green Brain. There were other Herbert and Heinlein books and I devoured what I could.

But prior to those pure SF authors, I had fed on fairy tales and Norse myths at a younger age. I remember reading The Water Babies, and one book that illusrated the myths in vivid illustrations. I don’t have that book but I found one by the same author/artists (?–I will fill in the name later) a few years ago in the US and bought it. It was on Greek myths so I added it to my collection: another recovery of the magic from my childhood.

I also read many Nancy Drew mysteries, left by my older sister. My mother bought me new ones and I spent enough nights with the flashlight under the cover reading. There were a few Hardy Boys lying about and I read all of those too, plus some historical and/or romantic fiction that my mother had read.

The true transitional time from fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables to SF and fantasy was when I was about twelve. I had read some Edgar Allan Poe and then went on to Ray Bradbury, and from there straight on to SF & fantasy. I remember having to make a newspaper in grade 7 with other classmates. Our group’s had a decidedly speculative element and I wrote articles or drew pictures of aliens.

Today, my siblings still read voraciously. My older brother still reads about politics and SF, when he has time. My younger brother reads more fantasy. My sister reads true crime and mystery novels. I read SF, fantasy, mystery, historical and literary, from time to time. My mother reads mostly on politics when she reads. She falls asleep more now. I’m not sure what else they read but maybe I’ll poll them.

I guess my fascination with the worlds of what-if began at an early age.

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