Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 24

Coming of age

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Asimov's Science Fiction, June 1983
The first science fiction magazine I ever saw, read, subscribed to, submitted to, and was rejected by was Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Back in 1983, when I was almost 16 years old, my father brought a copy home for me after it became clear to him that writing SF was just simply going to be something that I did, and there would be no use complaining about it. He found the magazine at a 7-Eleven and showed me the address for fiction submissions. It was a generous gesture on his part, especially since a few years earlier he had forbidden me to read the evil stuff.

That first issue had a Fred Pohl story on the cover, I recall, "The High Test." I read the magazine greedily, then called the phone number inside to subscribe. The woman on the other side of the line wanted me to give a credit card number. It took some doing, but I convinced her to enter my subscription without one, and to bill me later. I'm not sure why I didn't just mail in a subscription card. I think I was just too excited to get my subscription started.

Before long, I had my first rejection in hand—a photocopied sheet of possible reasons my story was not of use to Asimov's, with editor Shawna McCarthy's second-generation signature at the bottom. Crushed but undeterred, I sent in another story. Same outcome.

Every time the new issue arrived, I would read it cover to cover. Those pages are where I first read Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, James Patrick Kelly, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Kessel, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Michael Bishop, Norman Spinrad, Dan Simmons, and a host of other exemplary short fiction writers I'm forgetting now. I still have many of those issues, the ones with the stories that affected me most. "Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler is one of the first that comes to mind. More even than the novels I had long read, those stories were my first real education in the art and craft of writing science fiction.

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Apropos of a great post by [info]asphalteden, I figured I would post a brief overview of my relationship with science fiction. This was originally written as a response to his post, but I figured maybe it could stand on its own. Heck, we might even kick off a meme here!

I adore Gene Wolfe (well, his writing—I don't know him personally). I have read The Book of the New Sun three times, The Book of the Long Sun twice, and The Book of the Short Sun ... well, not yet. Despite the fact that most everything he writes goes a few inches above my head, I feel paradoxically smarter when I'm reading one of his novels, rather than dumber. I think this is because I make enough of the connections, even though I don't make them all.

The Dying Earth (the original short novel) is one of the earliest SF novels I ever read. Knocked me out. I haven't read a Jack Vance novel since, though again I intend to read all those Dying Earth novels ... someday. The first real SF story I remember reading was Asimov's "Reason," in abridged form in the Scholastic Weekly Reader. That was the hook that got me. I now own a copy of the April 1941 Astounding in which "Reason" first appeared. I am afraid to take it out of the plastic bag.

I almost always say "SF" or "science fiction." It's hard for me to say "sci-fi," but I'm learning. I think "speculative fiction" is shuck-n-jive talk.

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Tense and dangling

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Would you say the past tense of podcast—and the past participle, for that matter—is podcast or podcasted? My vote is podcast.

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ShunnCast #9

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The ninth episode of ShunnCast is now available to subscribers. Or, to readers of this blog, directly from this URL:

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=9

The download is 12.9 Mb.

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I'm not sure how Tangent gets its hands on Asimov's so early (the electronic version, maybe?), but they already have a review of the April/May double issue up. Besides mine, also very well-reviewed are stories by Paul Melko and Greg van Eekhout, fellow Blue Heaven 2006 attendees. Bilmo humbly exhorts you to check it out.

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The role of a new machine

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As promised last week, my review of Heddatron is now live at SciFi.com:

http://www.scifi.com/sfw/screen/sfw12238.html

Despite the review, an evening spent at Heddatron is not without its compensations (one of the chief being the theater's proximity to Lupe's East L.A. Kitchen, which might be the city's best little Mexican joint). Despite my dissatisfaction, I smiled and laughed all the way through, and Laura thoroughly enjoyed the show.

But those damn robots! Agh!

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Bearding the lines

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I am, by the way, writing a novel. I have 82 pages plus an outline but that needs to swell to at least 200 by March 15, when that much is due to the invitational novel workshop I'll be attending in May. Which of course is why I'm putzing around on LJ.

Anyway, I'm growing a beard and not shaving it off until the first draft is complete. Don't worry! That doesn't mean I won't keep it trimmed! ZZ Top look cool, but I won't be ready for a beard like that until I'm in my sixties.

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Onomatokœia

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The word awkward is rather awkward to type.

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Frey in hell

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Yes, we all seem to be more up in arms today about James Frey and his partially made-up memoir than we are about domestic wiretaps, freedom of information in China, and terrorists taking power in Palestine. And it makes sense to me why.

Countless hordes of people feel like they were lied to by James Frey. The reason this is more upsetting than being lied to by the President and his cronies—which happens and continues to happen on a regular basis—is that we're used to being lied to by politicians. We may be appalled by it, but we take this as expected behavior.

Writers, however, are a breed apart. Yes, their main job is to entertain us, but when they're doing their job well they are saying something true to us about what it means to be human, something that resonates in us, the readers, to our very cores. Thousands upon thousands of people felt that James Frey had told them something very resonant and true about their own lives, only now it's come out that what he said was, in many ways, made up. Of course people are upset. Of course they feel betrayed. On some level it must feel like finding out your spouse has been leading a double life.

I feel betrayed as well, but not because I read and believed A Million Little Pieces. I have not read the book. I feel betrayed as a writer on behalf of my profession. James Frey's responsibility as a writer was to tell the truth, and he failed to live up to that responsibility.

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