Whence Writers of the Future? A Proposal…

So this is something I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks.  This post is more me thinking aloud, in a sense, because I don’t think I have any firm conclusions or answers.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve submitted twice now to the Writers of the Future contest – going so far as to earn an Honorable Mention on the first of those two submissions.  I was and am pretty proud of that accomplishment. 

Writers of the Future, as you no doubt may be aware, is basically the premiere, most high-profile writing contest for new, upcoming, unpublished and undiscovered SF&F authors.  The contest is only open to writers who have published 3 or fewer short stories, and who have not published a work of novelette-length or greater.  The prizes are pretty lavish: 3 quarterly winners each year (with first, second, and third prizes of $1,000, $750, and $500, which alone are already pretty generous awards) – and from this pool of 12 quarterly winners a single annual winner is selected, with an additional cash prize of $5,000.  That’s a pretty incredible prize.  Heck, that’s the same as the median advance for a first-time SF&F novel contract: meaning that Writers of the Future winners are getting paid as well for their short stories as many first-time SF&F novel authors are getting paid for an entire book.  On top of this, the 12 quarterly winners are whisked off to a week-long workshop where they’ll learn from and hobnob with the various titans of the industry: established and recognized authors of SF&F.

All of this is unquestionably wonderful.  And because it’s open only to aspiring authors who have not yet made it, the contest makes for a great place to test one’s skill as a writer.  The entries are judged blind, so the only things in play are the relative merits of the stories that have been submitted and the relative tastes of the judges reviewing them.  There’s no personal favoritism.  Established and recognized authors aren’t going to get the publication slot simply because of their name recognition and because name recognition sells.  So I’ve seen it as a wonderful place to let my work sink or swim largely (although not entirely, as I’ve pointed out before) on its own merits. 

But there’s another side to this story, I am beginning to learn.

I’ve long known that the Writers of the Future contest is connected to Scientology. Continue reading

Interrogating the Text #4: Jay Lake takes a “Long Walk Home”

This is a continuation of my occasional series on what I can learn on the craft of writing from reading the stories of accomplished professionals and examining and understanding my reactions.

For an explanation of what I’m attempting in this series, go here.

Today, I want to talk about a story I read recently by author Jay Lake called “A Long Walk Home“, which you can read for free at the website of Subterranean Press.  “A Long Walk Home” is the first science fictional story I’ll review and analyze for this series.  As with all the stories/novels I’ve discussed so far, I definitely enjoyed reading Jay Lake’s “A Long Walk Home”.  There were, however, some things about the story that disappointed me, which I shall get to in due course.  To follow along, you might want to go check the story out first, then hop on back here, as there will be spoilers in my analysis.

“A Long Walk Home” starts pretty strongly, as we’re introduced to protagonist Aeschylus Sforza, thereafter referred to as Ask.  The year is 2977 – the distant future – and Ask is an enhanced human.  These technological enhancements give him increased strength and durability, longevity (and presumably immortality, as we shall see), a perfect memory, and a direct neural connection to whatever information network exists in the future.  Except Ask is cut off from the network, deep underground exploring the strange and mysterious caverns on an alien planet called Redghost – a planet that has been colonized by humans and looks faintly like a far-future version of the American Frontier of yore. Continue reading

Writing Prose as Poetry

I saw an interesting post on author Jay Lake’s blog a few weeks ago in which he “recasts” some of his book’s opening lines as poetry.  He got the idea from this post by author Jim VanPelt, where VanPelt suggests this as a tool for analyzing one’s use of language on the merits of the language itself, rather than as part of a larger story-centric context.

This is a fascinating idea… and given my recent admiration,as an example, for author Catherynne Valente’s poetic style in her prose fiction, you can imagine that it appeals to me.  I’ve always fancied myself something of a poetic writer – one who revels both in alliteration and in extended metaphor.  The truth of that self-assertion is, of course, as yet untested.  And I know my work isn’t nearly so poetic as the aforementioned Valente’s work.  But is my prose writing effective, on its own, as poetry?

I’ve a few short flash-ish length pieces I’ve posted on this blog, and I thought I might play a little with them, and see what happens.  The way this works seems pretty simple: punctuation, mostly is an artifact of the prose, so you can leave that out or shift it around a bit.  Line breaks can be where ever you want them.  The words, mostly, have to be the same words in the same order.  I’ve done a few very minor edits in the examples I’ve done – which mostly consists of eliminating words that play a grammatic role but are not meaningful on a poetic level.  Admittedly, this makes the words flow slightly better in a poetic sense, so are likely to skew the results a little, but you can compare them to the original.

Also, obviously of necessity, this will likely come off mostly as non-rhyming free verse – though as poetry it may well  have its own rhythm and cadence or even a clearly identifiable poetic meter.

Here’s the opening paragraph from “Bright Hands“: Continue reading

Regarding “Taking the Rats to Riga”

So, I find I’m getting a lot of hits today from folks directed here after author Jay Lake picked up my post from yesterday – in which I reviewed The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities – in his daily Link Salad.

Which is making me feel a tad guilty, because my mention of Jay Lake’s story is one not-very-enlightening line, with respect to his specific contribution to that anthology.  I reason that a good number of those who are coming over from Jay’s link are interested in my take on his story, in particular.  So I thought it might be useful for me to say just a few more words on Jay’s story, specifically, since he was kind enough to link me.

In my review of the Cabinet, I called “Taking the Rats to Riga” a “more peculiar specimen” and, more specifically, an “artificial [exegesis] of an imaginary [work]”.  Which is only partially true, since an artistic rendition of the supposed famous painting Jay  was commenting on accompanied his story.

Overall, Jay’s story plays beautifully into the conceit and conception of the book as a whole.  It takes the mythology of Lambshead book at face value, and does an able job exploring the quixotic compulsion of the imaginary doctor to collect quixotic objects of some imperceptible import.  In that way, I feel that Jay’s contribution was a seamless part of the fabric of the book, and goes a long way toward making the book, as a whole, into something more than an anthology of stories and into a work of art.

Although Jay’s story doesn’t do much with character or plot or the traditional trappings of story and narrative, it does something a little more subtle.  I’ve talked on this blog before about my enthusiasm for “Mythopoeia” (the link goes to the first in a series of three articles I wrote on the subject).  I think an understanding of what I mean by “mythopoeia” (as opposed to what might more commonly be meant by the word) is relevant to a discussion of the Cabinet of Curiosities, because I see the Cabinet as a form or type of mythopoeia – or, more specifically, as an artifact of mythopoeia.  It weaves a world and addresses that world not through the lens of a single narrative, but through a broader and more varied historiographic and mythographic sequence.

In the Cabinet of Curiosities, for instance, we don’t see a single overarching story about the good doctor’s mythic exploits and accomplishments and adventures.  Instead, his world is hinted at subtly through the varied stories and perspectives collected in this book.  Some address the doctor’s story directly, some indirectly, and some apparently not-at-all.  And what we’re getting isn’t really just the story of Dr. Lambshead but the story of an alternate history world in which Dr. Lambshead was a luminary figure.

In that respect, what’s delightful about “Taking the Rats to Riga” is that it is a fine specimen of mythopoeic artifact (or perhaps sub-artifact?).  Within the context of the Cabinet of Curiosities, it is one of those that somewhat indirectly hints at the history and character of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead, but it’s a glimpse that feels authentic and textured.

So, if you came here hoping to read more about Jay’s story, hopefully this satisfies your curiosity a little more fully.  And thank you for reading!

Periodic Table

…No… not of elements

That would have like, what?  FourFive squares?¹

No, I’m referring to this nifty Periodic Table of Storytelling

I haven’t had time to peruse it fully, but it looks fun.  It’s a codifying table of the tropes on TVTropes.org

Nicked from a link on Jay Lake’s blog.

_________________________________

¹It’s a nerd joke. 

²Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here³

³Or here, if you prefer.