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Category Archives: Publishing

Making A Living – professional writing for speculative fiction authors

Being a professional writer is not an easy career path for most of us, according to Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi and George Ivanoff in a discussion at AussieCon4 in Melbourne.

George Ivanoff

George Ivanoff

George advised the audience that to write for a wide range of genres can help create opportunities. He said the education market can be well paid, if you have the interest and knowledge.

John Scalzi

John Scalzi

John is a freelance writer and uses his skills for both fiction and non-fiction. He added that the corporate market can be a great balance for a creative writer, especially as his creativity is “about three hours a day”. His two streams of work for Tor and Subterranean are complementary rather than “either/or”.

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow

Cory describes himself as a “freelance entrepreneur” rather than a writer, although his SF and speculative fiction is increasingly well-known and award-winning. Some advice to budding writers is that trade publishing is not profitable to many except the big stars, so a well-paid job may be a better option while a writer enjoys a part-time craft.

Piracy was considered “small-time” by Cory. The three big players – Sony, Apple and Amazon – over time will become almost universally accepted, he said, and all easier to use than torrents.

AussieCon4 was the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia, Sept 2nd-6th 2010. The panel discussions included SF, fantasy, speculative fiction, steampunk, movies, comics and fandom.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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Twitter has replaced RSS for me

Despite the great tools available for RSS feeds – especially the wonderful Netvibes (@Netvibes) – most days the bulk of my news, comments and recommendations come from Twitter.

Twitter example from Seesmic

Find the right people and/or hashtag for a topic of interest and a continual stream of interesting, unexpected, timely and, quite often, fun information arrives on your Twitter client. And speaking of Twitter client, there is nothing better than Seesmic Desktop (@Seesmic) for my purposes. While we’re at it, see the example at right. The text is:

@Beathhigh Just read first issue of new Alan Moore comic, Neonomicon. Hellish good. No 1 son, who knows of such things, says it’s v Lovecraft.

UPDATE: after the gentle nudge from @freddymini I should have mentioned I still love and use Netvibes for everything else like Tumblr, podcasts, weather, excellent blogs that don’t use Twitter, etc, etc.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2010 in Publishing, Social Media

 

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We’re All Connected, All The Time – blogs and social networking in the world of YA spec fic

This was my favourite panel discussion of AussieCon4. There were plenty of other interesting and worthy ones, but Bec Kavanagh, Lili Wlkinson, Megan Burke and Mif Farquharson brought enthusiasm and, in some senses, hope to the book publishing industry.

Lili Wilkinson

Lili Wilkinson

Lili explained that the participatory opportunities of social media are being well used by the Young Adult audience, whether readers, writers or publishers. One example was the inky awards with a judging panel of 2 adults and 4 teens (details here http://bit.ly/9tT2GR) and a short list that included 5 Australian alongside 5 international works.

The way reading had become both creative and participatory impressed Lili and she noticed this was a growing trend.

Bec Kavanagh

Bec Kavanagh

Bec added that reading now has the option to be a community activity, with readers able to contact each other and also authors. This “real time” access via Twitter and Skype, etc, was seen as valuable for YA teen readers and also as an instant feedback mechanism for writers and publishers.

There is now a growing “virtual community” for genres, authors and reading clubs, and Bec mentioned the use of Q&A sessions with remote authors via Skype, plus the use of competitions to add numbers and engagement in a direct and friendly way.

Megan Burke

Megan Burke

Megan said online networks have helped create many strong and growing book-focussed and author-focussed communities.

SF fandom and fanzines were capable of similar roles in the “print era” but they lacked the attractions of almost-instant opportunities to discuss and ask questions in real time, right when a teen reader wanted to engage.

The panel mentioned a number of authors and active fans of the YA genre, including the example of Neil Gaiman who writes across many genres and is also very active with blogs and other social media.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, YA

 

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Cyberpunk and the City – the view from AussieCon4

Commentary with great validity from the 2010 WorldCon echoed many traditional science fiction themes. A panel discussion with Marianne de Pierres, Charles Stross, Russell Blackford and Gord Sellar looked at genres and modern examples.

Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres

Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres`

Although influenced by cyberpunk but suggesting they may not be cyberpunk writers, both Charles and Gord agreed with Marianne on a basic point of view – we are living in a world that is exhibiting phobias brought on by future shock. Examples from the panel and the floor included the seeking of power and the resulting repression and “police security” culture in some countries, and even some states or regions within countries.

Clarkesworld by Gord Sellar

Clarkesworld by Gord Sellar

The “city as a character” was examined, including Gotham and the writing of Dickens, while it was also suggested cities have not achieved their full promise yet. The city need not necessarily be dystopian or bleak although the rise of China and Japan offered potential storylines of cities with vast populations and the impacts on the citizens.

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

The panel also suggested sub-genres, for example biopunk, and books like Shockwave Rider were essentially concerned with people in extreme future shock. The discussion included examples of post-cyberpunk – which has changed organically – but the overview suggested the underlying aesthetic from William Gibson still exists. The themes of fundamentalism, whether political, cultural or religious, inform many steampunk novels, short stories and the related sub-genres.

One stream of discussion wondered if William Gibson and other early writers of cyberpunk were using a personna building methodology and so “punk” is about the writers rather than an integral element of their stories.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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Pitching The Novel – advice from AussieCon4

An important stream of panels at the 2010 WorldCon concentrated on the publishing issues facing authors and artists, including John Berlyne, Simon Spanton, Rowena Cory Daniels and Ginjer Buchanan speaking on how to approach agents and publishers.

The blogs of agents and publishers – plus the Twitter feeds from agents, authors, publishers and editors – are full of advice for new and established writers. Nonetheless the panel gathered together most of the important issues and techniques that now assist authors in their quest for publication.

Rowena Cory Daniels

Rowena Cory Daniels

Rowena is an author and also runs workshops on pitching. Her advice summarised many key requirements of how to approach getting a novel published:

  • define the genre you’re working in
  • create a brief “elevator pitch” and polish it til it shines
  • develop a powerful synopsis
  • determine the market strengths of your work
  • undertake extensive research into agents and publishers

Simon is deputy publishing director at Orion and Gollancz and added some pointers:

  • the novel must be finished
  • never under-value the research into agents and publishers
  • don’t rely solely on pitching
  • use the web or workshops to get your name and work known

John from Zeno literary agency added:

  • the quality of the writer is exhibited in the pitch although that may not accurately reflect the quality of the novel
  • the quality of submission needs to be professional rather than clever
Ginjer Buchanan

Ginjer Buchanan

Ginger is editor in chief at Ace, alongside many other key responsibilities in the publishing empire she inhabits. The advice from the other panelists was underlined repeatedly by Ginjer with a number of humorous anecdotes from her experience.

Ginjer added that pitching to an editor is the same protocol as pitching to an agent, and please desist with bold, underlined, red, green and/or blue “emphasis” (or indeed any other “tricks”) in your pitch documents. While mildly amusing for a moment, such devices do not create a professional impression and may ruin the publication hopes of a well-written novel.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Writing

 

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The Steampunk Playground Within Speculative Fiction

The issues of “what is” and “where is” could be more important to steampunk than the conventional “what if” of science fiction themes, according to Richard Harland, John Berlyne and Jay Lake.

John Berlyne

John Berlyne

In fact, Jay considers steampunk is fantasy rather than science fiction, while Richard pondered whether steampunk is a style rather than a literary movement in itself. Nonetheless the panel said style can continue as a standard and separated steampunk from being just “a fashion” which could be seen as a date-related fad.

Richard Harland

Richard Harland

The panel considered steampunk today is historical and Victorian to a large extent, whereas Wells and Verne were writing contemporaneously so, in a sense, not steampunk although their themes and concerns inform the genre today. The panel also viewed medieval and Dickens and gothic within the style, while suggesting Dune as an archetypal steampunk movie.

Although the writing style exists in its own right, games, costumes, movies and art probably return more revenue than books.

Steampunk requires strength in the characters and in the storylines so it appeals to the eccentric and the non-sterile mindset, and John added that it has a link to raw invention, making it pre-technology to an extent.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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The Eternal Border, a discussion on taboos at the 2010 WorldCon

An AussieCon4 panel including Deborah Biancotti, Richard Harland, Jason Nahrung and Catherynne Valente took a starting point that dark fantasy can push at boundaries and examine various taboos.

Deborah Biancotti

Deborah Biancotti

Deb is a Sydney-based writer, psychology graduate and a dark fantasist who likes “playing with” the taboo of death. She also notices the differences within cultures and how there are many alternatives to a Christian or “western” approach.

Catherynne Valente

Catherynne Valente

Cat has written over a dozen novels and won many awards for her challenging work. She cites Lolita as an example of a work that is so powerful because it is so beautifully written. The skill of Nabokov’s story can be seen as shocking because it implicates the reader. Writing about subjects a particular culture is afraid of can lead to some backlash. Cat mentioned that Americans and Italians, particularly, are not happy if Christian teachings are treated in stories as mythology rather than fact.

Richard’s prolific output includes Steampunk and he mentioned stories with a macabre emphasis, for example involving body parts and also torture, can now be accepted by librarians.

Richard Harland

Richard Harland

Of note was the thought that there are no longer any taboos in comedy or horror, and perhaps speculative fiction and fantasy have reached similar acceptance when dealing with many taboos.

Cat found, however, that what appeared to be autobiographical content distressed a small but nonetheless significant percentage of her audience. Polysexual themes are “accepted in spec fic” however, she said, and suggested that is why there are many poly people in that community.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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