Thursday, February 21, 2008

Agent Insight

I was recently invited to give a presentation at the the Greensboro campus of the University of North Carolina about publishing science fiction and fantasy. I have to admit, the idea of a university asking me to come in and talk about SF was a pleasant surprise; far too often academics don't take our genre seriously. So I obviously wanted to make a good impression and as I started to prepare, one of the things I did to get good, current information was email Jenny Rappaport, a literary agent with the Lori Perkins agency, and ask her what trends she saw developing with science fiction and fantasy novels. She replied with this, which I thought interesting enough to share with you:

Hi Edmund,

It's really interesting that you ask about this, since I've been having a series of running discussions with Lori Perkins about this. Basically, I think there's an overall trend in publishing right now that's based on the lagging economy; if you compare the number of deals being posted on Publisher's Marketplace now, to the number of deals being posted last summer, they've pretty much been cut in half. This doesn't necessarily mean publishers aren't buying as many books, but it could mean that they're buying them for less money, and thus the agents aren't posting the "nice" deals as often. I don't think the industry has been drastically affected by the economy yet, but I think that if we do slip into a recession, you're going to see that reflected.

In terms of sf/f, I've heard a couple of things floating around. One editor is looking for an urban fantasy, a la KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, with a male protagonist. Another is still looking for sexy vampire and werewolf stories. Overall, I think the trends are definitely going more towards urban fantasy at the moment, particularly because it has such crossover appeal with paranormal romance. And although I'm not sure the publishers are taking this into account, romance and women's fiction sales tend to remain strong during times of economic downturn, so that may be another reason urban fantasies are doing well. Epic fantasies are having more difficulty selling, even when I've felt the books aren't really epic in nature; if the publisher can put that label on it, it's making it harder for the editor to buy it, even if they like the book.

Will any of this change? I think it's cyclical, and that it will eventually swing back around again. I've only talked about fantasy, but science fiction is still being bought and read--just at a much lower consumption rate than fantasy novels. Sci-fi seems to be doing well in terms of military/espionage books, as well as ones that trend in the utter opposite direction, and are uber-intellectual (think Charlie Stross; at least, he seems intellectual to me).

Anyway, I hope this helps you!


Monday, February 18, 2008

More Free Stories

On February 1st we made two of IGMS's early stories available for free. Now two more stories, "Xoco's Fire" by Oliver Dale (from issue 3) and "Tabloid Reporter To The Stars" by Eric James Stone (from issue 4, and also to be featured in the upcoming IGMS anthology (next August)), are now also available at no charge. Just go the those issue's respective table of contents and enjoy!

We're also only about five weeks away from issue 8, which will be our first themed issue. More on that shortly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost Soul – by Marie Brennan

Sometimes you write the wrong story first.

A while back, I was working on a story set in Tir Diamh called "Returning to the Nest." It was about a minstrel named Tirean going back to her old master Decebhin, whom she had left years before, and having an argument with him about different kinds of music, and the role they play in people's lives. Nice idea, but the story was unfortunately preachy; I submitted it for a while and then trunked it.

But out of that was born "Lost Soul." I wrote it three months after "Returning to the Nest," because I started thinking about what happened to Tirean in between running away from Decebhin and going back. Music means a lot to me; I learned to play piano at the age of six, and French horn when I was eleven. I know that incredible energy you get when a piece comes together, when everything's careening along and you wonder how it isn't falling apart. It really is a kind of magic. And somewhere between her departure and her return, Tirean found that magic. I was curious as to how.

Unsurprisingly, this story has a soundtrack. The five-beat court waltz wasn't anything specific, but the notion of having such a form came out of pieces like "Mars, the Bringer of War" by Gustav Holst and those parts of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ, Superstar that are in 5/4. (It's an odd meter, and one I quite like.) "Flower Face" is essentially a stand-in for "Dulaman," a traditional Irish Gaelic song about talking seaweed. But the most important song, the one I had in mind the characters played "Stone the Crows," comes from the Green Linnet collection Playing with Fire: Contemporary Celtic Instrumentals. Wolfstone has a track on there called "Gillies: The Sleeping Tuna/The Noose and the Gillies," the second half of which is the closest I can come in real life to what the group is playing in my mind.

"Lost Soul" fits into a bigger picture, though, than just a trunked sister story that will never see the light of day. Tir Diamh is part of a broader setting called the Nine Lands, that I created years ago, as an exercise in building a whole world -- that is to say, different countries, each with its own language, religion, clothing, governmental system, cuisine and so forth. For a while I was on a kick of writing stories set in different corners of that world, as a means of exploring it. Some of those stories have been published; others may be someday; a few have been permanently retired.

I'm working on different things these days -- most notably a historical fantasy series that will be eating my brain for the foreseeable future -- but the Nine Lands project is a long-term one for me. I hope to be still playing with it decades from now, because the whole point is to have a world big enough that I can always find something new to do there. And if that happens, you'll see Tirean again -- and Andris, and Ennike -- and yes, you'll get to see Tirean at the satire festival.

Because you know she's going there someday, and something interesting will happen when she does.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Free IGMS Stories

Below is a letter that just went out to our e-mailing list. Apologies if it's something you've already seen. We're making some of our stories free for everyone to read so that people will have an idea of the kinds of things we publish and I thought you all might be interested. And I'd like or as many people as possible to know about this, so feel free to copy and paste my letter anywhere you think appropriate.

To Readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy everywhere,

When you have something great, you want everyone to know. So you tell people about it. You share it. You pass it along to friends everywhere. Well, that’s what we’re doing with InterGalactic Medicine Show. We want to make sure everyone has had a chance to check out what we’re doing, so we’re offering up a sampling of our stories – for free.

During the month of February we are going to make one story from each of our first four issues available at no charge. Two stories will be set free on February 1st, and two more on February 15th. Just visit and explore the table of contents; the free stories will be clearly marked.

Issue one’s free story will be “Trill and The Beanstalk” by Edmund R. Schubert, issue two’s will be “Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card (from his Alvin Maker series), issue three’s “Xoco’s Fire” by Oliver Dale, and issue four’s “Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” by Eric James Stone. Each story is fully illustrated by artists who were commissioned to create artwork to accompany that tale -- as is every story published in IGMS.

“Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” will also be featured in the upcoming InterGalactic Medicine Show anthology from Tor, which will be out this August (we wanted you to get a sneak peek of the anthology, too). However, the other three stories aren’t available anywhere except the online version of IGMS.

It’s really quite simple. Great stories. Custom illustrations. Free. We’re pleased with and proud of the magazine we’re publishing; now we’re passing it along to our friends and telling them about it. We hope you’ll enjoy it and do the same.

Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show