Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Something is terribly wrong with Edmund. It’s a well known fact that I can’t sell a short story to save my life. Well. Known. Fact! And then Edmund goes and buys “For Want of Chocolate” putting me in this weird place where I have to stop saying that I’ve never sold a short story. Flat out cruelty. That’s what it is. And from a certain point of view cruelty is what the short story is all about.
Usually, I’m not a short story guy. Write a novel? Oh, yeah. For a short story, though, an idea has to explode into my head fully formed… and in general, I have to finish the thing in a week or it transforms into a novel. Take “For Want of Chocolate.” FWoC started as a blog post about how the vampires in my Void City series can’t eat and how that has driven them to participate in a sort of voyeuristic eating where they make humans dine on what they, the vampires, crave but cannot have. At the end of the post, I asked readers what food they’d miss the most if they became a vampire. Chocolate won hands down… which, given that I don’t really like chocolate, intrigued me.
Around the same time, I was invited to do a reading (I won’t say where) and *after* I accepted, the person in charge asked if I would please make sure to keep it clean. We’ve since laughed about it, but it seemed like a very odd (almost cruel) request at the time. My first novel, Staked, was the only book I had out, and to be frank, the main character is a veteran who runs a strip club and his language is… peppery at best. So, the week before the reading, I wrote the first draft of “For Want of Chocolate” as a vehicle for introducing the way my vampires work, with a fair dose of the humor folks have come (hopefully) to expect from the novels, but without the colorful expletives.
Obviously, the story became more than that… the characters became real and made their own choices and decisions, which is what I’m always shooting for when I write.
Haley, the main character in “For Want of Chocolate” is a newly turned vampire coming to the realization that she can’t eat chocolate anymore. Having her realize that simple fact while standing in front of a Godiva store is my little jab at the chocolate lovers out there and an attempt to awaken in chocolate lovers that craving which never completely goes away. The first time I read the story, people went out and bought chocolate. The second time I read it (at a convention) it was as part of a group reading and two of my fellow authors threatened to kill me if I ever again read the story in their presence when no chocolate was available… threats which made me glow inside, because that is exactly the reaction I wanted. Could the guy who doesn’t really like chocolate make people who do like it crave it? It worked on Edmund. Hopefully, it will work on you, too… and if all works as planned, you won’t have any chocolate at hand either.
If you enjoy “For Want of Chocolate,” you can check out more tales of Void City in Staked and its sequel ReVamped. A third book in the series and a proposal for a fourth are on my editor’s desk, so hopefully you won’t have long to wait for those either. If I have my way, Haley will have her own novel eventually too, in which the lack of chocolate will be the least of her worries.
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"For Want of Chocolate" by J.F. Lewis is available now in issue 14 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I was stuck in a short story I was working on; so much so that I decided I needed to leave it for a while, give it a break. But it was the same with everything I had on the go. I’d open a file, stare at a story and the story would stare back, but that was it. I was stuck.
A change, I decided, was in order. I needed something new to work on, just for an afternoon, but I didn’t have any ideas for new projects either. Having been recently introduced to the concept of random plot generators I thought, I’ll have some fun, fool around, and then get back to work. So I found a website with a random plot generator and this is what it gave me: “The theme of this story: allegorical action. The main character: focused pedlar. The start of the story: reconciliation. The end of the story: revelation.”
Allegorical action didn’t interest me but reconciliation and revelation are loaded words, rich with connotations. The pedlar came easily—I’m fascinated by vagrant lifestyles and their hardships, and a suffering character always intrigues me. For reconciliation I grabbed the first thought that came to hand: the pedlar had an estranged son.
I began to write as the pedlar walked up to his son’s hut; a snake happened to slither past, just minding its own business and not intending to be part of any story at all. Then father met son and the pedlar began to speak backwards.
I was shocked.
Stories, I know, come from our subconscious, which always knows what it’s doing, but I often wish it would let the rest of my brain in on the process.
I wrote through to the end of their dialogue but then, because I really didn’t know what I was doing, the story stopped. I had had my fun and went back to my other projects. But there was something about the pedlar that intrigued me, something that kept me thinking about him and mulling over his story. He was a character I wanted to spend more time with.
So, after many months, I pulled the story out again and this time sat down in earnest to find out why the pedlar was looking for his son, why he was cursed, and why snakes kept turning up when I kept trying to get rid of them. The result is “Shadow of Turning.”
"Shadow of Turning" by Joan Savage is available now in issue 14 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
Monday, September 21, 2009
"On Horizon's Shores" actually started as an earth-based story. I wanted to write something in the future, in a world where global warming had made the sea levels rise drastically, and where the depleted stocks of petrol were replaced with fuel culled from huge algae fields.
I ran into a snag at the research stage, though.
It turns out that the Earth is incredibly hard to flood: even supposing that both ice caps melt, the global sea level rise would be a few dozen meters--not really a spectacular flood, but more a gnawing-away of the coastlines. To be fair, it would still have meant catastrophes (there are, naturally, a lot of cities on the seashores), but nothing on the scale I wanted for the story. I brainstormed it a bit with my boyfriend, who doubles as my science consultant, but couldn't find any way to flood Earth that would feel realistic to me.
So I moved the story in space: the sea became that of another planet, and the protagonists expatriate Earthmen. Because I still wanted them to have been influenced by the sea-level rise, I had Thi Loan come from one of the flooded regions (the Mekong Delta, which is very low-altitude and would be one of the first massive tracts of land to go), and her husband Alex come from one of the safer areas--thus making him unable to understand in a visceral way the trauma of losing your home.
The aliens came from another story I had been sitting on for a while, one about language and how different physiologies would have different ways of expressing themselves. We use our vocal chords because that's the most practical way of communicating we have, but what if we could use some other signals, like the colours of our ruffs, or pheromones? That would imply a radically different way of thinking--in fact, it would make translation (already a chancy exercise from one human language to another) impossibly hard. In order to translate, you'd have to become the aliens.
The idea spoke a lot to me, as I'm always fascinated by people who have to stand on a boundary of some kind--most probably because as a half-French, half-Vietnamese who writes in English, I'm already standing on a lot of boundaries myself.
And, of course, you'll have spotted the trouble by now: I'd been piling up a lot of things in this story (and that's not even counting the galactic background, which has India spearheading the space race and Asia gradually ascending to take the place of the Western World).
When the time came to actually write an opening, I was juggling too many balls. The first attempt in media res left my first reader hopelessly baffled (I could tell by the number of question marks he left in the margins of the draft); the second attempt was good old-fashioned infodumping, several pages' worth of it. Fortunately, Edmund is a dab hand with the prose scissors: he cut away just the right amount of the opening, and devoted some of his awesome editing skills to the rest of my story until it all flowed much more smoothly.
"On Horizon's Shores" by Aliette deBodard is available now in issue 14 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
To learn more about the author, visit her website at: http://aliettedebodard.com/
Friday, September 18, 2009
IGMS - Issue 14
On Horizon's Shores - by Aliette deBodard
Judgment of Sword and Souls - by Saladin Ahmed
Shadow of Turning - by Joan Savage
For Want of Chocolate - by J.F. Lewis
Hunting Lodge - by Jon Crusoe
Bonus Audio - Prestidigitation - by Philip Powell, adapted by Tom Barker
continuing the serialization of OSC's collection of interlinked short stories with "Fringe," from Folk of the Fringe
and Darrell Schweitzer's interview with Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson about their latest release in the Dune saga
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
WSFA Small Press Award – Finalists for 2009
The Washington Science Fiction Association is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2009 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. The WSFA is based in Washington DC and covers the capitol, as well as the greater Baltimore MD metro area.
The award honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction. The award showcases the best original short fiction (up to 17,500 words) published by small presses in the previous year (2008). An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author (and publisher) hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story.
The winner is chosen by the members of the Washington Science Fiction Association (www.wsfa.org) and will be presented at their annual convention, Capclave (www.capclave.org), held this year on October 16-18th in Rockville, Maryland.
Listed alphabetically (by story title), the seven finalists are:
“Drinking Problem” by K.D. Wentworth, published in Seeds of Change, edited by John Joseph Adams, Prime Books (August, 2008).
“Hard Rain at the Fortean Café” by Lavie Tidhar, published in issue 14 of Aeon Speculative Fiction Magazine, edited by Bridget McKenna.
“His Last Arrow” by Christopher Sequeira, published in Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Jeff Campbell and Charles Prepolec, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, (October, 2008).
“Silent as Dust” by James Maxey, published in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert, Hatrack Publishing (January, 2008).
“Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, published in Seeds of Change, edited by John Joseph Adams, Prime Books (August, 2008)
“The Absence of Stars: Part 1” by Greg Siewert, published in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert, Hatrack Publishing (December, 2008).
“The Toy Car” by Luisa Maria Garcia Velasco, (translated from Spanish by Ian Watson) published in April 2008 edition of Aberrant Dreams, edited by Joseph W. Dickerson.
Two for IGMS is, of course, great news, but the thing I like most about this particular award is that it really is about the story. With the judges not knowing who the author is or what publication it appeared in, there's nothing left but the story. That's the way it ought to be...
Friday, September 04, 2009
By Jackie Gamber
What makes a woman consider spending the rest of her life with a man she’s never met? What makes a man think a woman could be happy with that kind of situation? Arranged marriage is a concept as old as time, and despite cultural advancements, it still goes on today, even in the U.S.
The particular germ that grew Hologram Bride for me as a writer came when I learned of the “Picture Bride” unions between Asian women and Japanese sugar plantation workers in Hawaii between 1908 and 1924. Because of immigration laws, marriages were arranged strictly by photographs. Can you imagine? They say a picture paints a thousand words, but for me, it’s still not enough of an introduction for a lifetime relationship.
But if one can define success of these unions by their population impact, then Picture Bride marriages were successful, indeed. By 1930, over 100,000 offspring were birthed. Now…if, say, in a future world setting, that sort of number meant the difference between the life of a culture and the death of it, or perhaps even a planet…could a union-by-hologram be a viable answer?
And that’s how I met Karla Jean Tremont, a strong-willed main character who finds the concept of interplanetary breeding “disgusting”; yet she’s forced there by a lack of options. And on the other side of things, there’s Ragin Dar’el, her husband-to-be and native to the planet Reisas, who has his own concerns about the arrangement.
Reisas has its complicated history of political and social ups and downs, and is in the throes of trying to recover from devastating failures. I attempted to do away with the “Star Trek” version of a planet, where all citizens wear the same haircut, buy from the same tailor, and hold the same sort of technology-based occupation. Rather, Reisas is technologically advanced, but has become aware of the harm that technology has caused. As a result, it’s a curious mixture of the primitive and advanced. And its citizens are intelligent, educated, sensitive—in varying degrees.
In fact, it may be Karla herself, a centuries-forward human, who is the least evolved here. She’s young and stubborn, and her ignorance of foreign culture makes her seem downright rude. She’s too willing to believe in stereotypes, too quick to judge…and yet her anger gives her an edge she’s certainly going to need.
In Hologram Bride, Karla lands on Reisas against her will; the last thing on her mind is becoming a solution to a planet’s survival. But in the end, she may just be the one for the job.
"Hologram Bride - Part 2" by Jackie Gamber is available now in issue 13 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show. Part 1 appears in issue 12.