Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brutal Interlude—Wayne Wightman

The title was the first piece to arrive. I have lists of titles in my notebooks and this one was entered decades ago, just in case. I am a thrifty person.

In the eighties I wrote an unfinished novel, Starkiller, which Cover Illustration - Brutal Interlude (small)x involved Sylvia Romilar (who, except for one line of dialogue, was in a coma the whole novel), Walter Roscoe, and Sylvia’s slinky sister, Wanda Paloma.

After losing interest in writing sf during the ‘90s and writing unseen screenplays in the ‘00s, I quit altogether. Then—

I moved to Oregon, where I have a quiet life. In 2007 I thought I’d give writing another shot, to see if it would be fun again. But with a different program:

1.) In the past, I would decide what I wanted to say and then put it in language accessible to 12-yr-olds. I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I had just been reading Watt by Samuel Beckett, Tristram Shandy and a few Jane Austen novels, and I liked what I read. So if I want to combine a lacy Austenian 80-word sentence with Beckett’s OCD, splattered with Hunter Thompson’s vocabulary, try and stop me.

2.) In my stories, stupid people should dance faster, because if they act up they are going to be punished, because they are most dangerous.

3.) I decided to write about life as we secretly know that it is: good people do bad things, bad people do good things, and some people are nasty and guilty and have fabulous lives.

5) I was going to characterize my people by showing or implying these contradictions and the complications they cause. For example:

“The next time I see you, if I'm different,

I want you to pretend you know me, even if you don't.”

“I will.”

“Tell me you'll never lie to me.”

“I won't.”

I recognize that this may be cryptic to literalists, pre-teens, and sociopaths.

I fully fully understand the ancient suspicion that muses whisper into the writer’s ear. I wrote the story, of course, but the cauldron that some of those things crawled out of is unfamiliar to me. After a few months’ separation from it, I read the story again and I had this creepy little question pop into mind: “What kind of person would write this?”

Grab-it music? “Enema Mama”? That whole tooth thing with Garith Glone and his obsession with hands? The doctor’s medical question to Lance on the back stairs? People being manually dismembered?

I don’t know where those come from. Twitchy amygdala?

Things You Wouldn’t Know Otherwise

  • The Hotel Minérve is a real place in Paris where I’ve stayed a few times. In fact, get this: One morning I was in the lobby, and outside on the street was someone who looked like and then turned out to be the actual John Brunner. We had a few beers and a nice talk that evening. (I have always admired his title The Atlantic Abomination.)

  • The movies Sylvia made, “Instruments of Torture and Delight” and “Triumph of the Flesh” are actual stories. “Adaptogenia” was in F&SF a year ago. (And when will a movie be made where Cate Blanchett plays all the parts?)

  • “Walter’s Used Pets” seemed like an odd, funny idea at first. Then it seemed completely reasonable and I wondered why I hadn’t ever heard of anyone having a used pet shop.

  • Diaz (a fellow contestant in the story) was an actual life-long friend — bipolar, hilarious, tedious, and inspirational. Currently deceased. He introduced me to weed.

  • “Brutal Interlude” was one of those stories that opened up enough possibilities for a novel, so it was difficult to cut it to its current length. I left out the part where classic lit was rewritten in degraded form (Crime and Punishment: Russian motorcycle gangs; Moby Dick: nevermind...you’d have bad dreams).

  • But I did not cut out that vile taxi ride. That was a “hello” to those of you out there who occasionally have those life-shouldn't-be-like-this moments. Happens to fine people daily. In the worst cases, to quote Diaz, “You maintain the plod, man, and wait for the light.”

  • Finally, I also love Sylvia Romilar.

--Wayne Wightman

Monday, March 21, 2011

Breakout-Edmund Schubert

Several years ago the orbits of Earth and Mars came closer together than they had been in almost 60,000 years, and the planet was actually visible to the naked eye as a very large orange star. Viewed through an average telescope, it appeared about the same size the full moon does to the naked eye. There was a good deal of attention paid to it by the mainstream press, and one of the articles I read (in a magazine whose name I’ve long-since forgotten) was a piece about a professor teaching astronomy classes in a penitentiary, and they were studying the Red Planet.

As interesting as it was that Mars was so close, the idea of a professor studying it along with inmates was too compelling to ignore, and I wrote “Breakout” in one rapid burst. I do my best work when I write the first draft quickly , and was pleased with the way it turned out--except for one thing: In the first draft, the main character gets taken away in the end by aliens. Given the way the rest of the story went, I thought that was way too obvious. My favorite kinds of endings are those that make perfect sense, yet at the same time take the reader by surprise. So after a little thinking/tweaking, I hit upon an ending I thought was better (I’m not going to give any spoilers here; you’ll have to read the story yourself), and I showed my results to Orson to see if he had any suggestions. He liked the story and his sole piece of advice was to send it to Stan Schmidt at Analog. He said Stan liked stories with a sense of humor, and my quirky little “Breakout” (it’s only about 3,500 words long) would appeal to him. Stan did like “Breakout,” but not quite enough to buy it. He sent a very nice personal note, but that was as far as it went.

The next place I submitted it to was Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. From time to time I also write mysteries, and since “Breakout” was set in a prison, I thought it might appeal to them. Actually, I thought that the SF twist might make the story more appealing to them than a straight-up mystery, and although it took them three times longer to reject it than anything else I had ever sent them before, in the end rejection is what came.

I still felt good about the story, but at that point a lot of other things came up that demanded my attention and I all but forgot about quirky little “Breakout”…

…until a few months ago, when David Lubar emailed us at IGMS to say that he needed skip one turn in his usual rotation. Orson had arranged with David several years ago to write a short YA story (or two) for every issue of IGMS, and even though we switched that arrangement up when we moved from a quarterly to a bimonthly production schedule (at that point he started writing stories for us in every other issue), it’s still understandable that sometimes even that could be too much.

So what were we going to put in the magazine to replace David’s story? The issues when he’s not normally scheduled to appear are the issues when we have our audio features, but we didn’t have anything in hand that was short enough to fill that bill (audio pieces, for a variety of reason, rarely run over 4,000 words, and I prefer for them to be even shorter than that).

That’s when I remembered “Breakout.”

Normally I’m very hesitant to even suggest running my own material in IGMS. In fact, I’ve only ever done it once before (under very similar circumstances), and even then, I only suggest it; I never unilaterally decide. So I sent “Breakout” to our managing editor, Kathleen Bellamy, and to Uncle Orson, and with their unanimous consent, the story was then forwarded to Stuart Jaffe to record as an audio feature. Stuart did a great job, and frankly I was tickled to have another audio piece to add to my library. Publication is always welcome, but there’s something about having a story performed by a voice actor that really appeals to me, and “Breakout” is the third of my stories to receive the audio ‘treatment.’

The moral of this story? Well, let me put it this way: Mars may need women, but IGMS needs short science fiction and fantasy stories under 4,000 words. If you’ve written a good one (or more), please submit them to IGMS.

--Edmund Schubert

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pendragon—Interview with Edmund Schubert

Pendragon Variety, a podcast for aspiring writers, has interviewed Edmund Schubert. Check out the ol’ Android Were-Vampire himself HERE!

And none other than the incredible Myr Lafferty takes her chances with the cybertronic/lycanthromic/vampirc Ed-in-Chief HERE!

Monday, March 14, 2011

InterGalactic Medicine Show—Now Available on Kindle!

You’ve pined for it; you’ve whined for it. You’ve begged, pleaded, and howled for it.

And now you can have it: InterGalactic Medicine Show on your Kindle-compatible e-reading device.

MOREOVER: The Kindle version of IGMS is free to IGMS subscribers.

What's that you say? Don't have an IGMS subscription? You can also download individual issues to your Kindle for only $2.99 each, direct from Amazon. Issues #1 and #17 - 21 are available now, the rest will be there in a few short weeks.

Check out the InterGalactic Medicine Show for details!

-- Scott M. Roberts

Asst. Editor, IGMS

A Frame of Mother-of-Pearl- Cat Rambo

This story was, I think, the most heavy revising I've ever done, and it was (luckily) all good and happy collaboration. Edmund liked the original version but asked that I change a few things to make the conclusion more interesting. I did, and ended up changing it from a happy ending to an unhappy one, which made his head explode a bit. We back and forthed once more after that, and I think the story ended up being a lot stronger for the interaction.

The name (and inspiration) for the story came from a yard sale find, a housekeeping manual from the 1890s, which includes A Frame of Mother-of-Pearl - smallx various gentle arts like constructing Aeolian harps and making crystal gardens from an alum solution. The label pasted inside the book names it as having belonged to one "Hattie Fender," who served as namesake for the heroine. I had started the story as an entry for a Codex story contest and ended up getting so carried away with the beauty of my own prose that I had 500 words describing Hattie, the tattoos on her scalp, the scent of bergamot in her wake, and so forth - and not much else. Edmund, happily, persuaded me to rearrange this big lump of verbiage and fold it into the story in a much more graceful way.

Taking a feather out of one's pocket is a tribute to a YA novel whose title I can't think of, where the heroine, who lives most of her life on roller skates in early 19th century NYC, does the same thing to determine where she'll go. Similarly, the pennies placed in the curio cabinet are an echo from All of a Kind Family, another YA novel I loved.

--Cat Rambo


Note from Asst. Ed, Scott M. Roberts:

The "Codex story contest" mentioned by Ms. Rambo is one of a number of contests held by the online writing group, CodexWriters.com

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How To Write Magical Words: Finally on Kindle

Don't know what else to say; the book has been a hit, and now the folks who've been waiting for the Kindle edition need wait no longer.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Devil’s Rematch—Spencer Ellsworth

"The Devils' Rematch" is a classic example of why I should nail myself to this laptop and write. It was an idea I'd had years ago, and written the first half until I decided that it wasn't working. I The Devil's Rematch - smallx had no idea what I was doing with the Devil. A few years later, I had made the goal to finish a short story every month, and I pulled out this one and finished it. I decided I could keep the Devil as a generic MacGuffin who didn't do much besides stoke the fires that had been simmering in this little town. When I was done, I had a perfectly serviceable story, I thought, except it was the old cliche about the Devil coming to town. But of course, a year later I had a goal to send out more stories, so this one hit the mail and IGMS snapped it up. I've sent stories to IGMS that were supposed to explode the earth with awesome; instead they picked this one. Again, I guess I'd better keep writing because I'm not quite sure what works.

The story hit an interesting snag in that the original draft had a few instances of the N-word. When Scott Card declined to print the word, my first reaction was "Mark Twain said the N-word." My second reaction was "I'm not Mark Twain." My third reaction was "Cookie." That's always my third reaction.

Eric James Stone, brilliant assistant editor that he is, had the idea to make the mayor self-censor, hence the passages where he says "I'm not gonna tell you what he said, but it was something that shouldn't be said in polite company, or ever..." Once I implemented that, the mayor because a much more interesting character. He was always too polite to say the N-word and having him do so, when Elmer kisses his daughter, had rung hollow for me in the first draft. Now, when he says "you people," it communicates the subtle racism he's carried around his whole life.

--Spencer Ellsworth