Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SideShow Links, April 27 2011


Can soylent green be that far away?  Biofuel for jet engines.


Sharks, beware: fire ants have your number...  Fire ants making rafts of their own bristly bodies.


Die, Cadbury!  DIE, DIE, DIE! Exploding the disgusting, deplorable, and downright nasty Cadbury egg, which is objectively the worst confection on the face of the planet.

-- Scott M. Roberts

Asst. Editor, IGMS

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

IGMS Authors Nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards

Congratulations to Aliette de Bodard, Eric James Stone, and Mary Robinette Kowal for being nominated for the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards!


“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010) - Read Online (Nominated for Hugo and Nebula)

“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010) - Read Online (Nominated for Hugo and Nebula)

Short Story:

“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010) - Read Online (Nominated for Hugo)


The Hugo award will be awarded at the World Science Fiction Convention, which is being held this year at Renovation, in Reno, NV, on August 17-21. 

The Nebula awards are open to active members and associate members of the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Good luck and congratulations, folks!

--Scott Roberts

Assistant Editor, IGMS

Monday, April 25, 2011

Exiles of Eden—Brad Torgersen

I consider myself a blue-collar writer. Like your father or your grandfather or maybe your great-grandfather, I never throw exiles-of-edenanything out. My writing garage is filled with bits and pieces, odds and ends, all sorts of debris accumulated over the last 19 years. Most of it hasn't seen the light of day in a long time. Frankly, most of it doesn't deserve to see the light of day. But there are occasional moments when I wander into that writing garage, looking for a specific part or a chunk of something -- and I find the kernel of what could be a good story.

"Exiles of Eden" started off that way. There was an old story I'd written in 1996 -- back when I was very brand new at this gig. Not a very competently-told tale, to be honest. Clearly the work of a green writer. It had made the rounds of the (then) markets, and gotten rejected. But I'd always been fond of the central character and his predicament: a human being whose mind has been recorded into the memory banks of an interstellar warship, then flung off into the galaxy to do battle with an overwhelmingly implacable alien menace.

So I did what I've done several times as of late: I threw the kernel of that old story into the machine parts cleaner, brushed off the corrosion and the rust and the old oil, then set about constructing an entirely new adventure around that lone, refreshed concept.

Only, this time Rordy the recorded human wasn't alone. I gave him friends. And a much longer history. And an alien foe so literally awful it had wiped humanity utterly from the galaxy. Or so Rordy had been assuming for too many years. Until his ancient friend Wanda showed up. Wanda, with whom there had been so many unexplored possibilities, in the time right before the Earth's sun went supernova...

Obviously, I like to play with "big" concepts. Virtual immortality. Replicant tech. Love and relationships that span centuries, or millennia. Invincible monsters hiding under your (galactic) bed. The end of the frickin' world, and so forth.

But I try to play with these concepts in ways that are accessible to many different kinds of people.

I think that's another aspect of being blue-collar: I sometimes flirt with literary word-smithing, but in the end I deliberately try to tell tales that a Private in the Army can digest. Me, the old Reserve Warrant Officer watching these something-teen year olds walk out the door to Iraq or Afghanistan. If only more science fiction writers understood how voraciously a lot of those Privates read. Especially within the genre. If I'm spinning sci-fi yarns those young Janes and Joes in The Box can't grok, I kinda suspect I'm doing it wrong.

So there's a lot of "voice" in this story. In all my stories, actually.

Dean Wesley Smith sold me on that concept, back a few years ago when I was barely writing at all, staring at a mountain of rejections, and wondering if it wasn't just a colossal waste of time. Dean smacked me on the head and said, "Stop re-writing your work to death, you're killing the voice!" So I don't re-write endlessly anymore. I usually give myself three passes, and I'm out. The story is either up to snuff, or it isn't. After three runs through the manuscript, it's as good as I can make it -- at this current time, at my current skill level.

For those stories that don't make it -- happens less often these days, to my great delight -- the writing garage beckons. Just take the story in and dump it out onto one of the (crowded) shelves. Maybe I'll come back for it in a few years, when I feel like it.

Of course, with the gleaming electronic freeway of e-publishing beckoning like an Eisenhower Interstate of 21st century writing, maybe I'll put more time into bringing out all the old garage stories? Build me some kitbashed, Frankenstein hot-rods?

Tracy Hickman always says that stories that don't get read are stories that don't do anyone any good -- least of all the writer. Until the stories get read, they don't have meaning in the lives of the people who read them. So why let any of that material gather dust?

I think I'll go get my coveralls on...

--Brad Torgersen

Monday, April 18, 2011

We Who Steal Faces—Tony Pi

“We Who Steal Faces” isn’t the first story I’ve written with the Elect, near-immortals who name themselves after insects and use amber we who steal facesand silk to change shapes. Two other stories star Flea and are set in the modern day (“Metamorphoses in Amber” and “The Paragon Lure”). But the trouble with long-lived shapeshifters is, their past lives are as intriguing as their current life, and feuds among them could last centuries.

In exploring Flea’s past, I decided to write a story wherein he pitted his thieving skills against the greatest trapmaker among his kind. His foe would have been both Daedalus and Da Vinci, with the temperament of the former, the quirks of the latter, and the genius of both. And what better name than Antlion for a maker of traps?

In the earliest draft, it was hubris versus hubris: Antlion smug in the belief that his vault was unbreachable, and Flea eager to prove him wrong. I knew the story would be set in Venice, where the Silk Road met the Amber Road. But as a labyrinth under Venice wouldn’t exactly work, I looked to Padua on the mainland and started researching the locations and time period, picking out fascinating tidbits I learned to build the plot.

However, the initial idea of a wager between Flea and Antlion didn’t work. Flea’s motive came across as too self-serving. That’s where another nugget of research I saved came into play: the mithridate. Adding the poisoning, as well as a good dose of espionage, upped the stakes and gave Flea a more noble reason to challenge Antlion’s Labyrinth.

--Tony Pi

Friday, April 15, 2011

Writer’s Tools

The most important thing a writer does is write.  And really, to do that, all you need to have is a writing implement (pen, pencil, crayon…) and some paper. 

The next most important thing a writer does is try to get published, and to best enable that, one’s tools need to be a bit more complex.  This article is geared toward the new writer who is seeking adequate tools for both writing convenience and publishing.



In my opinion, a laptop is essential for writing.  I’m a pretty mobile guy; most of my writing is done when I’m not at home.  A laptop meets my needs: with a laptop, I can write on my lunchbreak at work; I can write while riding in the carpool, or at my kids’ soccer practice.  The portability of a laptop, for me, is 90% of its value.  I favor lightweight machines with good batteries and non-reflective screens over machines with powerful computing abilities and good graphics.  My laptop is for writing, not for playing video games: that means that I don’t have to have the latest model.

What I need in a laptop (from a hardware standpoint):

  • Ethernet card (or USB hub with ethernet adapter).  Most places that provide internet access have gone wireless, but I’m reluctant to give up the wire.
  • Wireless Card.  For connecting to wireless access points at the coffee shop, library, etc.
  • At least two USB slots.  One for my iPod, one for any other USB peripherals (like a printer).  In addition, if your laptop doesn’t have an ethernet card, you can buy a USB ethernet adaptor to get wired.
  • Non-reflective (or low reflective) screen.  For outdoor writing.
  • Good battery (7+ hours of life)

Most of my research material is done on my laptop, and most of my research is done on the internet—that makes the first two bullet points essential.  I suppose I probably don’t need as hefty a battery as I have, but I like to be prepared for those long family roadtrips/campouts where there’s no outlet to recharge with.

I personally prefer PCs to Macs.  It’s all about the price, I’m afraid: no getting around it, Macs are too expensive.  I buy refurbished laptops to cut the cost even more.  My current machine is a Dell Inspiron 15, and it cost me around $400.  The screen is 15 inches wide, and is a little more reflective than I like, but it’s still within the range of acceptable.  It’s fairly lightweight, and the battery I bought ($80) lasts around 7 hours if I turn the monitor brightness to low.


You need a printer if you’re going to be trying to get published.  Alas, enough places still require hard-copy manuscripts that owning one is an unavoidable expense for the writer.  (I suppose that you COULD go to the library instead, if your library has a printer they allow individuals to print from…)

Thankfully, printers are cheap and most of them are hardy.  You’ll wind up spending more on ink than anything else.  An adequate printer will run about $80; ink cartridges run about $20/cartridge.


Word Processing Program

What’ll it be?  Microsoft Word?  WordPerfect?  OpenOffice?

Most folks just use Microsoft Word.  I do too, but that’s because I use Word at work, so it’s the program I’m most familiar with.  It’s definitely not the most user friendly, and its quirks—especially with pagination and bulleting and numbering—can be downright mind-numbing.  Our publisher swears—literally—by WordPerfect, and he’s a best-selling writer, or something. 

I think that it comes down to what you’re familiar with, and what you’re willing to pay.  On that note, let me plug OpenOffice—a full suite of office applications (word proccessing, spreadsheet, slideshow, paint, database) that is available for free, and is developed under an Open License from Sun Systems.  In my opinion, the interface is not quite as slick as what you’ll find in Word or WordPerfect, but check the price: free compared to…well compared to whatever MS Office is selling for these days.  In addition, since the suite is maintained by an open community, you can just update your software occasionally rather than having to buy a new version when the software publisher decides he needs a new swimming pool.  Smile  OpenOffice is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems, too.

Development Software

By ‘development software’ I mean a piece of software that will allow you to quickly and easily build a story bible.  A story bible is a document, or series of documents where you keep all the details about your work in progress—plot, characters, names for characters, magic system, sciencey explanations…everything.  Word processors are just mediocre at this—generally, you want to have some sort of interface that allows you to navigate, index, and search in a more robust way than is possible with word processors.

Scrivener is a program that I hear a LOT about from my Mac-using friends.  It was raved about so much, a couple friends bought Macs on the cheap just to install it and give it a shot.  And now they’re confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue-through-and-through converts to the program.  The good news (for me) is that Scrivener is trying to get a Windows port up and running; I’m eager to try it out.  The Mac version of Scrivener retails for $45; the Windows version may cost the same.  It’s scheduled to be released in June 2011.  One negative to Scrivener—there’s a learning curve to using it effectively.  But I hear that once you’ve learned it, it’s a real boon.

Wikipedia-style software is also popular.  I use WikiPad for my story bible, and it’s adequate.  There’s very little to learn, and the interface is intuitive and natural. 

Tracking Software

Tracking software allows you to track numbers on your work.  Some folks just use a spreadsheet program like MS Excel; others go in for designing a full database.  Tracking software is useful in a couple ways: if you’re actively submitting, tracking software helps you note when you submitted and where.  That way, you don’t submit stories to the same market (or agent, or whatever) twice. 

I track all my submissions through a Microsoft Access database application I created; that may be a little bit above and beyond what most folks are interested in doing.  The important thing for me is to be able to see, or find quickly, which markets have seen what work.

I also track my daily word count—that’s fairly simple with a spreadsheet and a couple formulas. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my toolbox.  Please put everything back where you found it.

--Scott M. Roberts

Assistant Editor, IGMS

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Long Way Home—G. Norman Lippert

The Long Way Home” was written at Literary Boot Camp with Uncle Orson himself presiding. The assignment was to write something based on research conducted during that week, including street the-long-way-homeinterviews with random people. This is harder than it seems, especially for famously introverted creative types. My interview was spectacularly awkward and uneventful, thus I had decided, of course, to write a short black comedy about a pregnant witch. I had formulated the story in my head and was about to begin the marathon of writing it when my awkward street interview came back to me, bringing a different idea with it.

   Suddenly, the man I had interviewed (accompanied by his son and dog) had a history. More importantly, he had a place to go, and it wasn’t just around the corner on his regular evening stroll. The man (I named him Henry) was going to confront some buried secrets in a rather fantastical representation of his childhood hometown. It was less a complete story than a Twilight Zoney “what-if” scenario. When I started writing it I didn’t know how it would end. When it did end (some nine hours later) it surprised me. It moved me a little. It's a bit cheesy and melodramatic, yes, but that’s true of the most prosaic truths in life, isn’t it? The trick as a writer isn’t to avoid the cheesy truths but to present them in such a way that the reader forgets, at least for a few minutes, that they are cheesy. Hopefully it works in this instance.

-G. Norman Lippert

Friday, April 08, 2011

InterGalactic Medicine Show - Issue 22

Now available: Welcome to IGMS Issue 22. Always a pleasure to see you here. Let's get right to business, shall we? Now available:

Our cover story, "Love, Cayce" by Marie Brennan, is an epistolary starring Cayce, the daughter of great adventurers, who is teamed her up with her parents' friends' children to have adventures of their own. She writes home to fill mom and dad in on the mayhem with typical teen, attitude-laced fashion.

Next up is "We Who Steal Faces" by Tony Pi, where an age-old feud between shape-shifters has secret agent Master Flea racing through Renaissance Italy to save the life of a poisoned friend.

"Exodus Tides" by Aliette deBodard is a unique tale of loss, self-discovery, and mer-folk, as a young woman seeks to find her place in a world that is integrated more in theory than reality.

"Exiles In Eden" by Brad Torgersen features the last of humanity, taken to the stars, finding more humans in an unlikely place -- with unanticipated, unpleasant consequences.

"The Long Way Home" by George Lippert is an Orson Picks (OP) from Uncle Orson himself, David Lubar offers another of his "Tales For The Young and Unafraid," and Darrell Schweitzer brings us an up-close-and-personal look into the latest goings on with Robert Silverberg.

Last but not least, we try to bring you a bonus of some sort with each issue, and this issue is no different. This bonus comes compliments of our web-designer Scott Allen. Scott usually toils in anonymity, but I have to make sure he gets credit for a job well done. What job is that, you ask?

IGMS for just about any e-reader -- Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, whatever -- that you can name.

Thus far we have issue 1, and issues 12 through 21 available (for free) for subscribers, and if you're not a subscriber yet, issue 1 and issues 17 through 21 are available for single-issue purchase and Kindle-download at Amazon.

Plus, as each new issue goes up, it will be added within a few days to both Amazon and for subscribers.

If you're already a subscriber, all you have to do is click on "My Account" (in the upper left-hand corner of any page (except, of course, the home page)) and you'll be able to email yourself a mobipocket file for your e-reader. If you bought even just a single issue back when that was the IGMS subscription model, you can still get that single issue for your e-reader, too.

So a big thanks to our web designer, Scott Allen, and a big you're welcome to IGMS readers everywhere.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Verona Rupes

This image from Voyager 2 (found on NASA's APOD site) shows Verona Rupes, the deepest canyon in our solar system.

…and it’s not just the spawn-place of IGMS Assistant Editor Eric James Stone; it’s also the setting of the wonderful story, The Mystery of Miranda, by David Simmons.  The Mystery of Miranda appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show #18.