Book Preview: DREAMING CREEK by Edmund R. Schubert

Announcing Edmund R. Schubert’s first novel, DREAMING CREEK, now available from Amazon.com.

High school teacher Danny Wakeman has spent sixteen years believing that his childhood friend, Marcus Gaines, saved his life after an accident. But Danny’s perspective on the world gets turned inside-out when he and the woman he wants to marry, Sara McBride, drink from the mystical waters of Dreaming Creek, trade bodies, and get stuck that way… Trapped in each others’ bodies, struggling to fit in to each others’ lives, Danny and Sara will have to pull together to overcome a perplexing lawsuit, a plot to defraud Danny out of his recently deceased parent’s farm, and an attempted rape—all of which ultimately prove to bear Marcus’s sinister fingerprints. And before it’s over, Danny will discover that this pattern of treachery and violence goes all the way back to his supposed accident, which Marcus designed to cover up an even blacker secret…

Who is Edmund Schubert, and why am I plugging his novel? That’s simple:

Edmund R. Schubert is the award-winning author of over thirty short stories, having been published in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. In addition to writing, Schubert has held a range of editorial positions, including serving as fiction editor of the online magazine, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. An anthology of IGMS stories, co-edited by Schubert and Card, was published by Tor (August, 2008).

In the interest of full disclosure, Ed Schubert is also one of my buddies from Orson Scott Card’s 2004 Literary Boot Camp, and he let me read parts of DREAMING CREEK as he got them ready for his publisher. And, in my not-so-humble opinion, it’s very well done.

DREAMING CREEK can be ordered from Amazon, as mentioned, or directly from the publisher, LBF Books.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Trinoc*coN Report

Today I made it to the last bit of Trinoc*coN, the local Raleigh-Durham SF&F convention.

I caught the tail end of a panel on whether Harry Potter is destined to become a literary classic (the panelists and audience were each about evenly split between “yes” and “maybe”), then was on a panel about the paranormal in fiction and nonfiction. We had an interesting discussion amongst ourselves until a few audience members straggled in … but such is the hazard of Sunday morning panels.

I moderated a panel on SF’s broken technological promises, which was okay … but I’m not a very good moderator. The panel was entitled “Where’s My Flying Car?” and one of the panelists took that rather literally — he brought a nice PowerPoint slideshow about flying cars, which we all enjoyed, but we spent so much time on actual flying cars that we didn’t get to discuss some of the broader promises SF has made.

The highlight was seeing Hank Davis and Laura Haywood-Cory, both from the main office of Baen Books. (Laura got me on the guest list in the first place.) Hank was on the “Flying Car” panel, and as the most widely read of all of us he kept us firmly anchored in the genre. Laura did a great job moderating the very enjoyable panel on Southern Fandom.

This year’s Trinoc*coN was a small affair, a “relaxacon” as it’s known — more laid back and less programming-intense than usual — but very well done and I was pleased to be invited to be a part of it. Kudos and thanks to all the organizers and volunteers!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Back from the beach, off to a con

Just returned this afternoon, lightly sunburned and heavily fatigued, from a week in Myrtle Beach, and tomorrow I’ll head over to Trinoc*coN, a local SF&F convention. It’s a “relaxacon” this year, with minimal programming, but even so they got a big-name GOH in Catherine Asaro.

I’ll contribute the “minimal” to tomorrow’s programming: I’m on a panel on “The Paranormal in Fiction and Nonfiction” and I’ll moderate “Where’s My Flying Car?”, a panel on the failure of technology to live up to our more fantastic dreams.

For now, though, let’s see if we can add a few more words to the novel-in-progress. Best to any and all!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

DRAGONFORGE, by James Maxey

Finished reading DRAGONFORGE today, on the plane from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and I must say my friend James Maxey has crafted a tight, compelling story that picks up where his excellent BITTERWOOD left off. I thoroughly enjoyed DRAGONFORGE — but how could I not enjoy a book in which one of the leading characters is a dragon named Graxen the Gray?

Seriously, James did a great job expanding and enriching the future world he described in BITTERWOOD. I haven’t been reading much SF or F recently, because I see quite enough in the slush pile that already distracts from writing my SF novel, but I’m glad I read DRAGONFORGE to be reminded of what good genre fiction is supposed to be.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

YouTube, MeTube

I didn’t expect to make the cut (which may mean there wasn’t a cut), but there I am on the “videoblog” fantasy author Gail Z. Martin made at ConCarolinas. Here’s the YouTube link. I’m the last person she talked to that day, right after GOH Mike Resnick.

Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. And of course I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my web site. Ol’ dopey me.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

ConCarolinas Schedule

Opened my ConCarolinas schedule this morning to find that I’m assigned to a half-dozen panels, including one I specifically didn’t want to be on. So here goes:

Friday
6:00PM – Best Books You’ve Never Heard Of – NOW ACCEPTING SUGGESTIONS 😮

Saturday
9:00AM – Fantastic Animals – That is, animals as characters in fiction … done well and poorly
10:00AM – The Science Panel – What’s up in the world of science, especially with respect to story potential
5:00PM – Putting the Science in your Science Fiction – A nice follow-on to the 10 a.m. panel

Sunday
11:00AM – Where’s My Personal Jetpack? – In which I whine (and channel Daniel Amos*) about not having a rocket pack
3:00PM – Cover Letters – What to do and what not to do, as demonstrated by the slush pile

The con is the 30th of May through the 1st of June, in Charlotte. Visit the ConCarolinas web site for more info.

___
*Quick, without resorting to Google: who was Daniel Amos?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The View From (Under) the Slush Pile

Some of my writing friends asked me about what I look for when I read slush for Baen Books; especially, what makes a book a good potential fit for the Baen line.

Before I answer, let me point out that if a manuscript is at all close to being publishable, I pass it to the publisher, Toni Weisskopf, and let her make the call. She instructed me early on that she only expected me to send her the top 1% of submissions, but I’ve actually sent her more than that. Some I’ve only marginally recommended, if I thought they were good books but might not be quite right for Baen.

That being said, I don’t know if this characterizes any kind of Baen “profile,” but I look for:

1. Stories that are adventurous and fun at their core. Think “golden age of SF.”

2. Stories that are exciting, if not actually action-packed. (Lots of people believe a Baen book must have a battle, brawl, barfight, gunfight, knifefight, or fistfight on every other page. That’s not entirely true, but it’s not entirely false either. Baen fans appreciate action; and what’s more, they know well what makes for realistic action and are ruthless about inconsistencies.)

3. Stories that make sense — e.g., with science, economics, etc., that ring true — and are internally consistent. (This requirement is quite clear in the Baen guidelines.)

4. Stories in which characters’ actions and the consequences of those actions make sense and seem plausible.

5. Stories that, under all the events and characterization, are essentially hopeful. Basically, in a Baen book you should know pretty well who the good guys and bad guys are, and the good guys need to win. Dark and difficult things may happen in a Baen book, but the whole story can’t be dismal.

Note that manuscript mechanics — spelling, grammar, and punctuation — aren’t on the list. That’s because, as Toni puts it, “Story trumps all.” So a good story (i.e., a good SF or F story) has a chance even if the manuscript isn’t pristine. But you still need to proofread well and correct all the typos you can, because you don’t want us to get distracted from the story you’re trying to tell.

When I ran this list by Toni, she wrote,

You can also add that I want to be charmed by the author. Slush is like a blind date — heck, it’s like speed dating — first impressions count. And there won’t be a second date if we don’t see something that could sustain a longer relationship.

Respectfully submitted,
the GrayMan

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The State of Science Fiction

My fellow Codex Writer, Rick Novy, posted a pair of blog entries on the relative decline of science fiction compared to fantasy. He made a clear distinction between the written word and movies: both genres do well in theaters, but for some time F novels have sold better than SF. I think the revitalized LOTR franchise and the wildly successful HP franchise explain some of the current popular interest in F as a genre, but they don’t explain the decline of SF.* (Read Rick’s comments: F Vs. SF, and Who’s Right?)

I agree with Rick that the “new wave” of SF, while it freed SF to tackle things it hadn’t tackled before, also hurt the genre in a fundamental way. I discussed this with Alethea Kontis and Edmund Schubert last year at Dragon*Con, and said then I’d like to see some research into the number and circulation of genre magazines year-by-year from the pulp days to today. I contend that the numbers — which no doubt fluctuated year-by-year due to natural variation — probably fell off precipitously around the conjunction of the “new wave” with the success of the Apollo program. That is, just as the core readership of SF saw the realization of a SFnal dream, their own literature seemed to turn against them and delivered a completely new reading experience that they didn’t appreciate as much.

Maybe I’ll do the research myself, in my copious spare time. [:rolleyes:] Oh, yeah, I’ll get right on that.

With respect to the movies, I’ve pointed out to many people that a great many of the top grossing films are SF or feature SFnal tropes, and they’re usually surprised to realize it. It’s easy to say that movie audiences tolerate SF because the movies make the SFnal elements more accessible than do books — you can see the starship, rather than just imagine it — and that’s why SF readership has declined. But I think there’s more to it than that. If most of us read in order to escape our humdrum, workaday world, F now offers us a clearer escape path: we see items every day that populate many SF stories — computers and cell phones and other gadgetry from which we might be happy to escape for a little while — but not many of us see elves or wizards in the office or the house.

I hope Rick is right, and SF as a genre has matured rather than having died. After all, the novel I’m trying to write is pure SF about environmental engineers working to keep a lunar colony alive. Not exactly riding the current wave, am I?

___
* For non-fen, LOTR = Lord of the Rings, and HP = Harry Potter. For the really acronym-challenged, F = fantasy, SF = science fiction, and SFnal = science fictional.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Hello, my name is Gandalf

Elliott, one of our church friends, has taken to calling me Gandalf: as in Gandalf the Grey (or, if you will, the Gray). This morning, Brian, our piano player, followed suit and called me Gandalf also. It amuses me.

I really appreciate the fact that so many of our church friends are science fiction & fantasy fans. (Maybe not to the point of being fen, but fans nonetheless.) My Star Trek tie was a big hit, for instance, and one of the girls drew the U.S.S. Enterprise on a star-strewn curtain that was put up for decoration. Pastor Mark has even used Star Trek references in his sermons.

So if you’re a fan of SF&F, and find yourself in Cary on a Sunday morning wondering where you’d be welcomed in church, come on by North Cary Baptist Church. You might be surprised at how well you fit in.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

We All Believe in Magic … Or We Should

The article Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson (Psychology Today, Mar/Apr 2008) brought to mind my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress.” This passage from the article especially reminded me of Jelena Olenek, the Russian grandmother who is the main character of my story:

People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.

Jelena’s magic makes the mighty Russian rockets fly, but there is every possibility that her magic is only a personal delusion. From this magazine article, however, we may get the idea that Jelena is mentally healthier than her relatives who don’t believe in her magic or any magic.

“To be totally ‘unmagical’ is very unhealthy,” says Peter Brugger, head of neuropsychology at University Hospital Zurich.

“The Rocket Seamstress” was originally published in Zahir. It’s now available from Anthology Builder.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather