09 Jul

Open thread Saturday

How is your weekend? I’ve been out writing in a local coffee shop and ran into an old work buddy at the diner at lunch. I also attended a book launch by local mystery author Judy Clemens who had her latest book out from Poisened Pen Press. 

My kids are apparently selling lemonade from our front lawn while I plink away at this rewrite. Thalia seems to have sales in her blood. 

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17 Nov

There’s a new, high-paying short SF market in town from Motherboard. Some thoughts on Terraform’s launch

A new weekly short story and daily SF blog launched recently. Terraform, from Motherboard, the people from Vice.

Critics may argue about science fiction’s literary origins—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! No, Gulliver’s Travels!—but the genre metastasized in the 1950s and 60s, through the vehicle of pulp magazine publishing, as fantastic short stories and serialized adventures. Short stories are the DNA of the genre; bite-sized futures and parallel realities designed to jar their readers into radical disconnection with the present-day.

Surely we have room for short stories again in our networked world. They don’t take too much of our precious time. The medium is nimble and versatile. We could slip short stories into our pockets (and send them to our Pockets), daisy-chaining fiction to the op-eds and news pieces we read and share ad nauseam every day.

(Via Why We Terraformed a New Home for Future Fiction | Motherboard.)

As many new markets do, they started off with a manifesto. Even though the pulps of the 50s and 60s are well behind us, the science fiction short story market still exists today, and is healthier than many other short story markets. Careers are made here. I built mine there, and have almost 60 short stories published to show for it.

Terraform’s manifesto included the insinuation that short SF had died off. And they were, rightfully, called to task in their comments section for that. Because, in short, it ain’t true.

But let’s be fair, it’s an easy place to miss. While my whole early career revolved around short stories, the first time I signed an anthology in a mall I learning that hardly anyone realizes short stories exist, let alone short SF stories. The whole distribution mechanism and grocery store presence faded away, which for many meant the form had disappeared. I once spent a day quizzing SF readers in a store about short stories. It was illuminating how many of them didn’t even realize they were a thing.

We know better, but Vice is a big, fucking media machine with some big hit counts. Yes, they should have googled, but in many ways our assumption that Terraform is *all about us* somewhat misses the point.

Terraform is competing with science and SF blogs like IO9, and they’ve done a cool thing by experimenting with short form fiction. I mean, imagine if IO9 did that, right? Even my own readers sometimes don’t realize I have new book until IO9 mentions it, and they email me the link to say ‘hey!’ The most widely read short story I’ve ever had was run on IO9, and I had distant friends reaching to say it was the first thing of mine they’d read.

So I can understand their not focusing. Would it be nice. Hell yes. Am I glad they amended the manifesto to point out some great online zines (including my favorite, Clarkesworld)? Yes.

But mainly, before I saw their slip up in the manifesto, I’m excited to see a new market trying to something new and with a potential for a large audience and paying very well. This will be great for new writers, great for short stories. More markets is better. More *readers* is better, and having Vice send traffic around is potentially awesome (Motherboard has 48,000 readers on twitter, quarter of a million tied to it on Facebook, 402,000 followers on YouTube. This makes them, in one swoop, one of the larger audiences for SF).

I have no idea how this will shake out, but my reaction is ‘cool. More places for writers to sell to and more fiction that I get to read.’

They will make mistakes, but part of someone becoming part of a field is being welcomed in, not just them making all the right obeisance. I’m ready to correct a mistake or call something out. But I’m also excited to see the launch of a new venue.

So, Terraform, welcome. I like that you guys are paying 20c/w as a ‘base’ rate and I hope that a rising tide lifts all boats.

For writers, here are the guidelines for Terraform.

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23 Oct

A Bear: an original illustration by Calli

I don’t want to be every other parent that thinks they have the most artistic children in the world and foists that upon everyone. But ever since Cal showed me the cover of a ‘book’ that she made in class about bears (including the oh-so-precocious spelling of ‘hibrnat’ for hibernate) I’ve been mulling over just how good she’s gotten at drawing things in a short time.

I mean, it was just a few months ago that everything she drew was stick figures. Like, very, very basic stuff.

Now I have a bear with a quirky expression on its face, and I just want to frame this damn thing.

IMG 5382

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05 Mar

My twins will drop everything they’re doing to watch an Oxyclean commercial

Every once in a while, when Emily is going down to start up a load of laundry, the twins (4 years old) will call after her ‘make sure you add some Oxyclean! It takes all the stains out! Just put one scoop in the laundry.’

It’s interesting what they soak up. There are lots of other advertisements that they don’t pay any attention to. Sometimes they’ll mention something that’s pertinent to their four year old interests and say they saw it on TV at their daycare provider’s house. She occasionally has Nickelodeon on.

We don’t have cable, I resent the intrusion of advertising and find my life a little less cluttered with it. I spent a bit more to buy all my shows direct, but I enjoy having control of when and where I watch things as a cord cutter. So the kids don’t get a lot of advertising exposure here at home.

I have nothing intrinsically against it, and I try to inoculate them against it by explaining what advertising is. When they get older, I plan to do what an amazing teacher did for me in grade school; teach the basic functions of advertising and rhetorics it uses to convince you to want or buy things. Learning the ‘how’ and strains of advertising (bandwagon, expert’s prefer, you’ll be better with X) has stuck with me for life.

That being said, my kids think Oxyclean is the shit.

A few weeks ago, when we were eating something messy and Thalia dropped her sleeve in it, Calli piped up ‘don’t get mad, dad, it’s okay, we’ll just use some Oxyclean and it’ll be okay.’

‘Right,’ says Thalia. ‘Oxyclean’ll take the stain right out!’

It’s a little… weird. Because they’ll continue on talking up the wonders of Oxyclean for another couple rounds. They’re like little walking talking informercials:

“Hey, is that a bad stain.”

“Why yes, yes it is.”

“Did you know some Oxyclean will take that right out?”

“Yes, just a little bit will get rid of the stain.”

I guess I was expecting more tea play parties.

The other day at a restaurant they were chatting with each other and then they both stopped. And looked at the TV. I turned around, and it was an ad for Oxyclean. They were silent. Almost reverent for a full half minute, until it ended.

“Oxyclean,” they both said. In the same tone as those little green aliens from Toy Story.

And then they were back to ignoring what was on the TV.

I have no idea what to make of this, other than the fact that advertising is powerful. Brands are powerful. And my kids do not react to any other brand this way. But for some reason, Oxyclean is magic pixie dust and they respect the hell out of it.

And to be fair, if you happen to be in a spot of trouble regarding stains, that stuff can sometimes seem magical.

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06 Jan

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Coat

A few years ago, after getting some Christmas money from my father in law, I drove up to an outfitters and asked them what the warmest winter coat was. There was much hemming and hawing, but in the end I got recommended an 800 weight down puffy coat made by North Face. “I want to go out in a snowstorm in a T-shirt and this coat,” was my request.

I got just that. In most cases my North Face puffy jacket rocks.

But it’s like wearing a sleeping bag.

I’ve recently lost some more weight as part of my slow, years-long journey since 2009 to slim down and get more and more heart healthy. And the XL puffy jacket is still great, but has a couple drawbacks. One, it feels even vastly more puffy now that I’m not filling it out so much, and that means that, two, it leaves a large column of air inside the jacket that when broken into (by shifting hem or a gust of wind) I get chilled in it more than I used to.

So, buy a replacement size smaller of this trusty companion, or do something different?

When I saw a winter storm approaching, I quickly planned my options and decided to gamble on a whole new winter coat. I’ve blogged positively about Uniqlo’s Heat Tech undershirts here. Affordable, yet amazing, I wondered if their ultra light down coat could be just as good a tool in my new cold-weather arsenal.

Here’s the jacket:

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That, however, is not me. Just a head’s up. I stole it from their website.

I ordered a large (my shirts are mediums, jackets large now. Uniqlo, tends to size a bit small anyway, so I knew it would likely be a fit. It arrived today, delivered by a very cold Fed Ex employee.

And could I have a better day to test this jacket out?

No.

Before I’d gone out into the -10 degree weather with a uniqlo heat teach undershirt, long sleeve polo, and the North Face jacket. To test the Uniglo, I went out into the -12 degree garden later in the day to let the dogs out. No Uniqlo undershirt, just a polo and pajamas and my uggs pulled on quickly.

The jacket advertises 630 fill, which is a little less than the North Face, but not a whole lot. Amazingly, I felt pretty comfortable in the still air at -12. It was the moment the wind struck that the jacket, like the North Face, struggled to keep the penetrating cold out. But when the gust passed I warmed back up.

Pretty amazing for a jacket that was extremely thin compared to the bulky one. It didn’t seem feasible it could be keeping me that warm. Birds are crazy smart (down). But that windchill…

On a hunch, I went back in and pulled my leather jacket on over it quite comfortably. And the leather jacket was a fantastic wind block.

When I go out, I usually have a dilemma of preferring the leather jacket, and sometimes having to get the giant puffy coat out that makes me feel like a walking sleeping bag. But I think I have a solution now. The Uniqlo actually rolls down into a small bag it comes with that can fit in my computer backpack:

Photo

If it gets too cold for a leather jacket, I can put this on underneath. And if it warms up, I can roll it up, squeeze it, and get it put away in my backpack with no fuss.

Wish I’d found a 600-700 fill jacket this crazy thin earlier, but I’m still learning some of this stuff.

Anyway, I imagine the massive puffy jacket will now be retiring…

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