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.

24 Jun

A new Xenowealth short story will be in UPGRADED, Neil Clarke’s anthology about cyborgs


Neil Clarke has revealed the table of contents for Upgraded, “An original anthology of cyborg stories edited by a cyborg.” What fantastic company I’m keeping. This is looking like it will be quite a vibrant anthology. And for those of you who are fans of the Xenowealth, there’s a new Pepper story in here.

It comes out next month:

Introduction by Neil Clarke
Come From Away by Madeline Ashby
No Place to Dream, but a Place to Die by Elizabeth Bear
Married by Helena Bell
A Cold Heart by Tobias S. Buckell
Honeycomb Girls by Erin Cashier
What I’ve Seen With Your Eyes by Jason K. Chapman
Wizard, Cabalist, Ascendant by Seth Dickinson
Seventh Sight by Greg Egan
Negative Space by Amanda Forrest
Mercury in Retrograde by Erin Hoffman
Tongtong’s Summer by Xia Jia
God Decay by Rich Larson
Always the Harvest by Yoon Ha Lee
The Regular by Ken Liu
Coastlines of the Stars by Alex Dally MacFarlane
Fusion by Greg Mellor
Memories and Wire by Mari Ness
Oil of Angles by Chen Qiufan
The Sarcophagus by Robert Reed
Synecdoche Oracles by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Tender by Rachel Swirsky
The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time by E. Catherine Tobler
Small Machine by Genevieve Valentine
Collateral by Peter Watts
Taking the Ghost by A.C. Wise
Musée de l’Âme Seule by E. Lily Yu
About the Authors
About the Editor
Cover art by Julie Dillon

25 Feb

Progress report: taking deep lungfuls of air

I cut back on the blogging while I buried myself into working on the outline for PS-1 (my last update was on 2/6, wow).

The back pain is mostly gone from my spill on 1/22, though some activity still occasionally inflames it. One month, wow. I can sit, stand, work at the computer, and do my daily walk into town to run errands again. I’m still… gun-shy about any ice and take extra wide detours to avoid and get really nervous around it. It’s an oddly purely physiological response. The fall and three weeks of back pain are so seared into my body that the first walk into town I kept flinching whenever I saw ice. I’m not mentally freaked, but there’s just an autonomous, muscle memory there that my body has that’s similar to seeing a glowing red pot (don’t touch!). More walks are fixing that, but it was interesting to see that my lower, lizard brain has picked up that aversion on such a fundamental level.

So I’m about two weeks behind, but now that I’m back to normal, am enjoying catching up on work. Blogging took a hit, as it doesn’t put food directly on the table!

The outline for PS-1 is 17,000 words. For what will likely be a 55,000 word novel. The interested parties are reading the outline, and notes are being exchanged. I expect to start writing the first chapter Monday, March 3rd.

On twitter I talked a great deal about the craziness of a 17,000 word outline for a 55,000 word book. But, over time, I’ve come to outline more and more obsessively before writing. It has really helped me, and has made the writing process more and more enjoyable on a daily basis. I might have to storify that whole exchange and post it up here.

With my editor reading over PS-1, I now have the time to finish my last pre-PS-1 project. I owe one last short story to an anthology. I need to finish it by this weekend.

After that, I will be passing on any new short fiction projects until after all the work on PS-1, the books I owe Tor, and all other extant projects are turned in. I can’t handle the pressure of any new obligations when my plate is so full, sadly. It means things are good for me.

It sucks to say no. I had to turn down another project that looked really cool recently, so it’s on my mind. I spent most of my life working so hard to get to this point. And suddenly, people approach me and ask for stories. I’ve sold 55 of them, to date. And now I have to say no. And that’s an odd complication I didn’t expect about success (what bit of I have managed to carve out for myself).

Steve Jobs said success is as much about what you say ‘no’ to. And I found out that, although I’m extraordinarily proud of the 55 short story sales, I need to take care of the novels and extreme debt-paying project I’ve embarked on this last couple years. That will put me in much better stead to play with short fiction down the road.

15 Feb

THE END IS NIGH to feature a short story of mine


I have a short story that will be appearing in the anthology THE END IS NIGH, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. Deets:

“Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.

THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will tell their stories.

Edited by acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction. THE END IS NIGH focuses on life before the apocalypse. THE END IS NOW turns its attention to life during the apocalypse. And THE END HAS COME focuses on life after the apocalypse.”

(Via VOL. 1: THE END IS NIGH : The Apocalypse Triptych.)

If you click through, you can see the whole table of contents. Looks like a dynamite line up of authors that I’m lucky to share the pages with.

System Reset is short story of mine about what happens when fundamentalist geeks take their code metaphors a bit too far. If you follow the tag on the blog post for System Reset you can see I was working on this piece back in January.

THE END IS NIGH is coming out this March.

06 Jan

Progress report: day six (frozen edition)


It’s cold out there. Dipped below 0 as I got up and settled into my office and took the above picture. Lots of frost on the window. Got freelancing done (it’s CES week, putting in some extra afternoon hours, worked on some eBook stuff) and worked on the short story Code some more in the later afternoon.

I’ve really gotten into the characters and think I have a nice little odd couple going. Had to delete some exposition, but it’s saved in a file. So it doesn’t add to my word count just yet, but it will help me get a jump on tomorrow as I turn it into argument, character reveals, and so forth. Sometimes you have to write stuff down awkwardly to see what it looks like and know where it goes.

Today’s progress was 943 words that I like (close to final polish) and a total of 2,919 on the story Code that I’m writing. Six days of writing in a row chained together.

The story was planned to be 3,000 words, but I think I have another 1,500 on deck still. And I’ll have to get them all tomorrow. So it’ll be a crunch time kinda day. But I’m averaging 566 words a day, even with the 22 word day yesterday, which if I consistently do every day will lead to a solid year (200K of words). Of course, six days does not a sample make, I’ll have a better idea come the end of the month of how I’m doing.

I did go for a walk today. Once around the block in -10 degree weather. It’s now -14 (windchill -40). I was toying with going out tonight just to see what it was like at -14, which is even lower, but opted out. Will get a taste of it when I let dogs out at midnight anyway. One day of walking chained together.

My office space heater has been running all day to keep my office comfortable.

This is roughly how I’m feeling about the weather:


As of night, the insides of my windows are frosted with a layer of ice that is similar in thickness to what I’m used to finding on a car windshield after a night of rain and freezing temps.

Ice has also crept around my front door lock:Photo

Stay warm everyone!

06 Jan

Progress report: day five (a day late)

A slow Sunday spent with the family yesterday. I fell asleep after dinner, though, and woke up with a start sometime after midnight. Contemplated my daily walk, but with the temps dropping and snow plows slamming about I decided to stay in. So did I break my unchained days of walking. In retrospect I should have gone downstairs to the recumbent bike, but as I said, I was really fuzzy-headed.

I took a while for my brain to boot up. But I was really, really determined to have unchained days of writing, and didn’t want to go right back to bed. I spent an hour on the work in progress, Code, and got the amazing total of *drumroll* 22 words. After that hour I determined I was fuzzy enough that further effort may just devolve into words that were in theory written, but in practice going to need rewriting. I ended up spending the next hour looking at land for sale in areas of the country that interest me and then going to bed.

Five days in a row of writing every day, no matter what. Three hundred and sixty to go.

03 Jan

Progress report: day three

The blank page is always tough, isn’t it? Late last night, way too late last night, I finished up the rewrite of the short story David Klecha and I are putting together. Today I needed to start another one I owe, while also getting further along in the work on the pseudonymous novel. From now on I’ll call PS Book One. Because I struggle to spell pseudonymous. It just took me five tries. And that’s with the help of spellcheck.

An editor asked for this story. I’m in an amazing place in my career where people ask me to write them things, and now I often have to say no because I can barely fit everything into my schedule. Hah! May you get what you wish for, right?

I’ve had four, or five months, to think about this story (which will be in an anthology with a theme, broadly), and I haven’t had any luck coming up with an idea. I told a fellow scribbler via a text “I think I may have to get on TV Tropes and start clicking around the subject theme to see if anything leaps out at me to play with.”

I’m trying to write every day, and this project has a pressing deadline, and the PS Book One project really needs 100% of my attention shortly, so it was time to put on my big boy pants, right?

So earlier this afternoon I sat down in my office with a full pad of yellow stickies and a pen. Started writing down riffs, themes, ideas, characters based on the subject. After half an hour free-forming, a vague idea from a couple ideas returned to my head. I used Freitag’s old pyramid and the law of threes to build a test outline, and a basic try/fail sequence.

With a very rough skeleton in front of me in handwriting, scattered on yellow stickies, I began to get more flashes of ways to connect the parts up, and suddenly I had an opening scene with the characters hashing out their issues forming up. And then I had an ending suggest itself, so that got tentatively penciled in. Knowing the emotional note, I could sketch in some more.

I set out to write two 300 word sections. So I can knock off for the evening now and go for my daily walk. I’ll need to really bundle up, it’s 0 degrees out, negative I-don’t-fucking-know-what with wind chill. I imagine the walk will help jog out some more stuff. Like a better title (it’s simply

Yesterday was my 35th birthday, and I sort of mark 15 as being the age I really got serious about writing. That means I’ve been doing this for 20 years now.


So the blank page, I was going to say this:

It’s still scary. When I created that Scrivener document and wrote down a working title I sat back and thought I should check twitter. Or call a friend. Or go look in the fridge (no story plot in there, just calories you don’t need). Anything but… blank white screen.

Twenty years, and I still feel like someone standing in front of a crowd who has forgotten their lines.

But here’s what twenty years gave me: the knowledge that it always feels like this.

There’s the fear you’ll suck, or won’t have anything to say, or anything meaningful. I worry that the writers in the anthology will be better than me. Or that I’ll fubar the story.

So let’s admit it, all that’s possible. Hell, probable. I’ve fought my way up from a dyslexic, ADD nobody punk kid struggling from a faraway place. The very fact I might be in an anthology at all… shit, that’s it’s own thing.

And the other thing is that… a shitty existing story is vastly superior to the most brilliant, society-changing, award-winning, bejeweled, sparkly story that never gets written.

At some point I have to have something to hand in. And the worst case is: the editor says no. That’s it. That’s the worst that can happen. What if that happens? I rewrite the story, I let it sit. Maybe it goes somewhere else? And even if it doesn’t go anywhere else, then maybe I learned something about how not to write from it.

I snuck in 1,200 words.

Not shabby.

Tomorrow is Christmas with Emily’s family, might be harder to get words in. But I’m going to try to keep the chain unbroken. Wish me luck.

And now, for my unbroken chain of days going for a walk. I’m off to find my boots, gloves, jacket, breathing mask, extra hoodie…

Photo on 1 3 14 at 5 47 PM

11 Mar

New Short Story Published At Subterranean Online: The Seafarer


I have a new short story (well, a novelette to be more precise) up at Subterranean in the Spring 2013 issue, The Seafarer. It’s a new story set in The Alchemist and The Executioness universe. You can read the whole thing for free at the link.

Along with The Executioness, there is also The Fall of Alacan here, which makes for a triptych of stories set in that world.