October 23rd, 2007

criminal minds reid mathematics

if no eyes, avoid all contact

Item the first: new folks


Some in, get comfy. Introduce yourselves. Ask questions. Hang out. Hijack comment threads and talk about Greek history. Seriously, it's what it's there for.

I just ask you be polite to other comment-thread denizens, even if you disagree with them. And please be understanding if I don't answer every comment. I have somehow become a very busy Bear.

Item the second: daily rambling

Well, I have not forgotten how to factor quadratic equations, despite not having cracked the math books since early September. I think I will be getting back into this, actually, because it gave me great joy to pull out the book and play with numbers and variables for a little while.

I seem to have developed rather a lot of hobbies, which between them may be making up for the difficulty I am still having in reading any fiction with enjoyment. (My critique function is stuck on. Which is useful to me as a writer and slush reader, not so useful when I want to settle down and enjoy a novel. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to affect reading nonfiction. Which is good, because nonfiction is a very useful thing for novelists to read.)

Man, tomorrow I really need to get this pile of email dealt with. I think I need a personal assistant. Unfortunately, I can't afford to pay one....

I've been thinking about my work schedule, because after WFC I am going to need to get mean and consistent about work again, as the deadlines are flickering up over the horizon. And about how I can manage to balance work and the things I need to do to keep sane/keep flexible/encourage my diversity of thought so I don't keep writing the same book over and over. I seem to have developed an awful lot of hobbies. (I am a dilettante. I am moderately bad at everything, but I do a lot of different things moderately poorly. Hey, I have my crowning passion; this other stuff I am allowed to suck at.)

Which are, to wit--

Things I am doing and want to keep doing:

1) archery/pistol shooting. Not only do I have an excellent archery store and range two towns over, but there's been some talk between netcurmudgeon, ashacat, taichigeek, and me about shooting some things that go boom in addition to the things that go swish-thwack.

2) guitar. I need, at this juncture, an actual teacher. I think I have plateaued in what I can figure out for myself.

3) maths. Almost done with the first algebra book, and having too much fun to quit now. Mmm, that problem-solving dopamine hit is the good drugs.

4) rock climbing. Yes, hooked.

5) hiking. So nice to be back in the saddle with that, after having seriously fallen off the horse some years ago. Also, it's training for Project: Kilimanjaro.

6) gym. Three times a week. And a couple of other days for non-gym exercise. Not only does it do a wonderful job of normalizing my serotonin levels, thereby making me into a striking facsimile of a neurochemically normal person, but it's essential for Project: Kilimajaro training.

7) Criminal Minds fandom. I get a fandom. Because it entertains the heck out of me, and because narrative analysis is good for my writer-brain. (Okay, I have several fandoms, but the others are all on the level of "I love my dead gay show," and therefor very low-maintenance.

Things I would like to do more of include:

8) I want a martial art again. In my copious spare time.

9) ditto, horseback riding.

10) ditto, travel

11) ditto, live music. God, it's nice to be back in the land of the traveling folkie again. Vienna Teng on Thursday!

Things I need to do, professionally:

12) meet my writing commitments (novels, blog, critiques, secrit projekt, keeping up on the state of the genre, refining and expanding my craft, etc.)

13) keep packing the science and history and biography and politics and whatever else into my head, because it is needful to the art.

14) not take on any more commitments for the foreseeable future. I am full up, as they say.

Things that are non-negotiable:

15) making time for my friends and family.

Here's a dirty shamefaced silent little secret about writing--or actually, no, it's not a dirty secret. It's a great crowing truth.

The more stuff you do, the more you undertake to learn, the greater your breadth of acquaintance and experience--the better your art is.

The more real your life, the more closely observed and researched your stories will be.

Read. Do. Experience. Play. Explore. Create.

Or get old and stale.
twain & tesla

Kids? Don't do this. Ever.

So, as some of you know, I read slush for Ideomancer. Which means I also reject slush for Ideomancer.

I am, in fact, a bottom-level slush reader, which means I get my share of what comes in over the transom, unfiltered and uncensored.

When I reject something, I try to explain why. Even if it is rejected in the first couple of paragraphs, it's generally because I know what the problem is, and I know why we won't be buying the story. The urge behind this, believe it or not, is charitable. One does not learn in the absence of feedback.

The professional thing to do when one is confronted with a rejection is to read it, shrug, internalize any useful comments, ignore any crazy talk, and go write another story.

The unprofessional thing to do is this:

>Dear [Author Name Redacted];

Thank you for sending us "[Redacted]," but I'm afraid this
isn't quite right for Ideomancer. I needed something more to draw me
into the story than exposition, no matter how clever the world you
created was, and I found this story lacked conflict and a stake for
the narrator.

Elizabeth Bear

Dear Ms. Bear:
You know, I have to take exception to your comment. It just shows that you didn't bother to read all of my story. It is not all exposition, though it is heavy in the first person format and I was going for an O. Henry feel, which you obviously don't care for. But don't say it's "all" exposition unless you read the entire story and actually felt that way about it. Considering the feedback I received from Critique Partners before I sent this story out, if you had read the entire story, you wouldn't have made that remark.  People bawled over this story because it touched them. And you're telling me it's all exposition. This tells me you never finished it.
I know you're busy. I'm not saying you should read all of everything that comes across your computer screen, but in my opinion, you shouldn't bother offering personal comments on other writer's work unless you have taken the time to read all of what they have written.  Otherwise just send a nice form letter saying it's not what Ideomancer needs right now, thanking them for their submission, please try again in the future. Form letters aren't bad unless they're badly written (such as the ones by SF&F that say casually, "I'll give it a pass"). 
You're an intelligent writer. You should understand these things by now.  Please do better next time.


First of all, if you're going to argue with a rejection, don't.

Second, if you are going to argue with a rejection, don't.

Third? If you are going to argue with a rejection, make sure you are arguing with what the rejection actually said, and not your projections thereunto. Also, don't put scare quotes around words that don't exist in the note you are ostensibly quoting.

Fourth, editors talk to each other.

Fifth, yes, I will tell John who can't remember the name of the magazine he works for, and who doesn't approve of his grammar.

Sixth, Ideomancer has a database in which we enter the name and author of every story, its disposition, etc. It has a comments field.

What do you all suppose the comment field of this author's story now says?*

(The UnSub's letter reproduced above for teaching/demonstration and educational purposes.)

*Hint: It's not "[redacted] is a real joy to work with, and should be encouraged to resubmit."

sf doctor who meant to be?

why i write short fiction

First off, since I am spamming lj tonight, Avery Brooks is going to star in Christofer Marley's Tamburlaine, as presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company of DC.

Second, truepenny, triggered by but tangential to the current death-of-short-fiction kerfuffle, is talking about what short stories are good for.

I have a theory. And that theory is that, more or less, the current SFF short fiction market is a club scene. It's where the experiements happen, the riffs, the fast-and-furious back-and-forth, the arguments, the bubble and boil. The churn, if you like.

Is short fiction essential to my career? Nope. Does it make me a lot of money? Nope. Does it get me a ton of respect? Nope. (Generally speaking. I think I write pretty good short stories. Actually, no, I take that back. I think I write damned fine short stories [I mean, other than the part of my brain that can only see what's wrong with anything I do, but we're talking about the realistic part of the brain now.]. And if they're not quite hitting the core-readership right, well, that's something to work on. OTOH, I am very, very happy about my BSFA short fiction nominations.)

So why do I write short fiction?

Because it makes me happy to do it. Because I do think a vital and exciting club scene is necessary to keep the commercial market alive. Because short stories, with their quick rate of turnaround, consist of a conversation that we can have without the three-to-five-year delay of the novel conversation. Because we're jamming, baby.