SFWA Releases Nebula Suggested Reading List

Click here to get to the Suggested reading List; lots of good stuff on there.

Click here to get to the Suggested reading List; lots of good stuff on there.

This has been in discussion for a while now; I’m glad we’ve finally moved ahead on the project of making the Nebula Suggested Reading List public. The intent is to build awareness of the awards, help drive participation by members, and help the genre by providing a solid list of notable material from the year. Authors do not need to be SFWA members to make their work eligible.

Here’s the official press release about it:

As part of its mission to serve professional genre writers, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is pleased to announce that for the first time they’ll be making the Nebula Suggested Reading List public. The list is compiled from the suggestions of SFWA members and is available on the SFWA website at http://www.sfwa.org/forum/index.php?app=readinglist. All SFWA members are eligible to add items to the list throughout the year, providing a list of notable speculative novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and dramatic works from the year. Inclusion on the list is not an endorsement by SFWA.

From November 15 through February 15, 2016, Active and Associate members will be able to make actual Nebula nominations as well as nominations for the Bradbury and Andre Norton Award. The votes will be tallied and the final ballot will be released on or before February 20 for voting on by the membership. Winners will be announced at the Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held May 12 -15 at the Palmer House in Chicago. The banquet and awards ceremony will take place the evening of May 14. Other awards presented at the weekend include the Grand Master Award, the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Solstice Award.

Nebula Commissioner Terra LeMay says “Even before I became the Nebula Awards Commissioner, I’ve always thought the Suggested Reading List was one of the best resources I’ve ever encountered for finding the most exciting new science fiction and fantasy works each year. It is a great privilege to have helped bring this list out to the public where any reader may benefit from it.”

SFWA President Cat Rambo notes, “Every year there’s plenty of terrific stuff to read. I hope that providing a list that draws upon the wide spectrum of tastes represented in the SFWA’s membership of professional writers helps up the discoverability of great writing that should be considered for awards. For me the Nebula Awards remain the most meaningful in the field, chosen by writers working in the genre, who understand and appreciate craft and who possess an understanding of the works that have shaped our field. SFWA has had a productive year in 2015, and it’s a pleasure to share yet another result of our members working together.”

For more information please email pr@sfwa.org.

Recent high notes for SFWA include the Accessibility Checklist being made available to the public, an event Lee Martindale blogged eloquently about. Several conventions have expressed interest in the checklist already and we’ve gotten some useful feedback on how to update them to make them even more useful.

Stick with us; there’s even more cool stuff coming in 2016.

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photo of Cat Rambo with flowers

The kitchen overlooks rooftops, then sound, then mountains. Hummingbirds live in the locust tree in back.

Well, happy birthday to me. I’ve managed five decades and a bit so far; here’s to many more.

Man, this has been a shitty year in many ways, and one full of life lessons that apparently the universe felt were overdue. Some of those I’m still grappling with. I am so freaking behind on this book it’s not even funny, but thank god for both the wonderful time spent writing in California this summer and the kick in the ass that NaNoWriMo has administered. I’m feeling hopeful about that again and making steady progress.

At the same time among the bumps there’s been plenty of bright spots. Among them my first novel, my first appearance in a Year’s Best collection (edited by Joe Hill, no less), and my first acceptance to longtime goal Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (I have been submitting there for over a decade now). I’ve had nineteen original publications come out since my last birthday, and twelve are currently forthcoming, including a team-up with Mike Resnick. Rachel Swirsky and I are working on some projects together, which is terrific fun. I have a good half dozen stories already spoken for. My collaboration with Bud Sparhawk finally got accepted so he can stop nagging me about why it hasn’t sold yet.

And I’m somehow SFWA President, which is surreal, but also cool because we’ve been getting shit done this year, including admitting independent and small press-published writers, getting a model magazine contract up, reinstating the member electronic newsletter, expanding SFWA’s offerings for self promotion, and even got a cool infographic that answers to all the times someone whinges about how SFWA doesn’t do anything. Not to mention the recent Accessibility Checklist. Nothing speaks like success, and we’ve had some solid ones this year, in my opinion, and I love this ass-kicking team. It’s freaky though, when there’s moments like talking to Harlan Ellison on the phone or getting e-mail from Robert Silverberg.

We moved! Which was awesome but a pain in the butt when it was going on. I love the new place so much; West Seattle feels like home already in a way that Redmond never did. We’re not quuuuuuite moved in all the way; at least, we’re still waiting on a couple of pieces of furniture before everything will feel squared away. And my brother Lowell came out for his first visit to Seattle, but hopefully not the last. I made lots of new friends, and had good times with existing ones, including my beloved Caren Gussoff and Sandra Odell.

As always I picked up some new domestic skills in my endless exploration; this year included how to brew kombucha, how to make Greek yogurt, and the amazing nature of browned butter, which remains me that I co-edited a cookbook with Fran Wilde whose contributors included some pretty august names. Holy smokes was that project a pain in the ass but we survived.

And there’s plenty to look forward to in the next twelve months. Another two-sided collection, hurray! Hearts of Tabat forthcoming, and hopefully Exiles of Tabat along with it. The usual plethora of stories. Continuing to expand the online school (I’ve got some very cool content coming up in 2016.)

So here’s to a lovely birthday weekend that will include Indian buffet and thrift shopping and either ordering myself a pair of shoes I’ve been wanting or pulling a couple of wants from my Amazon wishlist. 😉

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Writing: Description, Details, and Delivering Information

I haven't written here yet.

I haven’t written here yet.

I’m working on converting the Description and Delivering Information class to the on-demand version, along the same lines as the Character Building Workshop and the Literary Techniques for Genre Writers workshop, and hoping to finish it up over the next couple of days, which may be overly ambitious, because a) I am doing NaNoWriMo, b) life is complicated by Orycon and then a Thanksgiving trip on the 20th and c) this is my birthday weekend and I like to slack a little.

So, what’s the difference between taking one of my live online writing classes and the on-demand versions? Let’s look at the cons first:

  1. No live interaction, which is a little sad. You can comment on the class material, though, which you have access to in perpetuity, or at least as long as it’s up.
  2. No chance to hear other people’s work with the exercises or get a chance to chat with them.

Pros, on the other hand?

  1. A bit more lasting. As I said, you do get permanent access, including when the material updates.
  2. Work at your own pace. Want to do an exercise more than once? Go for it. Want to stretch things out or take a break for that trip to Bermuda? You’re fine.
  3. Considerably cheaper than the live version — half the price, usually.
  4. Considerably expanded material and more exercises. The character building workshop ended up being close to 20,000 words; this one will match and probably surpass that.

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Ten More Plots Taken From Other People’s Problems

Again taken from helpineedhelp.com:

  1. I don’t know what the back of my head looks like.
  2. I’m a peeping tom.
  3. I don’t know what fork to use.
  4. I forgot my password.
  5. I need a dream recommendation.
  6. I forgot someone’s name.
  7. I want to buy help elsewhere.
  8. I want a patdown but am not flying anywhere.
  9. I don’t know what soda to drink.
  10. I have no purpose.


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Guest Post from Rob Dircks: 8 Ways to Make Your Writing Funnier

Pictures of the book Where the hell is Tesla by Rob DircksFirst, I didn’t set out to be a humorist. And I’ve only got one sci-fi comedy novel so far, Where the Hell is Tesla?, so I’m not sure I qualify as anyone you should listen to. But I’ve always loved funny sci-fi, like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or John Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars, or Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens, and I love the process of writing humor. It seems like a fit. I’m sticking with it.

Along the way, I’ve learned a ton from great writers, and great teachers, and from screwing up in every conceivable way. So here are a few of my favorite little nuggets that you might find it useful in your own writing:

1. Exaggerated Contrast.
Imagine you move into your new apartment, and you go next door to ask if they signed for a package you were expecting. You’re invited in, and you find yourself in the middle of four adult males playing Dungeons and Dragons. With costumes on. Hmm. This might make a funny story to tell your friends later. But let’s exaggerate the contrast more by making all four of these guys over-the-top-crazy-smart scientists who revel in everything tech and sci-fi. Now what’s your story? The Big Bang Theory. A huge comedy hit, in its ninth season. A classic fish-out-of-water story pitting poor Penny against the ultimate geek squad.

Or take Dortmunder, the cat burglar hero from the old Donald Westlake novels. He’s literally the only sane person in an insane world filled with incompetent crooks, bungling cops, and inept villains. The result? He had so much comic potential he starred in twenty-five novels and short stories.

Why does fish-out-of-water work? Because the greater you can make the gap between the normal person’s perspective (Penny, Dortmunder) and the crazy world’s perspective (the four scientists, incompetents in general), the richer the vein of comic possibility. And science fiction can be even better, as your worlds are only limited by your imagination. Just look at Hitchhiker’s Guide’s hapless Arthur Dent, thrust into insanity on a galactic scale. And in my novel, the “fish” are two regular joes who find themselves trapped inside an “Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus” – where each dimension they visit is strange, and rife with comic opportunity.

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Patreon Post: Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?

picture of steampunk woman against a clock

If you’d like some NaNoWriMo inspiration, check out my Character Building Workshop, which features writing exercises tailored to fit in with your current projects.

Happy Monday to everyone. Here’s a piece of fiction for you, “Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?” It’s steampunk, and it fits into the world I think of as Altered America, a steampunk setting where one of the pivotal events, referenced in this story, is Abraham Lincoln deciding to use zombies in the Civil War.

Other pieces of this world are shown in Rappacini’s Crow, Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart, and Snakes on a Train. At some point this will become a novel — you may notice characters are converging on Seattle, where most of the action will take place, and I’ve got some stories in the works, most notably a novella, “Blue Train Blues,” about a high stakes race between car and train across a landscape plagued with vampires.

This is a Patreon post, funded by the generous patrons listed here. If you’d like to see more of these stories, consider becoming a patron.

Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?

Jemina noticed the Very Small Person the moment the little girl entered the train. The child paused in the doorway to survey the car before glancing down at her ticket and then at the other half of the hard wooden bench, high-backed, its shellac peeling, that Jemina sat on. Jemina tucked the macrame bag beside her in with her elbow.

The child was one of the last passengers on, which was why Jemina had been hoping against hope to have the bench to herself, at least for part of the two day trip to Kansas City. The train began to roll forward, a hoot of steam from the engine, a bell clang from the caboose at the back of the train, the rumble underfoot making the little blonde girl pick her way with extra caution, balancing the small black suitcase in one hand against the pillowy cloth bag in the other.

She arrived mid-car beside Jemina and nodded at her as she struggled briefly to hoist her suitcase up before the elderly man across the aisle did it for her. She plumped the cloth bag in the corner between sidearm and back and sat down with a little noise of delight as she looked around. Catching herself at the noise, she blushed, fixed her gaze sternly forward as she folded her hands in her lap, and peeped at Jemina sidelong.

Jemina tried to imagine how she might appear. She knew herself thin but nicely dressed and pale-skinned. The lace at her throat was Bruges, the cross around her neck gold, the gloves on her hands white and clean. She looked like a school-teacher, she imagined, but not a particularly nice one. She felt her lips thin further at the thought.
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NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 3

Image of bookshelves filled with books about writing

Also accomplished: organized some of the study bookshelves. Here we’ve got F&SF writing stuff plus podcasting equipment (top shelf); lingusitics and writing (middle shelf) and WMST and lit crit (bottom). It’s nice being able to find books when I want to refer to them.

So far I’m cranking along. Part of the impetus is a Thanksgiving trip, which effectively means I’ve got 20 days, not 30, to finish. But I’m well on track so far, with over 6000 words banked so far. Here’s some of them, taken from Hearts of Tabat:

“I need your help,” Sebastiano told Letha, “but oh…” His breath caught at the thought of her seeing what he had seen. “It is too much to ask.”

She came down the steps as he spoke, reached out and took his hand.

“Tell me,” she said, looking up into his face and the sound of the love and worry in her voice undid him. He collapsed to his knees, burying his face in her skirts, and sobbed like a child of five whose worst nightmare has come true.

She held him without speaking, let him sob away all the horror and terror of those moments and the coppery stench of the blood and the horrible way its sheen changed as it dried. Finally he drew away and she released him. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, pressing hard on his eyeballs, as though to extract what he had seen.

“A murder,” he said. “No, a slaughter, really. And they think it was a Beast.”

“Beasts do not murder,” she said. “They may kill in the moment, but they do not plan and enact such acts.”

“This one did. I think. I don’t know.” In his head he ran through lists. “Are there any creatures that thrive on death?”

“There are the Mandrakes, which suffocate and then try to put their infants in place of the human child,” she said. “There are the fairies, which sting so many travelers, but they must be provoked or drawn by injury, usually. You mean a creature that is fed by killing. That is not a Beast, Sebastiano. That is sorcery.”

He knew the truth of her words the minute he heard them. How had he not realized that before? Perhaps some clouding spell had overlaid the house? A golem, constructed by sorcery, using Beasts. Was that possible?

He must have spoken his thoughts aloud, because Letha replied to them, her voice tart as a winter apple. “Of course it is. What else does Tabat do with Beasts but use them to fuel magic?”

I’m also finishing up edits for the story that will appear next year in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Red in Tooth and Cog.” A recent publication is As the Crow Flies, So Does the Road in GrendelSong.

If you want some NaNoWriMo inspiration, here’s a post about why if you’re writing, you’re doing things right. Here’s a fun but low-pay call for submissions that might spark some ideas.

(Want some more inspiration? Check out one of my writing classes, either on-demand or live.

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SFWA Bulletin and Blog Submission Guidelines

IMG_0557One of the things we’ve been working on behind the scenes is getting submission guidelines for both the SFWA Bulletin and the SFWA Blog up. The former pays ten cents a word, the latter six cents. They’re looking for much the same sort of content, things of interest to professional genre writers; blog articles are a bit shorter and more informal.

Here are the SFWA Bulletin guidelines.

Here are the SFWA blog guidelines.

You do not have to be a SFWA member to write for either publication. I’ve done a number of pieces for both, most recently a series on teaching workshops that finishes up soon.

If you’re not familiar with the blog, it runs a number of articles that are useful, including tips on tools, new markets, industry news, and writing advice.


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World Fantasy’s Harassment Policy

Abstract image for the website of Cat Rambo, speculative writer and editor.This morning the question was raised for me as to whether or not SFWA will hold a business meeting at World Fantasy if they do not produce a policy for handling harassment that matches up with the SFWA guidelines. (I myself am not attending WFC this year for reasons that have no connection to any of this; Susan Forest, the current SFWA Secretary, will be running the meeting if it is held.)

There’s been a lot of controversy about the current WFC policy and my understanding is that they are looking at amending it right now. So my answer depends very much on how it’s amended, actually. If the policy doesn’t match up with ours sufficiently to keep SFWA members and their families able to enjoy the convention and participate freely, we may not have the business meeting. That remains to be seen.

The SFWA guidelines, which have been around since 2011, are here. I’m not part of the group that produced them, but I’d like to go through and explain why I find ours adequate in a way the existing WFC policy is not.
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Nine Ways to Rev Up For NaNoWriMo 2015

Picture of a coffee cup

Want an online writing class to help you win NaNoWriMo this November? I teach both live and on-demand classes.

November has come to represent something for many writers: a chance to participate in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words over the course of the month.

The main advantage of NaNoWriMo is the shared energy and impetus to get words onto the page, without worrying about whether they are genius or not. I’ve done it several times in the past, and always managed to either hit the 50,000 word mark or come within a few thousand words of it. While I don’t usually participate in local NaNoWriMo events, like the various write-ins at coffeeshops, libraries, and associated institutions, I do appreciate the feeling it brings of being part of a vast swell of words.
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