MIND MELD: Epic Geek Debates & Rants

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Geeks are a passionate and opinionated people. Put two of them in a room and more often than not a debate and/or rant will ensue. Sometimes it’s not pretty. With that in mind, we asked our esteemed panel of geeks the following:

Q: What was the first or most memorable geeky pop-culture debate you ever had? Or what’s that one thing you can’t stop ranting about? What was the outcome? Are you still on speaking terms with your opponent? Why are you so passionate about this?

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There’s an upcoming anthology called Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse edited by by Alex Shvartsman and William Snee.

Here’s the book description:

Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse is an anthology of science fiction stories set in the world of the Dark Expanse video game. It contains 18 stories from 12 authors and totals approximately 80,000 words

Check out the great lineup in the table of contents…
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Alex Shvartsman writes in to let us know that the civer art and headlines for the upcoming anthology Unidentified Funny Objects 3, his annual anthology of humorous SFF now being funded through Kickstarter.

Press release follows…
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THE CRAFT: Alex Shvartsman on Getting Published

The Craft explores a different aspect of the writing process each month. For December, I asked Alex Shvartsmanwho’s sold nearly 60 short stories and is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects series of anthologies and the brand-new Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantasticabout getting published. Here’s what she had to say…

Photo by JeanMarie Ward   

James Aquilone: You’ve had pretty good success getting published in the short fiction markets over the last three years. What’s your secret? Does it involve bribes?

Alex Shvartsman: Absolutely — I do accept bribes from editors in exchange for submitting my stories to them. I mostly prefer these bribes in the form of chocolate, coffee, and flattery, but ultimately I’m flexible.

I attribute my relative success in short fiction publishing to my total lack of discipline and attention needed to write an actual novel. I’m like that dog in Up. While talented writers are spending months and years on writing the next Great American Novel, every time I start thinking about my own novel-in-progress, SQUIRREL! — a short story idea hijacks my brain and won’t let go until I’ve written it down. My total word output for the year isn’t all that great — but it’s all short stories, so it seems like a lot.
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Table of Contents: COFFEE Edited by Alex Shvartsman

UFO Publishing has posted the table of contents for the new anthology Coffee, edited by Alex Shvartsman:
Here’s the book description:

Coffee plays a major role in each of the stories collected in this book. Brewed from such fine ingredients as magic, wonder, humor, and romance, Coffee serves up a unique blend of the fantastic you won’t be able to put down.

Here’s the table of contents…
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MIND MELD: Worthy Media Tie-ins

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From Star Wars to X-Men, Halo to Star Trek, many media franchises also offer tie-in novels, giving fans another way to enjoy their favorite worlds and characters.  But which media tie in novels are the cream of the crop? we asked some experts:

Q: Many movies, TV shows, comic books, and even video games have gotten the novelization or media tie-in treatment. Be it a direct novelization of the original property or an original story based on the characters, what media tie-in books have been a worthy addition to their franchise?

Here’s what they said…

Tricia Barr
Tricia Barr writes about fandom, heroines, and genre storytelling at her blog FANgirl and contributes to her Star Wars expertise to Suvudu.com, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Blog and Star Wars Insider magazine. She has completed her first original novel, Wynde, a military science fiction epic with a twist of fantasy.

Over thirty-five years later, many fans do not realize that A New Hope, known simply as Star Wars back in 1977, used a novelization and Marvel comics to generate considerable pre-release buzz. The Prequel Trilogy continued this tradition, with April publications of the novelizations in advance of the May movies. When Episode III novelization author Matthew Stover stepped on stage for his book panel at the official franchise convention Star Wars Celebration III, after the book’s release and before the film opened, he was greeted like a rock star. The impending release of Revenge of the Sith certainly helped spur on the fan hoopla, but it was the way Stover masterfully wove together the fall of the Jedi Order and its hero, Anakin Skywalker, that excited a fandom that had survived the Dark Times – the period between the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy – by reading books and comics. The standing-room- only crowd of novel enthusiasts appreciated the way he had turned a visual story into powerful prose. While much of the Revenge of the Sith novelization maintained the traditional third-person-limited point of view narrative, Stover ventured into second-person explorations of the key characters like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, and Padmé Amidala. He also explained at his panel why the battle scenes that took place on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk were not included in the novelization: to maintain the thematic focus on Anakin Skywalker’s fall. While there were no Wookiees in the book, Stover used a recurring metaphor of a dragon to foreshadow the story’s conclusion.
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In episode 204 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sneaks into an unused programming room to chat with the editor, publisher, and several contributing authors of the Beyond the Sun anthology, out from Fairwood Press.
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TOC: ‘Unidentified Funny Objects 2′ Edited by Alex Shvartsman

Here is the table of contents for the upcoming anthology Unidentified Funny Objects 2 edited by Alex Shvartsman:

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This week on The SF Signal Mind Meld, the Melders got mythical:

Q: Gods, Goddesses and Myths: From Rick Riordan to Dan Simmons, the popularity of Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, especially but not limited to Classical Greco-Roman and Norse mythology seems as fresh as ever. What is the appeal and power of mythological figures, in and out of their normal time? What do they bring to genre fiction?

Here’s what they said:

Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of such novels as Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Blue Blazes, and Under The Empyrean Sky. He is an alumni of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. He is the co-author of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus and developer of the game Hunter: The Vigil. He lives in Pennsyltucky with wife, son, and two dopey dogs. You can find him on Twitter @ChuckWendig and at his website, terribleminds.com, where he frequently dispenses dubious and very-NSFW advice on writing, publishing, and life in general.

Here’s why gods and goddesses and spirits and elves and all the creatures of all the mythologies matter:

Because they’re the original stories.

Right? We’re going to take as accepted the idea that stories have the power to change the world. That stories are how we communicate and share ideas – in that sense, storytelling is a powerful memetics delivery system by which we push enlightenment (and increasingly, entertainment) onto one another.

The original stories were the stories of us trying to explain our world. It’s mythology to us, now, but to the people telling those stories, the tales delivered a kind of enlightenment (and I’m sure given some of the hilariously sordid melodrama of mythology, they were also entertainment). Mythology explained everything from why the sun rose and fell to why mankind did all the curious and seemingly inexplicable things that it did.

All we’re really trying to do as storytellers is explain ourselves and say things about the world. (This is, of course, an expression of the literary theme – the theme being the argument we’re trying to make with our narrative.) That’s what connects us to the myths of the past and more importantly, the myth-tellers. It’s no surprise then that sometimes our fiction – say, Gaiman’s American Gods – re-explores those ideas and those characters in fresh, fascinating ways.

Though it’s also no surprise that we seek to make our own mythologies, either — mythologies either cobbled together from what has already come (repurposing the myths and divinities of the past is by no means unique to this age!) or pulled fresh out of the ether. Though there you’ll find a troubling idea – future humans digging up a copy of our fantasy fiction (the best or the worst of it) and thinking, This must be the mythology of the 21st century barbarians. A religion based on Tolkien or Rowling? Or a religion based on Twilight? Hmm…

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are enabling authors and editors to reach out directly to fans and ask for help in producing novels and anthologies. However, with crowd sourcing being a fairly recent phenomena, the authors and editors who have put their works in front of the public are blazing a new trail for others to follow.

We asked our panelists this question:

Q: What effect will crowd funding have on SF/F publishing in general and how will it affect the mid-list and self-published authors/editors?

Here’s what they said:

Allen Stroud
Allen Stroud is a University Lecturer from Bucks New University in High Wycombe. He runs the successful, Film and TV Production degree and also teaches Creative Writing, specialising in Writing Fantasy, a module he has taught for nine years. He has a Masters Degree in Science Fiction and Fantasy world-building and also writes music, composing work that has featured in award winning short films.

So you want to write a book? Or, you’ve already written a book and you want to publish it?

For some time now, the e-book publication method has been a source of hope to prospective authors attempting to gain recognition for their writing. The proliferation of e-book readers and the ease of constructing a professional looking copy has brought a new form of democratization to the differing processes of publication.

However, this process doesn’t bring a writer a guaranteed audience. Success amidst the e-book revolution is hard. With so many titles to choose from, readers seldom unite behind individual texts. Yet, we do see occasional stratospheric achievements. Although often these are as much to do with capturing the mood of the times as the quality of the writing.

Writing Science Fiction or Fantasy helps a bit. Genre readers have more identifiable interests in what they like from a book, so potentially, carving out an audience for your own work is a clearer objective in that you can write a book that appeals to this market.
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BOOK REVIEW: In Situ Edited by Carrie Cuinn

REVIEW SUMMARY: With this collection’s 15 stories, editor Carrie Cuinn argues that sometimes it’s best to keep hidden mysteries hidden.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: “An anthology of alien archeology, hidden mysteries, and things that are better off left buried,” with stories by such writers as Ken Liu, Alex Shvartsman, Mae Empson, David J. West, and K.V. Taylor.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Well-written, quick-paced stories; no clunkers.
CONS: A few stories with similar plots, characters, settings.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting batch of stories about “things that are better off left buried.”
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Alex Shvartsman has been published in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Penumbra and Buzzy Magazine. Besides being a writer, he’s a game designer, a business owner and has traveled to more than 30 countries playing a card game for a living. He recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of humorous SF and fantasy stories by such writers as Mike Resnick, Ken Liu and Lavie Tidhar. UFO will be published in November.

SF Signal had the opportunity to chat with Alex about the humorous side of science fiction and fantasy.


JAMES AQUILONE: John Scalzi recently told Locus magazine that “humor is one of the great taboos of science fiction.” Why do you think that is?

ALEX SHVARTSMAN: The short answer is: because writing humor is hard. Much harder than writing drama.

I think it only fair that I shamelessly swipe the long answer to this question from John Scalzi himself who explained it better than I can during the Redshirts book tour. I’m paraphrasing what he said, below:

Suppose I want to write a very sad scene and I’d like it to be powerful enough to make the reader cry. If you read it and cry, I’ve succeeded. If you read it and feel very sad but don’t actually shed tears, I succeeded a little bit less but the scene still worked, for the most part. If you read the scene and are touched just a little by its content, that still gets a passing grade. I only fail if you read it and feel absolutely nothing. Now suppose I want to write a scene that’s intended to make you laugh. You read it and you either laugh, or you don’t. Being mildly amused won’t cut it. Thus, my likelihood of success in creating such a scene is much, much lower.

Many writers don’t want to take a chance on humor, because the odds of really connecting with the reader are so much lower.

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TOC: “Unidentified Funny Objects” Edited by Alex Shvartsman

Lavie Tidhar has posted the table of contents for an anthology he is in, Unidentified Funny Objects, set to be publsihed in November:
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