The Craft explores a different aspect of the writing process each month. For December, I asked Alex Shvartsman—who’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 Fantastic—about 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.
The Craft is a column that explores the writing process, each month focusing on a different aspect of the craft. This month I asked Mercedes M. Yardley, the author of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love and Beautiful Sorrows, about writing horror. Here’s what she had to say…
James Aquilone: What is the surest way of scaring the bejesus out of a reader?
Mercedes M. Yardley: I think the surest way to scare the reader is to write something that scares yourself. If you’re writing with that sense of terror, the reader will pick up on it. I’m scared of losing my children. I’m scared of being cut with knives. These are themes that show up in my work, and even if you aren’t afraid of being sliced and diced like I am, hopefully you’ll feel that sense of foreboding because I do.
We’re all afraid. We’re all human animals, and fear is hardwired into our genes. As an author, exploit that.
Best Fan Writer Hugo-winner Jim C. Hines nominated me to moderate the first panel I was ever on. He loves breaking in new writers. His Jig The Dragonslayer trilogy, now out in a Daw omnibus, is a humorous sword and sorcery tale about a goblin. He followed that with the four book Princess cycle which are fairy tales gone awry crossing Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels. Published by Daw Books, his latest book Libriomancer starts a new trilogy, Magic Ex-Libris, about a librarian hunting a killer. Because he likes to stretch himself, being as he lives in Lansing, he set this series in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s an urban fantasy with a lot of humor, involving dryads, wizards, vampires, automatons and more. Jim’s short fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy, Andromeda Spaceways, Writers of the Future and several anthologies. He can be found online at Facebook, Twitter via his website at and his blog.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt talks to Jim C. Hines about his career and his exciting future projects.
SFFWRTCHT: Starting at the beginning, Where’d your interest in SFF come from?
Jim C. Hines: Ahem. Is this thing on? My interest in SF/F comes from the fact that swords and magic and spaceships and lightsabers are awesome.
Dr. Ben Bova has written more than 120 futuristic novels and nonfiction books, and has been involved in science and high technology since the very beginnings of the space age. President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, Dr. Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, “for fueling mankind’s imagination regarding the wonders of outer space.” His 2006 novel Titan received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. In 2008 he won the Robert A. Heinlein Award “for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature.”
A frequent commentator on radio and television and a widely-popular lecturer, he was an award-winning editor and an executive in the aerospace industry. He received the Science Fiction Achievement Award (the “Hugo”) for Best Professional Editor six times. In 2001 Dr. Bova was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received the 1996 Isaac Asimov Memorial Award; was the 1974 recipient of the E.E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction; the 1983 Balrog Award winner for Professional Achievement; the 1985 Inkpot Award recipient for his outstanding achievements in science fiction. In 2000, he was Guest of Honor at the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon 2000. Dr. Bova is a multi-Hugo winner as Editor of both Analog and Omni, as well as for his many novels, which include Saturn, Mars, The Sam Gunn stories/novels, The Kinsman Saga, The Asteroid series, and The Orion series, amongst others. His latest novel, Orion and King Arthur, just released from Tor Books. He can be found online via Facebook or his website at http://www.benbova.net.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt talks to Ben about his career, his approach to craft and his exciting future projects for us.
SFFWRTCHT: Where’d your interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy come from?
Robert J. Sawyer has won 46 national and international fiction awards including a Hugo, a Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He’s been called the Dean of Canadian science fiction and Canada’s premier science fiction author and lives in Ontario with his wife, a poet. His novel, Flashforward, was the basis of the ABC TV series in the U.S. His other novels include Terminal Experiment, Illegal Alien,The WWW Series, The Neanderthal Parallax and The Quintaglio Ascension trilogies, Calculating God, Mindscan and his latest Triggers from Tor Books.
His short fiction has appeared in anthologies like Dinosaur Fantastic, Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, and Far Frontiers, and three short story collections. He can be found on Twitter as @robertjsawyer and Facebook and via his website.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt had an extensive conversation with Rob about his craft and work for us.
SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with the basics: Where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from? And who/what were some of your favorite authors and books?
Robert J. Sawyer: Growing up in the 1960s with Star Trek and Apollo, plus seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in first run. Clarke Childhood’s End, Pohl Gateway, Niven Ringworld , Asimov Caves of Steel.