Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Copyediting Par Excellence

I attended MidSouthCon near Memphis earlier this month, to help launch and promote Andrew Fox's new novel, The Good Humor Man from Tachyon Publications. MidSouthCon planned a "writers track" this year, and the programming staff asked if I would do a workshop, lasting one and a half hours (in addition to a few other panels). I agreed, and then had to think of an appropriate subject. Something that author Mark Teppo had said, when he and I were laying the ground rules for working together on his novel Lightbreaker last year, came to mind. I edit on hardcopy -- that's just how I work; however, when I work directly with an author, I then re-enter all my edits and copyedits from the hardcopy into the author's formatted manuscript file using MS Word's Change Tracking; with Change Tracking the author can easily see both the before and after, and I can enter comment boxes where needed as well. Consequently there is no hardcopy to photocopy and mail (and thus no added expense); the author never sees my hardcopy, only the marked-up e-file. When I explained the process to Mark and asked if he was okay with this, he responded: Track Changes is perfect, and I’m glad that I don’t have to actually go figure out what copyediting marks are. :) [The smiley face was included in Mark's response!] [Note: more blogging to come on Mark Teppo's Lightbreaker, tentatively scheduled for publication from Night Shade Books on April 20.]

So, for MidSouthCon, I proposed a workshop entitled "Learn Copyeditting four Fun and Proft" (typos intentional), with the following description:

You've just received the marked-up galleys of your novel from the publisher. You have less than a week to review these pages and provide feedback. There's so much red ink on the galleys that it looks like the copyeditor was hideously attacked during the editing process! Just what do all those red lines and characters mean?

I created a three-part, sixty-five-page computer presentation, that included ten hands-on exercises for the workshop participants, along with real examples taken directly from the books I have edited over the years -- all of this, as it turned out, for four and a half people (the "one-half" being the person who arrived a half-hour late and left a half-hour early). That was the extent of my workshop participants. So, I thought that I would salvage some of the work I put into this workshop by sharing the finer points of my discussion with readers of this blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Fermi Paradox

Science fiction author and scientist Geoffrey A. Landis writes:

"The galaxy contains roughly a hundred billion stars. If even a very small fraction of these have planets which develop technological civilizations, there must be a very large number of such civilizations. If any of these civilizations produce cultures which colonize over interstellar distances, even at a small fraction of the speed of light, the galaxy should have been completely colonized in no more than a few million years. Since the galaxy is billions of years old, Earth should have been visited and colonized long ago... The absence of any evidence for such visits is the Fermi paradox."

This excerpt is from an article entitled "The Fermi Paradox: An Approach Based on Percolation Theory," published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 1998, which Landis later presented at the NASA Symposium "Vision-21: Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering in the Era of Cyberspace" in 1993. The full article is available on the author's website.

I mention this article by way of my own introduction -- just in case you are unfamiliar with the term Fermi Paradox: I am pleased to announce that co-editor Nick Gevers and I have sold Fermi Paradox-themed original anthology, Is Anybody Out There? to
Daw Books via Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books, for publication in 2010.

Hopefully you will recognize the name of my co-editor, Nick Gevers: he has had a regular short-fiction review column in Locus magazine since 2001; he has written reviews and literary criticism for the Washington Post Book World and the New York Review of Science Fiction, among many other venues. Nick is also an editor for British indie publisher
PS Publishing; and, he has had two original anthologies published so far this year: Other Earths (with Jay Lake, Daw Books) and Steampunk! (Solaris Books).

This week Nick and I sent out our first round of formal invitations to authors (we've received only one decline so far!) and we're excitedly awaiting the influx of incredibly fine short stories in the weeks and months ahead. Here's an excerpt from the "pitch" we sent to our authors:

Why is it that, in such a vast cosmos, with hundreds of billions of stars in this galaxy alone, and no doubt billions of Earth-like planets orbiting them, we have found no evidence of intelligent alien life? No evidence that aliens have ever visited Earth (other than discredited UFO mythology), no detectable signals in all our SETI searches with radio telescopes... So: we’re asking for entertaining stories that explore explanations for this enigma, looking seriously or comically at solutions to Fermi’s question. Is intelligent life a fluke, arising only once or twice in the universe’s long history? Does intelligence arise frequently, but with gulfs of time and distance keeping technological civilizations irretrievably apart? Do such civilizations inevitably implode or self-destruct within a few hundred years? Is our definition of intelligence fatally subjective? Are aliens among us right now, unseen? Are there aliens everywhere, but determined not to let us notice them? These, or other hypotheses, no matter how unlikely, should inform contributions to Is Anybody Out There?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm Going to Graceland...

Graceland / In Memphis, Tennessee...
Actually, I'll only be at Graceland in spirit. I will be in Memphis, however, attending MidSouthCon next weekend, March 21-22. Joining me at the convention will be two of Tachyon Publications's finest: author Andrew Fox and publicist Matt Staggs (of Deep Eight LLC). We'll be in Memphis to launch Andrew's new novel, The Good Humor Man, Or, Calorie 3501. Where else, but Memphis, would we have a book launch in which one of the "characters" in the novel is Elvis (well, not actually Elvis, per se, but a part of him!), and one of the major secondary characters throughout the story (beginning with Chapter 8) is Daniel Swaggart, Associate Director for Acquisitions and Exhibits for Graceland? [Note: I previously blogged about this book on Thursday, February 19; scroll down to read this earlier post.]

The official book launch is on Saturday (March 21) at 9:00 PM in the Chestnut Room. If you're attending MidSouthCon, please do join us for this program event at which Andrew, Matt, and I will converse most eloquently, and at length, on how The Good Humor Man came to be. There are definitely some tales to be told here. (And I believe Glen Cook, in the dealers room, will have copies of the book available for sale during the convention.)

Before I go any further, I would like to thank some of the staff of MidSouthCon -- Dan Gamber, Eric Groff, and Carlin Stuart -- for their most gracious assistance in helping us schedule this event, as well as their help with all of my programming and programming requirements. I'm looking forward to a great weekend, a rewarding weekend, and most likely an exhausting weekend, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

February-Early March Links and Things

These links are from my previous tweets over the past month. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail. I wanted to do this -- and will continue to do so in the future -- so that I have a somewhat permanent file of all these links. And hopefully you'll find something of interest here, especially if you're not following me on Twitter.

February 12: Self-Publishing Review interviews Tessa Dick, Philip K. Dick's last (fifth) wife, who has reworked and self-published The Owl in Daylight, the novel PKD was working on when he died. This is an honest interview, with comments about Tessa's relationship with her husband, how she wrote the book, and her experience with the New York publishing machine.

February 27: (courtesy of boingboing.net) Herdict is a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; it is a browser plug-in that detects & reports net censorship.

February 27: " 'Blade Runner meets Casablanca written by Nelson Algren' would be the Hollywood pitch for Budayeen Nights, a collection of stories by the late George Alec Effinger. But there's much more to these hard-boiled, lemon-scented tales." A great io9 review of Budayeen Nights, which was recently released in trade paperback by Golden Gryphon Press. I worked with GAE on this book, but, sadly, he passed away before the book saw print.

February: Friend and author Bruce McAllister has published the McAllister Coaching newsletter: "Our goal is to provide information, advice and resources helpful to short story writers and novelists, non-fiction writers of all lengths (articles, columns and books), screenwriters, and poets." Check out the first issue, and then make your way to the "Bio" page and sign up.

March 1: The Hartford Courant in an article entitled "Independent Bands, Writers Perceived Differently", speaks to the "curious divide in the pop arts world over the do-it-yourself ethic and the different, and opposite, ways it applies to books and to music."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Potlatch 18 Convention: the Pros and Non-Pros

We've all attended conventions where many of the panel topics are so esoteric, so over-the-top, that not only is no preparation necessary by the guest participants, but the nature of the topic allows the panelists to spout nearly an hour's worth of endless drivel of whatever spontaneously comes to mind. Everyone has a good laugh and the panelists pat each other on the back for a job well done. Fifteen minutes later you have no recollection of anything said during the panel you just attended (certainly the panel wasn't worthy enough for note-taking), but you think you had a good time. If you're a serious, albeit non-pro writer, I would think you would want more (expect more) out of your convention attendance. Then there's "pay it forward" -- sharing your knowledge, your skills, your experiences good and bad, on the path to becoming a pro, with those who aren't quite there yet. But if skills and biz-related panels/workshops aren't included in the convention's programming, then does the con become little more than a mutual appreciation society for the pros?

February 28 and March 1 I attended Potlatch 18, the first Silicon Valley Potlatch, held at the Domain Hotel in Sunnyvale California. To quote from the program book: "Potlatch is a small literary-oriented convention with a single track of panels, and it's fundamentally about books and conversations." And, from the con's website: "Proceeds from Potlatch benefit Clarion West -- an intensive six-week workshop for writers who are preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy." This was my first Potlatch, and I was a bit sceptical, once I learned last October from the person in charge of programming that there are no panels or workshops on the craft of writing, no discussions on the business-end of writing (e.g. agents, publishers, self-promotion, etc.), which I thought odd given the relationship between Potlach and Clarion West.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Books Received

Following is a list of books I have received over the past few weeks; some were complimentary copies sent to me by the publisher because I had worked on the book, some were titles that I purchased myself, and others were part of submission packages from their respective authors:

John Davey, Blood and Souls, The Nephyrite Press, London, 2001.

John Davey, The Hole: A Teen Fable, The Nephyrite Press, London, 2008.

Andrew Fox, The Good Humor Man, Or, Calorie 3501, Advance Reader Copy, Tachyon Publications, 2009.

Joe Hill, Gunpowder, Signed Limited Edition, PS Publishing, 2008.

Steve Knopper, Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, Free Press, 2009.

James Morrow, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, Tachyon Publications, 2009.

Mike Resnick, Kilimanjaro: A Fable of Utopia, Subterranean Press, Signed Limited Edition, 2008.

Alastair Reynolds, The Six Directions of Space, Subterranean Press, Signed Limited Edition, 2008.

Dan Simmons, Drood, Little, Brown & Company, New York, 2009.