The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Foreclosure Stupidity

Most of us know about the show "Extreme Makeover". If you don't, here's the short version:
A group of do-gooders (and I mean that nicely) find families in need of help, show up at their homes, boot them out for a week (usually on some sort of nice vacation) and remodel their entire home so that it suits the family more appropriately. Usually the families have some sort of medical condition in the family (such as children with severe brain deficiencies, or heart conditions, or other things that make life a little difficult). The homes given to them aren't cheap. In fact, some of the homes created are damn expensive, mostly because they are custom made, not track homes.
Well, apparently on family thought it would be a brilliant idea to use their brand new, custom built home that was DONATED to them as collateral on a $450,000 loan. And now they're in foreclosure on the house. Yup, that's right. This family, who was given a brand new home to suit their needs--generously given, I might add--decided to put it up as collateral for a loan for a business deal...and now they're losing it.
Some of the volunteers who helped build the home were less than thrilled about the family's financial decisions.

"It's aggravating. It just makes you mad. You do that much work, and they just squander it," Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, who helped vault a massive beam into place in the Harper's living room, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
My sentiments exactly. I'd be pissed off too. It's not every day someone hands you something that valuable and says "all I want is a hug in return". Idiots.

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Mars Has Water

It's confirmed, everyone. Mars has water. We now have a 100% certainty of it. No skepticism. This is a reality. There is water on Mars. Fantastic discovery!

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Book Meme: Which classics have you read?

Discovered this here and thought I aught to do it.

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. Well let's see.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Reprint this list on your blog so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

Here goes:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I'm bolding this anyway because I've read a hell of a lot of his work)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (wat, why is this on there twice)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (I've seen and read enough Pooh stuff that this counts)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (this is also on there twice; why does this get separated from the Complete Works rather than Romeo & Juliet, or Macbeth, or Othello...)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Twenty-two. That's not bad I suppose. There are a lot of books on here I'm not really interested in though. So be it. Everyone is tagged, by the way!

Book Piracy Won't Destroy Writers

Why is it that people think so negatively about the Internet? Apparently the Society of Authors, whoever the heck they are, have spouted the doomsday report that the ever popular book group of book pirates will ruin us all:
For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less and less but in the long run it’s going to ruin the information. People will stop writing. There’s a lot of ‘wait and see what the technology brings’ but the trouble is if you wait and see too long then it’s gone. That’s what happened to the music industry.
Except, the music industry never stopped. Where the heck do you live where you think people are no longer making music? That's absolutely absurd. The music industry never died. In fact, it's doing just fine. Yeah, there's some lost revenue, but has it stopped people from making music? No. The Internet has actually done the exact opposite: it's inspired musicians. Remember the old That site was like a haven to musicians everywhere, and quite a few relatively popular groups spawned from the historical incarnation of that site. There are loads of new sites today using similar models for music. They may not be making a whole lot of money, but they are making music.
The same thing has happened with writers. The Internet has opened up a whole new avenue for them to express themselves and become better known. Granted, just like in music there are loads of writers who suck, and the Internet has given them the avenue to spew their pointless dribble, but in the end my point still stands. They are writing, and I'd argue that the writing community is more vibrant now than it ever was in the past. There might not be a whole lot of superb writing, but does all writing have to be superb to be respected? A book might suck, but I can at least respect the author and the work that author put into it, can't I?
The stupidity, however, doesn't end with proclaiming disaster for the writing industry. It moves on to an idea that, quite frankly, makes my skin crawl:
In the 19th century and before, other models of paying writers existed, including lump-sum agreements and profit-sharing. She sees no reason why the book industry should not be equally innovative. She suggested four possible sources of income at an industry discussion on copyright law last week: the Government, business, rich patrons and the public. Government funding could take the form of an “academy” of salaried writers.
What would this do to the writing industry? You're suggesting we dispense with the current publishing model, which gives ample opportunity for a variety of new authors, and instead leave it up to the government to make the decision about what is acceptable reading material? Do these folks even realize what including the government in choosing the "pick of the litter" will do to the writing industry? This might have wroked just fine some hundreds of years ago, but let's face it, this is stupid, elitist tripe. Let's just let the government get involved in what we're reading. Great idea. Because that's not asking for censorship at all.
By the way, two examples that were used as examples to support the claim of the Society of Writers were: Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. There is mention that lesser known authors have suffered from piracy, but to claim that these two authors are actually suffering from the piracy of their books is like saying Bill Gates is broke.
Book piracy isn't going to kill the urge to write, just as music piracy isn't going to kill the urge to make music. This is stupid on too many different levels.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Apologies Readers

For some reason LoudTwitter went schizo on me and started posting my tweets over and over and over, when I didn't want it to. Not sure what's up, but it should stop for a while now. I know there is an issue with the Twitter folks in regards to third party feed services. Looks like they're tweaking things a bit.

Anywho, it should stop now and again, I'm sorry about that.

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Gay marriage equals the end of democracy?

Orson Scott Card is apparently at it again. To be honest, I'm not even going to touch this. If you want to read some brilliant counter-rants, go here, here (this one is suprisingly not tinged with hateful anti-man language), or here. In short, I think Card has lost his mind and joined the ranks of the very lunatic religious wackjobs who have been attempting to tear down the foundations of science and rationality for decades. His insanity is too obvious. He needs to go on vacation or something. Seriously. Nobody should be this angry about anything (except, perhaps, having one's entire race of people eradicated). If this is a publicity stunt or something, it's working, cause he's getting loads of attention.

Anywho, I'm done. His rant is so horrible I don't even have the time to refute his dribbling nonsense.

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Shakespeare and Geeks Unite

By far the coolest infusion of Shakespeare into geek culture ever. Got this from the Swivet.

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Twitteriffic Stuffs

Here's my random twitter nonsense for the day:
  • 13:33 @SQT72 Just thought I'd let you know I have two books I'm reading. The Naming and Honeycomb...shoudl be done with first soon. #
  • 15:34 @SQT72 I felt the same way, actually, when I read an erotica book some time back. It's sort of uncomfortable in a way. #
  • 00:08 @SQT72 Oh, you got lucky. That's good erotica then :P. The stuff with all sex sort of bugs me a bit. #
  • 00:10 Almost done w/ The Naming. It's good. Me like. Want to get done though. #
  • 00:51 @SQT72 It's a long book, but I'm close. 60 pages :P. And then loads of other books. Hopefully the publishers don't hate me :S. #
  • 01:51 I just randomly was inspired and started writing some weirdass's called Fallspark right now...and it' outside my element. #
Thanks for not exploding. Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter (Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Feminists: Why I stopped listening.

This is probably going to be controversial somehow. So if you're easily offended, stop reading. Consider yourself warned.
Over at Yahoo there is a report that feminists are up in arms over a new game from Sony. Why are they up in arms? Because the game, called "Fat Princess", is about a, well, fat princess running around collecting cake and getting fatter so that your enemies can't capture you so easily.
Why is this so offensive? I have no idea. Is it because she's fat? If so, are there no fat women in the world who eat cake? Is there a sudden shortage of cake eating plump women? Or is it because the game is about a fat girl chasing cake to get fatter so she can't get captured? Okay, if that's the case, I still don't get it. Before anyone goes off and says "well, you're a man, you don't get it anyway, cause you're sexist by default", I'll have you know that I am far from the sexist male you might think. I support gender equality and I don't believe there are that many differences between males and females beyond physical things. We are the same species and neither is better than the other (well, I'm a little biased in that women are better than men, but that's because I am not really attracted to men). I simply don't get what is sexist about this game. There are games featuring fat guys too, you know, not to mention a plethora of portrayals of fat men who consume cake for pleasure. It's not like this is such an unusual concept.
Having said that, here is my problem with all this. It's just a game. Yes, I said it. It's just a stupid game. Emphasis on stupid. This isn't a game I'd play, unless it had something really weird to it, but I still don't think this is something to get upset about. If something like this upsets you, maybe you need to go on vacation or stop reading the news. Seriously. This is such a minor, pointless thing to get upset over, unless there's something I'm not aware of in the game.
This is only one facet of the angry feminist movement that has completely turned me off from reading anything related to their "members". They have valid points about a lot of things, but they come off so angry and bitter that it's hard for me to listen to their rants for more than ten seconds. It's hard for me to take you seriously if your arguments are tinged with sarcasm, hatred, anger, bitterness, and other such negative inflections. If you want my attention, you have to make your points heard from a logical, rational standpoint. This is the same reason I don't listen to religious arguments that try to claim that the Earth is only 4,000 years old.
And then there is the hypocrisy.
It's all well and good to fight hard for gender equality, but it works both ways. How many commercials have there been featuring stereotypical stupid males doing something stupid and laughable? And do feminists rise up and say "hey, that ain't right"? Of course not. The problem is that many in the feminist movement say "we want equality" without actually understanding what that last word means. Equality doesn't mean we stop making sexist female jokes, but you can make sexist male jokes all you want. You want equality, then all sexist jokes have to stop, or we're allowed to rip on one another equally without people getting in a tiffy over something like a plus size princess with a cake fetish.
Feminists also seem to forget that the climate has changed for gender relations. Fifty years ago it was different, but today there is more gender equality. Of course we have a long way to go, and I'm not saying that sexism doesn't exist. I'm simply saying that things are different now. Of course there are things yet to be achieved in the interests of gender equality. We haven't had a female president yet, or a vice president for that matter (and probably won't this election). But we have had several female CEOs, politicians, judges, etc. Granted, there are more men than women in these positions, but would we have seen such things fifty years ago? Probably not.
The point is, if you're going to have a movement, make it one worth following. If all you do is act the bitter feminist you're essentially isolating yourself from an audience that still has slightly more control that you. Shouldn't you be pushing to include men into the conversation? Or are all men sexist pigs in your eyes? If you think the latter, then that's just another facet of hypocrisy on the feminist side, since there are entire factions of feminists who believe all men are the same--and this is slightly insulting to me, as I am not a sexist pig, thank you very much. Open your mind a little and let men become a part of the equation. That's pushing for true gender equality. Let's face it, if men and women alike are pushing for the same thing, it's more likely to happen for the right reasons rather than the wrong reasons. What are the wrong reasons? Political pressure from a minority. It feels like a victory to get something on the books as a minority group, but it's even more meaningful when something gets on the books that is supported by a larger portion of the masses, something desired by more than just one group. That, and it's more likely to happen if a larger group of people are demanding something rather than just one group.
Setting aside the rambles I'll say that I am well aware that not all feminists are bitter and angry. The problem is, they rarely call themselves feminists, perhaps because the title doesn't really matter. People who seem to demand representation within the feminist movement are the folks I no longer listen to and who push me away from the movement in general. Again, if you want me to take you seriously, present arguments that aren't tinged with bitter hatred. Not all men are evil. Likewise, every time you see a book or a TV show that supposedly seems sexist to you, you should consider that it's probably not being sexist at all, but realistic. The world isn't set against you. This is America, not some fundamentalist religious country that keeps women as slaves. Women can vote and speak their minds, and they will do much more in the future. There will be a female president some day. I have no doubt of that. And I will support a female president. There will be more female politicians, business owners, etc. It's going to happen. So let's try to get there without the bitterness and anger. Rome wasn't built in a day, remember?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Yup, it's coming, and I'm going to see it because I love the HP movies (even though they are tremendously flawed in adaptation). The trailer suggests they might do well by book six, but I'm not 100% sure. What do you think?

Got this from Pat by the way.
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The Common Mistakes Solution

Alright, so I've decided to do something new with the way I write--or edit, actually. And I think this is a good idea for a lot of writers to do. Here goes:

We all make mistakes, and some of us make the same mistakes over and over. Mostly I'm referring to spelling and grammatical errors, even errors that don't seem like errors, but really are. Sometimes you catch them; sometimes you don't. It's when you don't that it's a problem. See, sometimes you write a word and it's actually correct...according to the dictionary. But that word isn't really correct, because the context is wrong. Take for instance the word "breathe". Sometimes I screw up and use "breath" instead. You can't take a breathe. You take a breath. It's one of those strange British things that never went away, and while it might be silly, that's just the way it is and you have to deal with it. I imagine a lot of people don't even realize it's a mistake too (I didn't for a while, and that's because I'm sometimes an idiot about such things).

So, here's a good idea to solve this problem. If you start noticing you make a mistake, and you make it repeatedly (even just two or three times every other story or something), write it down and take note. Put it in a word document or something and then the next time you go to edit you can start doing search and kill procedures to find all the little mistakes. In fact, that breath/breathe thing should be a standard, because many of you may make that mistake and not even realize it's a mistake.

I'm doing this now. I've started putting a list together of things I can search when I edit in hopes that I can catch more of these mistakes and kill them before they end up going to a crit buddy or to a publisher (I made a mistake with one of my last submissions and left some errors in there, and I'm a bit miffed, because I didn't see it for some reason).

So that's my recommendation for solving this issue.

What will we drink in the future?

I don't mean anything specific by this question, but what do you think we will be drinking in the future? By future, assume I mean at least 100 years from today. Do you think we'll still be consuming animal byproducts like milk? What about for treats? What new-fangled ninja sodas will spring up from the woodworks?

All nonsensical forms are acceptable. Just tell me what you think the future will look like.

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Fandango Foibles

Having just seen The Dark Knight, I was rather surprised to learn that some people apparently hadn't seen the same movie I did. Take this "review" for example:
this is propaganda to teach the masses that the rich will protect us from the innately evil and violent. lots of bad, boring dialogue, unrealistic fight scenes, etc.

i walked out after the joker magically disappears from the trust fund babies party. let me say this "**** THE TRUST FUND BABIES!"

some ironman ripoffs badly done
Nevermind the fact that the person can't make a coherent sentence. I wasn't aware that Batman was a propoganda engine. Is this person even aware that this is based on a comic book about a rich guy who goes vigilante? And doesn't it make some logical sense that someone with Batman's technology would have to be relatively loaded to do what he does? Apparently the film was teaching us bad things, like rich people helping other rich people not get killed by evil other rich people...yeah (or rich people protecting not-so-rich people from evil rich people and psychos). We didn't see the same movie.

And then there's this:
My wife and I just went to see this movie today. It's dark and evil, the plots are convoluted and twisted. It keeps you guessing what's next and is full of absurd, ridiculous, unbelievable situations. It tries to take away your hope that Batman is a good guy that stays the good guy. City officials, police officers, politicians, attornies, etc. are all up for being in bed with the mob. The mob is outsmarted and evilly intimated and out-manuevered by the Joker. We left with a bad feeling. We like movies like Ironman where evil is depicted as what it is, and there's a clear difference between the good guys and the bad guys. The bad guys ALWAYS lose. Good ALWAYS triumphs over evil. This movie wants you to doubt. We felt we wasted our money. We will definitely tell our grown children NOT to waste their time seeing it. Keith Ledger did do a GREAT job acting totally psychotic. We wished we could have gotten our money back. It's a murder and torture fest.
I didn't know that Keith Ledger was in this movie...does Heath have a brother or something (a twin brother, I mean)?
The one thing I keep seeing is that the film is dark and people don't like dark, but then these same people complain about movies being stupid and pointless. So, a movie comes along that has a very good point, is filled with a lot of darkness and strong commentary on human culture, and they just don't like it cause it pushes buttons...
I guess you can't please everyone.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blog Bumper Stickers: Hilarity in a Box

I discovered this amazing website of goodies for blogs, which contains some hilarious little blog bumper stickers, such as:
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets
And my personal favorite:
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets
Yes, I am making fun of Mac with that one there. By the way, if you refresh the page that has all these little things, you get news ones! Fantastic and funny.

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Writing can be funny!

This made me giggle.

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Does anyone teach poetry anymore?

I was channel surfing and discovered a program on BookTV of some High School Poetry Awards. I think they were Bay Area specific, but regardless, I was curious, so I tuned in to see what it was about...and was surprised to learn that I wasn't going to see/hear poetry of artistic merit or of any sort of significance at all.
Poetry is hard for a reason. I don't write a lot of poetry because I tend to have issues grasping the imaginative nature of it (it's far different from writing fiction due to its limiting nature and necessity for deepness despite that). Now, I'm not knocking on an individual's attempt at art, nor on one's take on art. This is part of the argument between literary fiction and genre fiction (you know, that whole deal where literary fiction is real fiction and genre fiction is artless dribble, which we are all well aware is a load of crap). The thing about poetry is that if one wants to be taken seriously when writing it, they have to treat it like it is a real art form. "Roses are red" is not considered a serious poetic work, but a clever little rhyme that is somewhat infectious (sort of like tuberculosis, since, for some reason, it just keeps going and going, always infecting new minds, being read, and adapted to the modern world). Poetry that wants to be, well, something of value needs to deal with issues on a deeper level, especially if you're attempting to play it off like it is a serious piece of work.
So, boy was I surprised when the first girl went up to read her poem (or second girl, or whichever girl, as I'm not sure if she was the first to read during the program) and began reading an updated version of "roses are red" that basically was a rendition of "boys act like boys" and "girls act like girls" in words just as simplistic, but without any sort of rhyming or structure to indicate the artist had actually thought about what they were writing. Yes, that is a long sentence. Needless to say, after hearing about half of a stanza, I tuned out. The words were dull, pointless, and without anything meaningful to them.
This made me wonder whether or not poetry is still taught in school. It's hard to believe that schools have degraded this much in representing the arts to their students that no good high school poets exist. I know several poets who are exceptional and of a young age, but I've not had the opportunity to ask them whether they are at all familiar with poetry as a literary form (as in having learned about it both historically and literally, with clever puns included).
Has there been a significant change in school English courses--in the U.S. or elsewhere--in which students are no longer being given a thorough look into the great works of English language literature? I'm curious. What do you think about this? Are the arts suffering in the youth demographic?

Fantasy Is Easy: Ha!

Why is it that some people believe that fantasy is easy?
Fantasy isn't easy folks. In fact, to write good fantasy it takes a lot of thought and, well, talent. Good fantasy is hard. Good fantasy doesn't take all the major cliches, put them in a book, and say "there you go, an original piece of fantasy literature". It's quite the opposite. In fact, to assume that writing--the process--is simpler just because one is writing fantasy is really a plain idiotic thing to say. All writing is difficult. For many, it's a job, and very few superbly crappy novels--novels which clearly display the writer's lack of talent or interest in what he or she is doing--are actually published these days (at least, not by real publishing houses). Crappy novels, of course, do exist, but generally crappy novels are crappy because they are poorly written.

Fantasy itself is also quite difficult. Remember, fantasy writers are working in created worlds, worlds that do not exist and never will. Such worlds are populated by humans and other creatures, some humanoid and some not, all of which have their own separate cultures (or a collective culture). The result is that an author can't just sit down and regurgitate a decent, well rounded fantasy world in one go. Readers will catch on; they'll know that the author didn't put their all into it. Writers who write good fantasy--the type that has something to say, that addresses issues that don't rely on common cliches, character ripoffs from other fantasy works, and entirely pointless bits of "fantasy nonsense"--put a hell of a lot of work into their writing. They have a lot to consider that writers in other genres do not: everything from fantasy races to invented cultures. Some writers are dealing with weird forms of fantasy, the kind we're not really used to (perhaps Jeff Vandermeer is a good example here).

You can't just say "well I write fantasy because it's easy". What exactly is easy about fantasy? You can't just make it all up and think it will work. Fantasy follows rules. Granted, those rules may defy the laws of physics as we know them, but they do follow a set of rules within the created world and good fantasy does not violate these rules. Magic, for example, is only interesting if it has limitations, and what qualifies as a limitation determines the value of the magic to the story. If there are no consequences for the use of magic, what's the point?

Quite frankly, I find it rather annoying when people say that fantasy is easy. It's a display of ignorance in the arrogant vein and indicative of the narrow-minded mentality that dominates the anti-genre crowd (yes, I am aware that some people simply don't understand that fantasy isn't easy and aren't necessarily "haters"). There are plenty of fantasy novelists who do, in fact, work their butts off to write a good fantasy book. Perhaps some of the people who say that fantasy is easy simply think so because it comes more naturally to them, while other forms of writing are more difficult. But then, that would mean to someone who writes fiction, fiction is easy and essay writing is suddenly not, right? And is that a fair assessment on essay writing or fiction writing? Just because it seems easier doesn't mean that it actually is. Or, perhaps what people actually mean is that fantasy is fun? Generally when we are having fun doing something, that something is more entertaining and we're more interested in it. Again, this doesn't make it "easy". It makes it fun, and that's all. You're exerting energy at a different level, but it's attached to the happy side of your brain and not the side that is screaming at you that it's bored (generally speaking, all writing should be fun, even in difficult times).

So, let's think about this folks. Any time you want to say that fantasy is easy, think about it first. Consider why you think it's easy and assess those thoughts logically. Is something necessarily "easy" because it's fun, or because it seems easy to you? And then, to those that treat fantasy negatively in this respect, perhaps you should read the genre more before coming to the conclusion that it is easy. Or, maybe you should write your own fantasy book, sell it, and make millions on it and tell us just how easy that was. I can almost guarantee you that it will prove to be very difficult indeed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Canadian Books in Canadian Schools (About Time)

Thanks to Matt Staggs for this link.
It won't just be teenagers reading Canadian literature this fall when a new curriculum requires B.C. high school English teachers to assign at least one Canadian book per year, says the new chairman of the Writers' Union of Canada.
I admit my ignorance of this. I was unaware that Canadian schools weren't assigning works of Canadian literature to be taught in their English classes, which sort of worries me. Now, I can't say I know any great classic Canadian writers (I know of Robert J. Sawyer, but he's relatively new, so I wouldn't consider him a part of the classic structure just yet). There are obviously plenty of American works and British works, and I imagine those works already get taught great frequency.
My only complaint, or potential point of contention, would be if the works that are taught aren't actually good works and are simply chosen because they happen to be Canadian. All the works chosen should be good and of literary value. The value, of course, would have to be determined by the schools. I'm not saying that the kids should be reading nothing but old stuff, but they should be exposed to works that have something to say as opposed to works that have very little to say. I wouldn't subject American children to the large quantity of relatively pointless stuff floating out there that gets more attention than it deserves; likewise, I don't think Canadian children should get the same treatment.
But that's my opinion on that matter.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paul Haines Needs Help

Seems like it is really that time of year when people need donations and the like to help them through tough times. No, I am not complaining, I'm simply stating a fact. However, this one does hit home for me, seeing how I am a cancer survivor as well. From Matt Staggs' blog:
Back in September, Paul Haines, an Australian sf/f/h writer was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He had surgery and then chemo for six months and it was gone…or seemed to be. He recently was told that there are spots on his liver. The thing is, although most of his care is covered, he’s written this–

He [his oncologist] still wants to wait a couple of months (ideally he wants even more than that) to see how the cancer in my liver is behaving. He also understands our fear, our need, to not be sitting around waiting to do nothing. So in those couple of months we will try the other two forms of chemotherapy for cancers like I have and to combine that with a monoclonal antibody called Avastin. Chemo fights the tumour, the antibody fights the blood vessels feeding the tumour. Unfortunately, Avastin is not part of Medicare or the private health system’s funding at this stage, so we’re having to come up with $20,000 to do it. Our parents have said they will help us here, which is a great relief.

You can read his blog here:
$20,000 is a lot of money and not a lot of money at the same time. Again, help if you can spare a few bucks here. I don't know what the exchange rate is, but I imagine the U.S. dollar is worth a little more, which might mean every dollar helps double. It's for a good cause: helping battle cancer.

Thanks for your time.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Gift Cards: The Gift of Champions

This lovely post over at The Guardian is exactly why I tell my friends and family to give me gift cards (or cash) instead of actual gifts. In fact, I am adamant about requesting gift cards (or cash) from family because they, of all people, have no idea what I read or what types of things I enjoy, stemming from the fact that they don't hang out with me on a regular basis and even close family members (short of married couples) tend to forget things.
I have had many problems with receiving gifts that I didn't need, just like the article above mentions. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate said gifts. It's nice to know that someone thought about me when they bought me something, even if it was something I didn't need or didn't want. Regardless, I make it a point to tell family and friends to just get me cash or a gift card, particularly to a book store (because, to be honest, I enjoy buying books more than any other commodity, which is why one wall of my room is covered in books from the floor almost to the ceiling).
So, perhaps a good word of advice for people who "think" they know what to buy a friend would be to just get a gift card to a store you know they shop at. If your friend goes to Borders a lot, then get a gift card there, and the same goes for Target, Walmart, and all the other stores you can think of (heck, even nifty local places sometimes have gift cards). Even better is to give cash to a friend whom you know could use it. Granted, gifts shouldn't be given to pay off debts and what not, but giving someone cash allows that person to make their own decisions on how to use it (and I would caution you to telling them, "Oh, this is so you can pay off your credit card bill", because that would probably tick them off).
Some people think that gift cards are lazy, thoughtless gifts. There is some truth to that; after all, some people get gift cards at the last minute and hand them off like they're the best gifts ever. For me, gift cards are the best gift because it allows me to find the things I want rather than having to deal with all the stuff I would get otherwise that would end up never getting used.
So, get your friends and family gift cards. Seriously. It's okay.

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Twitteriffic Stuffs

Here's my random twitter nonsense for the day:
  • 22:07 Work it harder. Move it faster. More than ever... <---if you know the next phrase, respond to me on twitter. Seriously. #
  • 11:48 Writing a review for Sly Mongoose and I'm pretty much drooling cause the book is awesome. #
  • 12:00 Firefox 3.0 sucks. I went back to 2.0. Word of advice: flashy pretty-ness a good program does not make. Basic, functional...goooooood. #
  • 12:23 I'm a little irritated now... #
  • 13:29 Magical Lesson #4: When I'm irritated I can't write. It shuts me down entirely. And yes, it sucks quite a lot. #
  • 15:36 Magical Lesson #5: My grandma is awesome. End of story. If you don't think so, then something is wrong with you. #
  • 16:28 Another fiasco averted. Ticket bought for me girlfriend. She'll be here Aug. 7 to the 28th. #
  • 16:32 @mightymur I do! I got a review couple a couple weeks back. I intend to read it relatively soon here! #
  • 20:25 Back from my walk after sufficiently wasting almost 4 hours on the Internet today...two hours of that trying to get a plane ticket. Yeah. #
  • 21:41 Okay, so after finishing my review of Sly Mongoose by Tobiase S. Buckell (here: ), I have decided that I should write. #
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Book Review Up: Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell

Well, I have another review up, this time of Tobias S. Buckell's fantastic novel, Sly Mongoose. Check it out here.

Oh, and go pre-order his new novel here. Seriously, it's that good.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Networks Are Evil

Sometimes even smart people (like Joss Whedon) say things that make you go, "What?". Mr Whedon has been filming his new TV show called Dollhouse and managed to utter this in regards to Fox not liking the initial pilot:
Buffy didn’t make the fall sched, Angel got shut down when they saw the second ep outline… it’s birth pangs. The network truly gets the premise (this is a whole new crew, as you know), loves the cast, is excited about the show – but they’re also specific about how they want to bring people to the show and I not only respect that, I kinda have to slap my forehead that I didn’t tailor my tone and structure to the network’s needs, since that’s something I pride myself on . . . I tend to come at things sideways, and there were a few clarity issues for some viewers. There were also some slight issues with tone – I was in a dark, noir kind of place (where, as many of you know, I make my home), and didn’t bring the visceral pop the network had expected from the script. The network was cool about it.
Now, I respect Mr. Whedon because I happen to like his work (well, mostly I like Firefly and have a passing interest in Buffy), but there's something really wrong about a guy as famous and truly intelligent as Whedon telling us that he should be tailoring his interests to the network. And not just any network, mind you, but Fox, the station that has killed just about every good scifi show it has ever laid its hands on; it even tried to kill X-files several times, and we all know how stupid that would have been. Then you look at Firefly, which had a brilliant premise, amazing actors, amazing everything (possibly one of the greatest and shortest lived science fiction shows to ever grace the small screen). Fox cancelled that, and do any of us think that was a good idea? Maybe a few cranky nuts do, but most of us look at Firefly and wonder what the hell Fox was thinking in the first place.
What exactly is dumb about all this? Well, the fact that he thinks he needs to tailor himself to a network. Of course, you have to tailor yourself a little, but other networks wouldn't be so anal as Fox, so why deal with Fox at all? Do they own Whedon or something? Is he bound by contract to write them new shows? Why not peddle your interests to networks more willing to work with you? Fox sucks anyway. True, they have Family Guy and The Simpsons and loads of other popular shows, but ABC and NBC aren't all that bad anyway. Why are you dealing with these guys in the first place, Mr. Whedon?
You know what, we like Joss Whedon's strange, sideways view of things. Really, we do. We like his ideas and the ways he presents them. The numbers say it's so. Fox needs to get over the fact that they don't understand science fiction and realize that we viewers do. Stop fiddling with our science fiction! And Mr. Whedon, stop pandering to the network. Pander to the masses. We like you better.

Authors/Artist/Other: Will you donate?

Going through my blogroll I discovered this post over at Wands and Worlds.
On February 5, 2008, a terrible tragedy struck when a tornado swept through central Arkansas. Among those killed by the tornado were a beautiful 10-year-old girl named Emmy Grace Cherry, along with both of her parents, Dana and Jimmy. Emmy was a sweet, caring girl who loved animals and books, and wanted to be either an astronomer or a veterinarian. Her favorite author was Erin Hunter, author of the Warriors series. (Erin Hunter is a pen name for a team of writers who write the Warriors books: Victoria Holmes, Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and the newest Erin, Tui Sutherland. )
The result of the above, after a lot of support from the online community, is the creation of the Brightspirit Relief Fund. The Erin Hunter/s have donated six books, all signed by the original Erins, and they're looking for more things to help drive donations to the fund.
Check out the link above and if you happen to have anything you could donate, or perhaps you would like to have your own auction and donate the proceeds, then please do so. Any help would be greatly appreciated on this.

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Should SF/F authors read in their genre?

Apparently this is the next big issue that people are discussing across the blogosphere, and likely elsewhere. It all started, so it seems, with an interview Pat over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist did with David Bilsborough. Some people have taken great offense with certain things Mr. Bilsborough said and it has sparked a bit of a feud in the genre world about whether or not authors should read within their genre.

Now, to what Mr. Bilsborough said that apparently has some people in a tiffy, and has other people raising their defensive walls:
I don't see why it [fantasy] should be respected. With the obvious JRR exception, (and possibly Bernard Cornwell's "Starkadder / Vargr Moon") I have to say that I'm not the greatest fan of fantasy, at least not the swords & sorcery tradition with all its preposterousness and banality. I've read a fair few fantasy books in my life, and am always surprised that such stale, hackneyed and vapid pulp should get published at all. I particularly have problems with US fantasy; there are definite exceptions, of course, but in my opinion the Americans just don't get it, with their phony Olde-Englishness, green tights, bucket boots, square-jawed 'Rone Garet' heroes, pretty-but-with-a-hidden-fire 'Fern Leah' love interests, hissing insidious black-robed 'Sith Mordax' villains, or whatever it is they harp on about in their hollow regurgitations of Conan, Star Wars or Buffy.

Is it any wonder spec. fiction has so little respect?
This is what has got people upset, and rightly so. What really hits home is his apparent disdain for the genre. He specifically says, "I am not the greatest fan of fantasy." How much clearer does it have to get that this guy pretty much hates the genre, with some very minor, and, albeit, obvious exceptions. Everyone says Tolkien is fantabulous, because to not do so is akin to telling Christians that the Bible was written by Satan worshipers. And then you throw out Cornwell, another who has quite a bit of respect in the same fashion as Tolkien due to the types of stories he tells. But, anyone can toss those names out without having read them, presuming that liking said authors is an indicator of one's worth.

And then there's that opening line: "I don't see why it should be respected." Excuse me? You're writing in a genre you don't feel should be respected? So, by default, we should just look at you as another of those hack writers that you so despise, because, hey, fantasy doesn't deserve any respect? I don't really care if you read within the genre. That's pretty much pointless to me. John Varley told me in an interview he reads mostly mysteries, but he writes science fiction. And he's good at science fiction. One doesn't have to be superbly versed in genre to write in it. I simply have problems with this presumption that just because the genre has quite a few writers who basically write derivative garbage that it should be treated with no respect whatsoever, with exception to a pair of writers who only until recently began pushing out of the land of "crap literature" into the literary academia (the supposed "good literature"). If that's so, then all literature, by extension, deserves no respect. Literary fiction isn't graced with a tremendous amount of originality, nor has it been founded upon only great books. There are plenty of crappy, completely useless and utterly pointless novels that have been under the label of "literary fiction" (and I have read quite a few of these crappy lit fic novels). The same can be said about every single genre that has been created and will be created. There are great and crappy science fiction novels, horror novels, romance novels, mystery novels, detective novels, etc. There's no such thing as a genre of perfection, one in which all the novels are great. Yet we give respect to certain genres while shunning others ("we" being the literate and educated, primarily the academia), despite their imperfections and unoriginality.

Of course fantasy has an abundance of what one might call "lesser literature". Yet this is what people want. They enjoy it. It's entertaining and that's it's purpose. Shouldn't we respect it for that? Just because you don't like a specific set of writers, or a specific class of fantasy, doesn't mean we should shun it to the bottom of a well, forsaking it to be consumed by people who, I suppose, have to be mindless nitwits simply because they like such things. Sometimes entertainment is all you need. That doesn't make those that read it particularly idiotic or mindless. We should be thankful that they're reading at all, and even more thankful that it's because of the people reading "such stale, hackneyed and vapid pulp", as Bilsborough says, that we even have an industry revolving around the act of writing. Entertainment value, no matter how desperately you want to argue against this, is keeping literature alive. So I say celebrate vapid pulp, because without it there wouldn't be a fantasy genre, or if there was one, it would be so small and under-appreciated that nobody would really care if Bilsborough released a new novel.

Lastly, of course, is the comment about Americans, and I put this last for a reason. It doesn't bother me all that much. Yes, I think it's rather offensive that because I was born in America I'm suddenly devoid of taste, and that my choice of reading is cause for ridicule. What does being American have to do with it? That's my question. This is a lot of that "Brits are better" attitude that I find to be rather silly. I think it's an inborn pride that has never let up, and, of course, Americans have a similar attitude (or some of us anyway). Some of the discussions about the American comment have been somewhat ridiculous, in my opinion. While I would agree that calling Americans phony and essentially useless is offensive, I don't think it will affect Bilsborough's readership much. Remember, Pat and the other blogs discussing this comprise of a very small number of people (big by blogging standards, though). How many people who see Bilsborough's book in stores are going to know that this guy said derogatory things about Americans? And how many that know are going to actually care? Probably not that many. I'm not going to hold Bilsborough's American comment against him as much as his other statements, and even those other statements might not stop me from reading his work (if his work sucks, it will).

Now, to the question at hand, which has, I think, been answered: Should SF/F authors read in their genre?

I personally don't think it matters. It might help make one a better genre writer, but in the end I think it's irrelevant and a somewhat pointless requirement to place on authors. If the book is good, why does it matter at all if the writer reads within his/her genre? Presumably, you wouldn't be able to tell anyway. You'd just call it a good book and that would be that.

What do you all think?

P.S.: Yes, I am well aware of the fact that Bilsborough specifically said "sword & sorcery", but like science fiction, fantasy subgenres blend, so making such a statement is basically reflecting on all fantasy. The only way this wouldn't be true is if, unbeknownst to me, publishing companies were stamping the specific subgenre on fantasy books. Since I've never seen this I'm going to assume that it doesn't exist, and if it does, it's not common.

Twitteriffic Stuffs

Here's my random twitter nonsense for the day:
  • 23:22 I just wrote Ch. 1 for The Mysterious House of Mr. Whim. Working on Ch. 2. Feeling much better about it now that I've rewritten the start. #
  • 23:38 Today has been interesting. I'm fiddling with a new style of narrative for me, and writing a lot of new things. Fun. #
  • 01:00 @LoopdiLou You know, you could just hang out with cool people like me :P #
  • 11:38 I want to write three more chapters in The Mysterious House of Mr. Whim today. Not sure why, I just do. I've added new characters! Yay! #
  • 11:55 Just sent two emails requesting review copies (in response to emails asking me if I wanted them...of course I do! More books!) Ha! #
  • 20:31 @LoopdiLou Excuses...excuses. :P. Just sell her and get a new one. I hear they're pretty cheap in certain countries these days...kidding. #
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Racing To Nowhere

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. has a fantastic post regarding our "race" to maintain what we have and our desire to work harder for it, even though it isn't working.
The real Red Queen's race is the one that has been around since the beginning of civilization -- and one whose effects have been largely mitigated or delayed in the industrialized west for the past century or so. Simply put, we have now reached the point in the development of our civilization where it will shortly become obvious to all levels of all societies that, technology and ingenuity notwithstanding, we cannot physically provide the very best in health care, commodity goods, services, housing, and food to very individual, or even to a sizable fraction of our populations.
Good stuff.

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

GUD Pre-Launch Contest

Well, apparently GUD magazine is having a contest for bloggers. All you have to do is post about the contest with the appropriate links back and you have a chance to get their entire hardcopy stock. So, seeing how that sounds like a good idea to me, I'm writing about here (with the appropriate copied and pasted bits thrown in for good measure):
Here's the (self-referential) Pre-launch Buzz Contest: blog about the launch contest with a link back to this post--then leave a comment at this post with a link to your blog post. You'll be entered to win A FULL SET OF GUD, HARDCOPY (Issues 0-3). If we don't receive at least 100 entries, we reserve the right not to award this prize, so BE SURE TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS! You've got seven days to help spread the word (give or take -- through the end of Friday, Pacific Standard Time)

BONUS: First ten entries win a PDF of Issue 3! And we'll spread a few more goodies around if response warrants it. :)

BONUS 2: Everyone creating an account gets a freebie from Issue 3 just for signing up (it'll be in your account, waiting). Everyone who already had an account? You've got a new freebie waiting for you, too.
So, spread the word everyone!

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Interview w/ James C. Glass

Let's start off with the easiest question, and the most basic: Who are you? A sort of mini-biography of who you are, both in and out of writing, how you came to the genre, etc.

Well, let's see, I wrote off and on for many years, was a Famous Writers School dropout when I was in industry at Rocketdyne, then came grad school and a thirty year academic career teaching physics and being a dean. The writing got serious in the mid 80's, my first publication was in ABORIGINAL in 1988 and then I won the grand prize of Writers of the Future in 1990. Algis Budrys was my teacher, mentor and friend and, alas, recently passed on. I made my reputation with short stories,over 40 of them, and SHANJI was my first novel published. There have been several books since then, but I still write short stories.

Who are some of your favorite authors (past and present)?

My early author favorites were Heinlein and Hamilton and Van Vogt. I love the work of people like Greg Bear and Kay Kenyon and Patty Briggs and Jack McDivitt, and I just finished "Bright of the Sky" by Kay Kenyon, which I nominated for a Nebula.

Could you tell us a little bit about The Viper of Portello? What's it about (for those that don't already know)?

VIPER OF PORTELLO was originally called CULEBRA, which is spanish for Viper, and the story came out of the blue like much of my stuff does. I like military sf and spy thrillers,and I read lots outside of sf, so it probably came from that.

When you began writing The Viper of Portello, were you inspired by anything in particular? Perhaps a story you read, a news article, or maybe you were just thinking one day and a light bulb turned on in your head?

I had a good friend who was Brazilian and I liked his passion about things. Part of the 'out of the blue' was a planetary system settled by descendants of Brazilians and Colombians, so Eduardo really goes back to portuguese people.

One of the things I really like about The Viper of Portello is that you didn't make Eduardo a character who does evil things and doesn't have to accept the consequences of his actions. In fact, you portray Eduardo as having to almost become someone else just to do some of the things he's ordered to do as, perhaps, a way of maintaining his sanity. Could you talk about this, particularly the "discussion" (for lack of a better word) of one's actions and their consequences?

Eduardo really IS two people initially, a kind of split personality, with two sides in uneasy coexistence which becomes more and more strained as the story goes on. And the gentle artist takes over when the dark side of the personality gets its fill of killing.
In VIPER I have a dual personality trying to live two lives, one violent, the other peaceful, creative and loving, a man trying to please a father who basically wants him dead. And in the end, it's the story of a man who discovers his true father and a long overdue love he has longed for. Yes, the setting is science fiction, the story is military science fiction, but it's a story that could happen today on planet Earth.

Do you hope to write more within the universe you've created?

Right now I have no plans for a sequel, or any new book about Eduardo's world, but if VIPER does well I will certainly be tempted.

What other projects do you have in the works, if any?

An earlier book of mine, called TOTH, will be out in reprint from Wildside Press next year. BRANEGATE is being read by a major house, and SEDONA CONSPIRACY is being read by another. All are military science fiction. Right now I'm working on short stories again.

Your novel is being published by Fairwood Press (to be released in August of 2008). What brought you to a small press over a larger press? What do you think are some benefits of working with smaller presses? (Hopefully this question doesn't sound like I'm bashing on any particular type of press. I don't mean to. Both small and large presses are great, in my opinion. I'm just curious what brings writers such as yourself to a small press.)

I sent the book to several large publishers, but they seemed to think it was a bit ordinary, and it takes forever for the big guys to make a decision. I finally got impatient with the process and tried it on Fairwood Press; Patrick Swenson knows and likes my writing, has published me several times in TALEBONES, and did my short story collection. Big publishers could learn much from Patrick in terms of how he treats his writers and the excellent packages he turns out. (I've had a book with a big publisher for seventeen months, and still don't have an answer!)

Since you do write quite a lot of short stories, and mentioned you are focusing on them right now, what advice do you have on writing short stories? Do you prefer one form over the other?

I started out writing short stories, and do have a fondness for them. A
short story can be written in a week with most work schedules, and a completed
work sent out. The response times from magazines range from a couple of weeks
to a few months at worst for anthologies. Compare that with novel response
times of years. I've learned as many lessons about craft from writing short
stories as I have from novels. Maybe even more, since short work MUST be tight
and to the point. I think it's the best way for a new writer to begin, but then
there are people who are simply long writers. I know accomplished novelists who
can't write a short story to save their soul. I've gone both ways, but much of
my success, such as it is, is in the short story markets. It's easier to get
work done quick. (Consider that one novel of mine has now been under review for
seventeen months while I continue to age as gracefully as I can.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SHOMI Book Trailer Contest

Well, it was just brought to my attention that Stephen King will be judging the SHOMI Book Trailer Contest. What is it all about? Well, here's what was sent to me in an email (and I'm guessing it's okay I post this stuff because it's newsworthy):
New York, NY-July 22, 2008-Dorchester Publishing and Circle of Seven Productions have teamed up to present a contest offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for amateur and professional filmmakers who also love books. Participants will create book trailers based on their favorite novel in the SHOMI series of modern-day fantasy fiction. The best trailer-as selected by internationally bestselling author Stephen King-will be shown at a movie premiere in New York City as well as a theater in the winner's home market.
The contest will provide a creative outlet for the filmmakers' visions while ultimately allowing the winner to showcase his or her talents before a potential audience of tens of millions of people through Circle of Seven's distribution relationships. "We're thrilled to offer filmmakers a means to broadcast their gifts," said Brooke Borneman, Director of Sales and Marketing for Dorchester, "and hope that the contest gives the winner a platform that will propel his or her film career to new heights."
Book trailers-which are similar in style, content, and technique to movie trailers-are a powerful and increasingly popular method for communicating why a particular novel or series of novels is a 'must read.' A memorable short film can visually highlight a book's most compelling elements and draw viewers into the story and the author's universe, making a prospective reader want to know more.
A groundbreaking line of speculative fiction that combines the best elements of the fantasy, thriller, science fiction, cyberpunk, and romance genres, the SHOMI imprint has been hailed by reviewers for its genre-blending, high-velocity action-adventure stories and emotional impact.
"SHOMI books have received comparisons to films ranging from Underworld and Resident Evil to Blade Runner and The Matrix," explained Borneman. "The cinematic quality of the books and the sheer physicality of the storytelling are what make the SHOMI universe a natural for filmmakers to explore."
If you want to know more, including guidelines and contest rules, go here.

Charity Blogathon for BARCC

I just got an email from Matt Staggs regarding a blogathon that will be going on this weekend to help earn money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. I'll just post the important information here:
I'm doing a blogathon this Saturday, July 26 - posting to my
LiveJournal every half hour for 24 hours to raise money for the Boston
Area Rape Crisis Center. This is my sixth year blogathonning, and I
write spontaneous short fiction every year. It usually tends to have
an urban fantasy bent (as in fantasy in a city, not paranormal
romance), but this year, I'm taking a distinctly SF angle on it. For
24 hours, I'll be in character as a xenoarchaeologist, trying to make
sense of precollapse Earth... with the help of over 50 artists who
donated "artifacts" to this project, including a few SF/F authors
themselves. All artifacts are being auctioned, with a story card.

It all goes down here:
And the auctions are here:

And there's a lot more info on my LJ about why I do this, and why BARCC.
So keep and eye out. There are actually some really cool things up for auction. Maybe they'd make a nice gift for a friend or family member. And just think, bidding is for a good cause!

So check it out!

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight: Too Violent?

Alright, having read this post at Yahoo I thought I'd make this handy guide for parents that will help them decide whether or not to take their children to see our bat-like neighborhood vigilante (well, not "our" neighborhood, but someone's):
  1. Does the term "PG-13" cause you to have a fit because it's just too mature for your thirteen year old? If not, move to step two.
  2. Does the phrase "Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace" act as a good indicator for the type of film you don't want your children seeing? If not, move to step three.
  3. Did you take your child to the first one? Were they scared or upset by it? If not, move to number four.
  4. Do clowns scare you or your children? If not, move to step five.
  5. Are you one of those overly-sensitive types that sends a letter to your congressman every week demanding that the movie and television industries go back to the the days of Andy Griffith? If not, move to step six.
  6. Take your kids to see the movie.
Basically, if you're going to get upset about violence and think it may be too much for your kids, then it is too much for your kids. If, however, your thirteen year old has a solid grounding in the reality about movies, then it shouldn't be a problem. Don't blame the movie or the producers if the film was too much for you or your kids (or at least what you think is too much for your kids). It's your fault for not doing the research.

That's all I have to say about that.

(Don't click the read more, there isn't any more after this!)

Thoughts on Tor

Alright, so Tor has officially unveiled their new social networking super site (or whatever you want to call it since it is a mishmash of things). Some folks are rather excited about it and others a bit apprehensive. There has been a wicked fight going on between John Scalzi and Jonathan of SF Diplomat and I have a few things to say myself.
Now, having read the arguments on SF Diplomat I have to say that I'm a little on the fence about all this. I agree with certain points on both sides of the issue. On the one hand the new Tor site isn't all that new: it's several years too late in the social networking sphere and isn't necessarily offering us anything new or superbly interesting (I've gone a couple times and mostly I'm just disappointed in how it turned out). On the other hand the new Tor site is offering payment to writers (known writers at this point) and aiming to reach out to the SF community, being one of the first publishers to do so. Perhaps it will prove successful, or maybe they have a lot of things up their sleeves and they are keeping them behind closed doors before releasing them. I don't know. I'm not in the loop on that.
My problems with the new site stem from the fact that the site isn't really new. What is it offering us that hasn't been offered elsewhere? Two new stories by John Scalzi and Charles Stross? I must confess that while new stories are enticing, it's not enough to get me on the bandwagon (and I probably won't read those stories since I am not much of an online reader in general; perhaps turning some things into audio fiction would be nice, or as DRM free ebook style things would help too) . I just don't find the site all that interesting. I'm a huge SF fan and it isn't really doing anything for me that I haven't received elsewhere. I don't want to be negative about this. There is a positive side to everything (they actually made the site, while a lot of publishers don't really have this sort of fan inclusion), but at the same time, it could be so much more.
Part of my disappointment is that I was expecting something more from Tor. Yes, the social aspect of the site I did expect, but I thought that perhaps Tor, of all companies, would take things to the logical conclusion and really push the envelope. I remember the SciFi channel online fiction site that paid 25 cents a word and perhaps I was a little naive to hope that something similar might pop up from Tor. In fact, my interests would be peaked if such a thing existed for Tor, though I imagine it's not a very lucrative concept. While I am not a big online reader, I think such a project would be truly beneficial to the short story market, and perhaps interesting for Tor since it would have a personal stake in its authors--not to mention front row seats into finding out who might be the next big thing (or semi-big thing).
The other part of my disappointment has already been mentioned: it's not very new. I imagine a lot of people will like it, but I just don't want to waste more time on yet another social community. I have too many social communities as it is, including my website for young writers.
Maybe I'm just being lazy or too negative, but I think we need more from Tor's new site. Perhaps things are going to change. I imagine they have a lot of things to unleash. This is just the start and with Tor behind it I think there is potential for greatness. We'll see I suppose.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blind Eye Books Special on Pre-Orders

I just realized that Blind Eye Books is having a special on pre-orders of The Archer's Heart by Astrid Amara. Anyone who pre-0rders form their site gets 25% off. That's a good deal if you ask me! The offer ends August 1st, 2008 (sorry about the late notice). Go check it out.

Also, if you all could pass the word along that would be great. Help out a small press.


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Book Review Up (sort of): First Mother's Fire by H. L. Hoffman

Well, after mulling over this for a while I decided to finally just post my review of the book. You can find my thoughts on it here. I had a lot of issues with the novel, as you'll see, and as such couldn't finish it.


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Polls: Too Many Problems

Alright, so after many complaints and the poll finally failing to show up even for me, I have decided to remove the polls. I give up on polls. If they aren't going to work, then I'm not going to waste my time with them.
So, from now on all votes will be done via comment. Just post a comment with your vote here. The books that you can vote on are as follows:
You can click the titles to see what they're about according to Amazon (or wherever they may be found).

My apologies to all those who have already voted. It's just too much of a hassle to deal with the polling system if it's not going to work. I don't have the time to keep fiddling (well, I do, but I'd rather spend that time doing something more constructive).


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Book Porn (for 2nd week of July)

Well, I received several more books this week. The following books came in these lovely boxes:
The Nyctalope vs. Lucifer by Jean de la Hire
The Nyctalope on Mars by Jean de la Hire
(both from Black Coat Press)
Path of Glory by Bret M. Funk
Sword of Honor by Bret M. Funk
Jewel of Truth by Bret M. Funk
Beacons of Tomorrow (Vol. 2) edited by Bret Funk
Beacons of Tomorrow (Vol. 1) edited by Bret Funk
(ignore Brave Men Run; it's in the next picture. All these came from Tyrannosaurus Press)

And then there are these:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers (Tachyon Publications)
Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall (Kensington Books)
Brave Men Run by Matthew Wayne Selznick (Swarm Press)

And that's all the stuff I have at the moment (there are probably a few things in my list that haven't been mentioned; if I figure out what they are I'll post about them).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Poll: Again and Again

The winner last time was The Naming by Alison Croggon. Now for a new poll, which should be visible on the right there. If you can't see it the choices are:
  • Honeycomb by Israel Del Rio
  • Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale
  • Saga by Jeff Janoda
  • The New Mars by John L. Manning, Jr.
Feel free to leave a comment here with your vote if you can't see the poll for some reason. One of those books will be what I read next.

With that, I'm out!

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SBS Magazine: Changes and an Idea

Well, things are changing for how the magazine is going to work. Originally I was going to publish the thing from my home, using a printer and making little "booklet" style things. Then I found out that was going to be really hard without having to buy a bunch of things to make it work (such as a new printer just to make the printing process not take fourteen days to do).
So, I came up with several other options on how to do things.
I brought up the idea of doing a PDF with a print anthology at the end of the year: the members of YWO shot that down pretty quick (and I don't blame them).
Then I brought up the second idea. Since Lulu is a great source for printing books, I figured we could use that service as a source for printing, and the members seemed to like that idea.
With that in mind, we've decided to use Lulu to print SBS as a sort of anthology/magazine. We're shooting for biannual, perhaps quarterly if enough submissions come in. And that's how it's going to work (and it'll work well I think). It's not "technically" self-publishing, since Lulu is only the printer, not the actual publisher.
For those of you who don't know what SBS Magazine is (or Survival By Storytelling), it's the magazine I'm editing along with my girlfriend for my website Young Writers Online (YWO). It's going to feature a lot of young writing talent for fiction and poetry. If you're interested in being involved, feel free to check out the website and the magazine guidelines here. Those guidelines will likely change a little to reflect the adjustment in how the magazine is being printed, but for the most part it's correct. We've already accepted two short stories and a poem and hope to take in a lot of stuff over the next couple months (we'll see).

I also have an idea to make the magazine better, but I'm not sure how to approach it. I've thought of trying to get published authors involved in this, particularly folks who write short stories. It'd be interesting to have a featured author for each issue, someone who has been published before and would be willing to write a story for the magazine (for payment too, and that could be worked out). Anyone out there interested? It's a magazine featuring young writers, if that's any help.

Anyway, I think that's enough from me on this subject. Tell all your kids and teenagers!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hate Mail, Sanders, and Other Nonsense

Simon Owen's of Bloggasm recently emailed me about his article discussing the broader subject of email privacy.
I don't think I'll go into discussing all aspects of it here, because what would be the point of linking to the article if I were going to do that? I will say that my personal opinion in regards to emails is this:
I think out of respect all emails should be kept at least somewhat private. I don't necessarily have an issue with posting the contents of an email provided you remove important information regarding the sender. I think, in most cases, it is wrong to post something with the author's name on it, unless there is a very good reason to do so. In the case of hate mail I have different opinions. When you send hate mail I see that as sacrificing your right to privacy. You've now gone from sending a simple email to sending something with the intention to scare and or hurt. If someone makes the decision to post that email with your general contact information, well, then you should probably accept the consequences of your actions. Sending death threats to someone is not something to be taken lightly. If you're going to send hatemail, expect that it's going to bite you in the *ss.
Anyway, check out that link. It's really interesting.

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Going Potty in Space

Yes, someone at NASA actually had to figure this out cause, well, going potty ain't very easy to do when gravity ain't there to help you out. I give you an astronaut telling us how it works:

Yeah. Sort of takes the fun out of shooting stars doesn't it?

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Interview w/ Edward Willett

Thanks again to Mr. Willett for doing this interview with me. Enjoy!

Thanks for doing this interview with me. To start off, tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? Why are you here? (Okay, you don't have to answer the last one, because that's a broad and mostly random question) Basically, a little bio if you will.

As my mother used to say, “I’m here because I’m not all there.”
A brief bio: I was born in Silver City, New Mexico, in July of 1959 (an event in which aforementioned mother played a very important role). We moved from New Mexico to the panhandle of Texas when I was two, and when I was eight, we moved from Texas to Weyburn, Saskatchewan. My father was a preacher in the Church of Christ and also a schoolteacher, and was offered the opportunity to move to Weyburn to teach at Western Christian College, a high school and junior college affiliated with the churches of Christ. From my point of view, this meant I started school in Texas (where I skipped the first grade—which, combined with my summer birthday, always made me by far the youngest kid in my grade) and then continued it in Saskatchewan. This gave me first-hand experience at being a stranger in a strange land and may well have contributed to my interest in science fiction, although the more immediate reason for my interest was that my two older brothers both read the stuff and thus it was always around the house.
I attended Western Christian College in Weyburn through high school and first-year university, then went to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas (also affiliated with churches of Christ), to study journalism. (It was the school my parents attended and where they met.) I graduated in December, 1979, and in January, at the ripe old age of 20, started work at the Weyburn Review weekly newspaper as a reporter/photographer, eventually adding weekly columnist and editorial cartoonist to my duties. After four years I became news editor. In 1988 I moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, as communications officer for the fledgling Saskatchewan Science Centre, among other things researching and writing copy for all of the exhibits being built. In 1993 I left that job and have been a fulltime freelance writer ever since. My first books were all computer books with exciting titles like Using Microsoft Publisher for Windows 95. From there I branched into children’s non-fiction and have written a plethora of children’s science books (Ebola Virus, Careers in Outer Space, etc.), biographies (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ayatollah Khomeini, etc.), histories (The Iran-Iraq War, The Mutiny on the Bounty) ever since.
My first novels were published by miniscule or, in one case, now entirely non-existent, companies. They were all YA science fiction or fantasy: Soulworm was first, then The Dark Unicorn; then came Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star and Spirit Singer. My first adult novel was Lost in Translation, first published by Five Star, then picked up in paperback by DAW. My most recent is, of course, Marseguro, also published by DAW.
I’m a professional actor and singer as well as a writer, though that’s more of a sideline: the last thing I did in that regard was play several roles in a professional production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in Saskatoon over Christmas.
I’m married (to an engineer—good career move on my part!) and have one daughter, who just turned seven.

What are you currently reading, what do you plan to read, and what have you just finished reading?

I’m currently reading, with my wife, Terry Pratchett’s Making Money. On my own, I’m halfway through the Septimus Heap children’s fantasy trilogy by Angie Sage. Before that, I read Scott Westerfeld’s YA SF Uglies trilogy. Young adult fantasy and science fiction was my first love and I hope to write more of it, so I read quite a bit of it. The last non-fiction book I read was Empire of Blue Water by Stephan Talty (pirates! Aarrrr!). Up next? Probably Naomi Novik’s latest Temeraire book, Victory of Eagles. Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine and Jack McDevitt’s Cauldron are also near the top of my pile.

Who are some of your writing influences? Favorite authors, past and present?

Growing up, on the SF side, Robert Heinlein was undoubtedly my main SF influence, as he was to so many others. Along with Isaac Asimov and, to a lesser degree, Arthur C. Clarke. Andre Norton was also a major influence: I think I read Moon of Three Rings half a dozen times as a kid. Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C is one of the first SF books I can remember reading, and had a big influence. (Later on, his book The World Inside contributed mightily to my sex education.) Another SF book that made a big impression early on was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Colours of Space. Other influences: Clifford Simak. John Christopher. More recently, C. J. Cherryh comes to mind as an influence. On the fantasy side, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, of course, and Andre Norton, again.
Favorite authors aren’t quite the same list as influential authors. Heinlein is still on there, and Cherryh, and Tolkien, and Norton. Diane Duane. I read everything Pratchett writes, and I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Patrick Rothfuss (a fellow DAW author!) is a favorite based on The Name of the Wind. Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies were great fun and I’m looking forward to more. I mentioned Novik earlier. Robert J. Sawyer is another favorite, and Dave Duncan, too. John Varley. Joe Haldeman. Allan Steele. Lots and lots of favorites, in other words!

Why did you decide to become a writer, out of all things you could possible do in this world? Likewise, what drove you to science fiction as opposed to, say, stories about teddy bears?
I’ve always been a huge reader, and one day when I was 11 years old, a friend and I decided to while away the time on a rainy afternoon by writing stories. (No video games in 1970, alas.) I wrote a little SF epic called “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot.” I was already a big SF reader at that point, again, primarily because that was what my big brothers read. (It’s all their fault!) My Dad read SF some, as well.
My mother typed my story up for me and my junior high English teacher, Tony Tunbridge, did me the great favor of taking it seriously: he critiqued it thoroughly, pointing out what didn’t work, what didn’t make sense, etc., while at the same time being encouraging. And with that, I was hooked. I started writing more and more and longer and longer, too.
Then, in high school, I hooked up with a good friend, John Smith (no, really, though he preferred his nickname, “Scrawney”) who also liked to write. We would get together in an empty classroom after school and write, and then read each other what we had written, alternating sentences back and forth. Since he was writing a historical epic and I was always writing SF or fantasy, we’d get some funny effects this way. Also in high school, my English teachers required us to keep what was called a writing book: we had to write a page a day in these books. It could be anything, we just had to fill the page.
I was usually dozens of pages ahead.
I wrote three novels in high school (I still have them), one in Grade 9 and 10, one in Grade 10 and 11, and one in Grade 11 and 12. I typed them myself, bound them in red cardboard, and handed them around to my classmates to read. After that, there was really no looking back.
By the way, my first adult SF novel, Lost in Translation, includes (for one chapter, anyway) a robotic teddy bear. So there.

Your latest novel is Marseguro, a story about genetically modified human beings, crazy normal humans who, in human fashion, want to destroy the unusual, and a load of other things. To start things off, could you tell us about it? Where did you get the idea? Where did it come from (meaning, what got you to start writing it, etc.)?
Marseguro is living proof of the value of writing exercises. It began as two sentences written in a class in writing science fiction taught by Robert J. Sawyer at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, at 9:13 a.m. on September 20, 2005. To start things off that morning, Rob asked us to write the opening of a story. I wrote:
“Emily streaked through the phosphorescent sea, her wake a comet-tail of pale green light, her close-cropped turquoise hair surrounded by a glowing pink aurora. The water racing through her gill-slits smelled of blood.”
My fellow students thought that sounded intriguing.
During the rest of that week in Banff, I tried to turn that opening into a short story, but I couldn’t make it fit: as I asked myself more and more questions about what was going on with this girl with gills in the bloody water, my back story grew bigger and bigger. Eventually I put it aside, unfinished.
Shortly after that, in early 2006, I received a call one morning from Martin H. Greenberg at Tekno Books, which packages SF titles for Five Star—which had recently published my book Lost in Translation, in a library-edition hardcover. He told me that DAW had had a “hole” in their publishing schedule, had asked him to send over some of his Five Star titles to look at as possibilities to fill that hole—and they’d picked mine!
With that DAW contract in hand, I went in search of an agent, and Ethan Ellenberg agreed to take me on. I needed proposals to follow up Lost in Translation with, so I prepared two: one was a sequel to Lost in Translation, and one, just because I had it in hand, was a full novel based on the abandoned short story that had been born in that writing exercise in Banff. DAW preferred the all-new tale, and so Marseguro became my next book. So there was no grand idea involved at all: just a spur-of-the moment visually arresting image that I built into a novel simply by asking myself questions like, “Why does she have gills?” “Why is there blood in the water?” and so on.

One of the strongest issues (and most interesting for me) was the presentation of religion gone bad and the intolerance that produces. Could you talk a little about this? What fascinates you about religion to want to write about the dark side of it?
It both is and isn’t odd. It isn’t odd I include religion in my work: I’m the son of a preacher and elder in the church of Christ, I attended church three times a week (Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night) growing up, I went to church-affiliated schools where we had daily chapel and special devotionals at almost every social event, and I even went on a mission trip and knocked doors to invite people to church meetings in Edinburgh and Cardiff my last year in university. I’ve lead singing and prayers and presided over communion (though preaching isn’t something I ever got into, much to my father’s disappointment). I don’t regret a minute of that, nor do I repudiate it in any way. I had a wonderful childhood, I loved my schools, and the finest people I’ve ever known—my father included—were and are devout Christians. I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t been brought up what some would call a fundamentalist Christian. (I know that phrase conjures up stereotypes in some people’s minds, but battling those is outside the purvey of this interview.)
So the odd thing, I suppose, might be that the religion in Marseguro is so negative, when my personal experience with and view of religion is not. But my problem isn’t with religion per se; it’s with false religion. It’s with religion that uses force and coercion to achieve its ends. It’s with religion that sees nothing wrong with slaughtering people. It’s with religion that gets its hands on the levers of government and won’t let go. I’m all for the separation of church and state. The Body Purified, the religion I’ve created in my book, would just be a kind of wacko conspiracy theory if it hadn’t managed to seize control of government in the wake of a disaster. Modern weaponry in the hands of genocidal religious maniacs convinced the way to God is over the bodies of their enemies—that’s never a good thing.
Identifying parallels to current events is left as an exercise for the reader.

Additionally, the intolerance doesn't stop with religion, which I was really happy about. Your Selkies are not all entirely innocent. A lot of bullying goes on between the normal humans and the modified ones and there is a little of the same intolerance towards the different on the planet of Marseguro. It seems, in a way, like a discussion of human nature (even though the Selkies aren't entirely human). Were you shooting for this or did it just happen? What about this "human" intolerance do you find most pressing not only in science fiction (yours and in general), but also in society as we know it?
Intolerance is a bad thing. It’s also a very human thing. If you like your evolution straight, it probably arises out of plain old survival instinct: someone who is not like you may represent a threat. Better kill him. If you lean toward the religious, you may think in terms of fallen humanity: one of the earliest sins in the Bible, after Adam disobeys God and eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is Cain murdering Abel, basically because he’s jealous. Human nature is what it is. We do our best to mitigate the negative effects—we try to stop the really intolerant from slaughtering the rest of us--but we’ll never abolish bullying and intolerance and violence and all the rest of it. So I think what you’re picking up on is just my attempt to make my imagined world believable. The Selkies aren’t better, they’re just different. But they’re still human.
One could write an entirely different story in which the genetic modification of humans was used to abolish intolerance and the capacity for violence. But that’s not the story I chose to write.

I was reading some other interviews done with you and one interview in particular discussed the supposed differences between Canadian SF and American SF. I personally don't know what the difference is (I've read a little of both and while there are always differences between writers, I can't pin any of those differences down to being a "Canadian thing" or "American thing"). You seem against the idea of there being a difference at all. Why, in your opinion, do people perceive or assume there is a difference between the SF of each country (and a significant difference at that)?
Canadians are more invested in this idea of a difference between the two than Americans, and the reason is simple: many Canadians are heavily invested in the ideas that a) they are not American and b) they’re better than Americans. So even if no significant difference exists between Canadian and American SF (and that’s where I come down on the question: I believe there are differences between individual writers, but little you can attribute to nationality) some Canadians would have to invent one, primarily in order to assert that Canadian SF is better than American SF, just as Canadian health care/foreign policy/economic policy/environmental record/race relations/etc. is better than the American equivalents.
The worst insult you can hurl at a Canadian politician, after all, is that the policy he or she is advocating is “too American.”

I also hear you're working on a sequel to Marseguro called Terra Insegura. Could you tell us a little about this new work? (If you're bound by contract to keep the details secret, just mention what you're allowed to talk about, because I don't want you getting in trouble or anything).

Marseguro is Portugese and Spanish for “safe sea.” Terra Insegura means “unsafe earth,” and, indeed, that’s where the sequel is set: on Earth, which has been drastically affected by the events of the first book (I don’t want to say more about those events so as not to spoil Marseguro for anyone who hasn’t read it yet). Through various paths, Richard, Emily and Chris, the main characters of Marseguro, end up on Earth and have to deal with what they find there. There’s a whole new race of genetically modified humans, the cat-like Kemonomimi, who play an important role. The Avatar, the leader of the Body Purified, is a primary character. There are some brand-new characters, both Selkie and non-mods.
What else can I say? Um...there’s some shooting, both in space and on Earth, hand-to-hand combat, a flash flood and one really big explosion.
How’s that?

What would you say are some advantages and disadvantages to working with small presses (such as Five Star) versus large presses (such as DAW)? What were both experiences like for you?

There were a couple of major differences. Lost in Translation was essentially unedited: Five Star pretty much published what I submitted. Because DAW’s edition was a reprint of the Five Star edition, they didn’t edit it either.
But with Marseguro, few weeks after I submitted it to DAW, I was on the phone for a couple of hours one day with my editor there, Sheila Gilbert. We talked through the problems and concerns she had. Some were character-related, some were plot-related. I went back to the keyboard and rewrote the whole thing, adding about 15,000 words in the process, mostly character development stuff. I’m currently waiting for a similar editorial conversation with Sheila about the sequel, Terra Insegura.
Cover art was another difference. I’ve been thrilled with the art on both of my DAW Books, created by Steve Stone. The Five Star edition of Lost in Translation...not so much. And I think that just reflects the level of artist a larger publisher can afford for cover art compared to what smaller publishers can afford.
And, of course, the biggest difference is that you can go into almost any bookstore and have a reasonable chance of finding Marseguro on the shelf (or at least you could when it was first released; it’s been out long enough now it’ll be getting bumped by newer releases in some stores). Five Star publishes pretty much exclusively for the library market, which is nice, but can’t compare in volume of sales. Which means, ultimately, I make more money writing for DAW than for Five Star, and my books are much more visible, enabling me (I hope) to start to build an audience that will come back for future books with my name on the cover.
But I’m extremely grateful to Five Star, because if they hadn’t published Lost in Translation in the first place, I might never have been published by DAW or any other large publisher.

Now for a completely random question: If you could have any genetic modification to yourself, except for gills or fish things (cause that would be cheating), and assuming that you could do it temporarily if you wanted to and it would be completely painless, what would you have?
I’d go for strength and agility. I’d love to be as graceful and strong as the acrobats I saw recently in the Cirque du Soleil.