A Setback and an Opportunity

This blog is subtitled Adventures and Misadventures of a Science Fiction writer, and this post is on point.

AVIANS has gone out of print, at least for the time being: Five Rivers Publishing has ceased operations. That’s the misadventure part.

Like many small presses, Five Rivers was essentially a one-woman show. When that one person cannot make the massive commitment in time and effort any more, the only proper course is to close down. This has been done, and done properly.

All rights to AVIANS reverted to me on June 1st. Printing ceased a few days before that, catching me off guard and causing my local bookstore to miss the deadline to order a few more cases. If you have a first edition in your possession, congratulations: you now own a collector’s item. I have just one mint copy left, and that bookstore, Elizabeth Campbell books in Kenora, has maybe a handful. As far as I know, those are the only unused copies in existence.

If you’ve been reading this blog in the past, you probably gathered that the book was not selling in the thousands or making me tons of money. Nonetheless, I love it and am reluctant to see it go out of print. So, as one of my tweeps said, “Second Edition time!”

I do not think another press is going to want to pick it up; I think that would only happen if the book had made a big impact. I’d love to be wrong about that, but I’m not going to troll all my publishing contacts to offer it around.

Which takes me to self-publishing. This is the adventure part.

I already have a registered company: Binary Planet Books. I have contacted Ann Crowe, the cover artist, and she has granted me the right to use her exterior and interior artwork. I have filed for a batch of ISBNs (for this purpose, a second edition is a new book, and different formats require separate ISBNs.) One pleasant surprise is that Lorina from Five Rivers not only encouraged me to take this step, she actually forwarded me the book’s design file!

I will have to make some changes, beyond altering First Edition to Second Edition. References to Five Rivers will have to be removed from the boilerplate at the front and back, and their logo will have to be replaced on the cover.

I also have a small errata list. As far as I know, only one typographical error has ever been discovered, and when I checked the manuscripts, it clearly originated with my edits, not the printer. Still, there are some other minor errors: I named the wrong airship once, for instance. I’ll fix those.

There are a couple of scenes that I’d like to revise slightly to better favour showing over telling. I’m going to take the opportunity to do that. The wonderful ink illustration of Mel & Raisa on the title page–originally offered as a cover concept by cover artist Ann Crowe–can take its deserved place as a full-page frontispiece.

I want to include a map of Nufuji at the front, so last week I created one. That was… educational. Nothing I described in the book was impossible to map, but the end result was not the same as my former fuzzy mental images.

The dedication is terse to the point of being cryptic. I think I’d like to explain a little.

One thing that had been much on my mind for the last year or two: what was I going to do with the sequel? Five Rivers had been reducing the number of publications they were taking on, and editor Robert Runté had left as things slowed down. I wasn’t confident that they’d contract another book from me. Now that can also proceed through self-publishing, which will allow me to promote them together.

Because I have all the rights again, I could explore those film and television rights. One or two readers have suggested that it would make an exciting movie, but I’ve always felt it would be best as an animated series. With the aviation aspects and the mainly female cast, it could be like Nausicaä x Sailor Moon.

Anyway, the adventures will continue!

 

 

Belated Update

It’s really easy to procrastinate on blogging. It’s been most of a year since I posted about my new steps.

I apologize to all my out-of-town friends who check my blog to see if I’m still okay, still writing, etc. I’m fine, and I’m still writing, but there are some changes with that. More later.

One of the reasons I didn’t do another post after the steps-building one–they’re fine, by the way, thanks for asking–was that the next interesting thing I did was another carpentry project, and I didn’t want to turn this into a DIY blog. I mean, I already did that bookshelf thing, too.

Nonetheless, let’s get this out of the way. Long long ago, my wife gave me a Black and Decker Workmate. I’ve used it a lot, mainly because I don’t have an actual workshop with a real workbench. I tend to do carpentry jobs outdoors, on the deck. That means the Workmate gets exposed to the elements. Kenora has all the elements.

20190811_200130

So, umm, there’s been some wear and tear. You can click on the picture to see the full horror. A few years ago, I tried to buy replacement boards, but Black and Decker has moved on: the Workmate 200 is obsolete, and parts (especially the particle-board jaws which are popular because of see photo above) are no longer in stock.

No probs, I said, I’ll just make some. Out of some nice solid hardwood. Nope.

The boards need to be precisely one inch thick. One-inch thick hardwood planks are only nominally an inch; on an actual ruler, they check in at three-quarters of an inch, so the cute little plastic clamp thingies wouldn’t fit even if you could get the other hardware to go together. This led to a delay.

Fast forward to the front steps project. The Workmate spent a fortnight outdoors. I’m so sorry. How can I make it up to you? How about I make you some new jaws out of, oh, I don’t know, plastic cutting boards or something? Nope.

That teflonny plastic they make cutting boards out of is A) stupid expensive, at least in retail form, and B) really hard to glue together to make material an inch thick. But.

Whoa, wholesalers SELL high density polypropylene in slabs an inch thick. In different colours. And, among other sizes, two feet square, which is just right. I wanted to do black, because Darth Vader vibes, but chickened out in case I needed to make pencil markings on it. I settled on light grey.

I left the protective skin on while I cut two boards from the slab and drilled them for the mounting hardware. They were fun to drill: the wood-boring bits went through the plastic easily, but instead of handfuls of wood shavings, they produced continuous long spirals of thin plastic that spun around the drill in huge tangled threads. Mostly easy to clean up.

I used a router to cut the grooves in the jaw edges that hold pipe and so on.

When I was done, and put everything together, it looked like this.

Hardwood would have been prettier and hopefully more sustainable, but the plastic will be very weatherproof, and the old Workmate won’t end up in a disposal bin for a long time.

Speaking of disposal, our trusty old 2005 Honda CR-V had to be put down this summer. To be honest, we were thinking of replacing it anyway. It had 354,000 kilometers on the odometer(!), and there were some broken sub-frame components. Then we took a huge rock to the windshield, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Also, a third airbag recall may have been looming on the horizon, and there was a good chance Honda would have bought the vehicle rather than do a job that expensive.

In the end, it was moot. On Canada Day we had a collision at the Harbourfront roundabout. A pickup truck from BC failed to notice we had the right of way and went through the yield sign to T-bone us. The Silverado gouged up the whole right side of the CR-V. No one was hurt, there was barely a scratch on the Silverado, and the whole aftermath was amicable. But with damage to both passenger side doors and the front and rear fender panels of the Honda, repairs were worth far more than the vehicle.

While we were waiting for the insurance company to settle up, we went shopping. The new CR-V felt too big, so we ended up with a Hyundai Tucson.

The payout from Economical Insurance was better than I expected. Which is not to say it went far towards a new SUV, of course, but it paid for nice winter rims and tires with a bit left over.

Earlier, I said I was still writing. That’s true, but Bandits, the sequel to Avians, has not progressed much. A course last January left me feeling that some challenging changes were needed, and although I have mapped out some of that, I have not done much of the actual rewriting.

I want to revise “Fermi High.” It’s a short story about a new kid in school on the moon, and it won a little contest, but has never been otherwise published. I’d like to give it a more exciting ending, and it would probably be best to downplay the main character’s awareness of his female co-students bodies. While what I wrote was true to how I remember grade seven, and not at all explicit, it skews the story away from a middle-grade market.

I’m also still pondering changes to “Ill Wind.” This story about an AI has some good worldbuilding, but I’d like more character development and a subtler plot.

One bright spot: my short story “Far Gone,” which was published by NewMyths.com a while back has been selected for their second anthology: Twilight Worlds is now scheduled to hit bookstores in late spring. By the way, “Far Gone” is something of a prequel to Avians. It predates Raisa’s adventure by some two hundred years. NewMyths also published “The Emperor’s Dragon,” in which I speculate on how China could have had powered flight a thousand years before the Wright Brothers.

Side note: the original contract for “Far Gone” included the option of non-exclusive reprint rights (in case it was selected for an anthology) for the modest sum of $20. (US) They must have raised their rates in the meantime, because they upped their offer to $30. I’m not complaining. Reprint rights are along the lines of money for old rope. The story’s been sold once at it’s best price, anything more is a bonus.

I mention these numbers just to illustrate how Science Fiction–and probably most other types of fiction–don’t pay a ton of money.

Magazine articles are apparently in a different league. I won’t give details, but let’s say there’s an order of magnitude at play.

I had an article published in Kenora Stuff Magazine this winter, I have one coming out in the next issue of Lake of the Woods Area News, and quite likely another one with them a little later in the spring.

Three magazine articles will net me more money than all the short story payments, royalties, reprint rights and appearance honorariums for every work of SF I ever wrote combined.

For the first time, I turned a profit last year. Mainly because I didn’t go to any conventions. I love them, but they’re expensive.

To be fair, I’d sell more science fiction if I was more dogged about querying. After making about three enquiries, I usually shelve something. Many other authors, when they read that, will be surprised that I’m published at all.

But even in this regard, non-fiction is doing better for me. I didn’t have to approach those magazines, they contacted me because my other blog, the Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol, is well-known.

So forgive me, but I’m prioritizing non-fiction at the moment. If it helps, I’m sad that it pays so much better. I wish creative writing, and creative arts generally, paid better than simply explaining stuff. The idea that I might have the skills to be a decent writer of technical manuals fills me with dread. And don’t worry: the stories in my head won’t leave me alone. They will find their way out eventually.

I continue to do flash-fiction narrations for the Antipodean SF Radio Show and podcast. I’ve done about forty of them so far. Antipodean SF is home to two of my own flash fiction short stories: “Freezer Burn,” another prequel to Avians, and “Zeta Series,” light-hearted horror about lab rats.

One last thing. My friend Lindsay Kitson, a fellow writer of Sky-Fi, has advanced her aviation career to the next level. After a stint as a bush pilot, she is moving over to the medevac biz. I’m very excited for her.

Lindsay is also the prime mover of our critique group, so our meetings may be infrequent in the months to come. The whole flying for a living thing can make actually having a life difficult.

 

Taking a Course

I’ll be taking an online writing course this winter.  Odyssey is probably best known for their intense six-week summer workshops on writing science fiction, fantasy and horror, but they also offer online courses that don’t require you to take so much time off from your day job. In January of 2015, I took Jeanne Cavelos’ Showing vs. Telling and found it immensely useful in polishing the manuscript for Avians, so I’m coming back for more.

This winter, I’m enrolled in Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel with Barbara Ashford. My goal for this course is to get a better handle on Bandits, the sequel to Avians. The first draft is complete, with a coherent plot, but I’d like the characters to feel truer and more consistent, and for the story’s developments to feel more integrated.

It happens to work out well that the course begins while I’m on holidays, so that will help with the required reading. To my delight, The Hunger Games is the principal course reference. I loved this book when it came out—partly for the wrong reasons*—and I’m looking forward to picking it up and reading it again, with a more studious eye.

*at the time that Hunger Games came out, I was working on Avians, and I was troubled by the need to kill off a young character, but I felt that it was essential to show how much danger the heroines were in, and that the flying they did was so important that the deaths of teenagers were an acceptable price. Then I read Games, in which children are killed off by the dozen for entertainment, and I was, like, “Oh well, then, permission granted.”

Let me tell you a little about what these courses are like, in case you’re interested. There are four online sessions, conducted using your computer and webcam, spaced out at two-week intervals. In between lessons, there is homework. A lot of homework. The course guide, I think, says to allow a minimum of five hours a week to do the assignments. A swift writer might manage it in that, but it took me more like three times as long. Naturally, there are writing assignments, but there is also the requirement to thoroughly and professionally critique the work of your classmates. You upload your assignments and critiques as you complete them, and you read your classmate’s critiques of your own work between classes, too. And that’s on top of the reading list.

Since many of the students are of the mature/returning to education variety, there is an atmosphere of “I’m here to work hard so I get my money’s worth.” Incidentally, students enroll from all over the world, and some rearrange their schedules to attend class in the middle of the day, or night. I’m lucky to be only one time-zone away from the school.

Part of the course takes place while I will be on vacation in Mexico. That’s okay, it’s only for a week, and it falls between two of the online sessions. I write well there; it gives me something to do in the hours before Caroline gets up. (I’m an insanely early riser, usually getting up before 4:00am.) Last year I wrote in a grand resort’s all-night coffee bar, where I was always the only customer for the first hour or two. Actually, sometimes even the staff weren’t around, so I taught myself how to use their fancy coffee brewer. I read and critiqued a novel manuscript for a friend there, and I have fond memories of laughing out loud at the funny parts.

This year, we’ll be at Villas San Sebastian, a tiny property in Zihuatanejo with just a handful of suites, and I plan to do my writing homework on a little patio overlooking the pool.

021 Our palapa

These pictures are from a visit in 2004. Note that my “office” will not look like this while I’m working, mainly because it will be dark at the time I’m writing. I’m pretty sure no-one will be tanning at five in the morning.

014 Caroline & Linda at our pool

Remind me to pack some ground coffee, in a sealed pack to go through customs, or I’ll have to go grocery shopping on day one.

The hardest part of the course for me will be later in January, when I’m back at work and not only doing my regular trips, but also fitting my annual flight training into my schedule. That involves at least twelve hours of ground school, plus two training flights that eat up most of a day each. Not looking forward to that workload so much, but I may be able to get some of the ground school or course homework done on the days when I’m sitting up north.

I’m excited to take a new approach to revising Bandits, and I’m really looking forward to meeting my classmates.

AVIANS is now an audiobook

The audiobook of Avians is finally here, and Grace Hood’s narration is excellent. I know because I proofed it on the way to Calgary this summer, in my spare hours there, and on the flight home. I’m sure the WestJet flight attendants thought I was the weirdest passenger, because whenever they’d offer me a drink or a snack, I’d have to pause my phone, wipe the tears from my eyes and take my earbuds out before answering.

Anyway, I figure the audiobook format is great for Avians, because the scenes are fairly short, so you can listen to one or two, or you can listen for an hour or more.

AVIANS First Edition Cover

Actually there’s nearly eleven hours of entertainment here, and apparently you can have it for free through Audible’s 30-day trial offer.

Links: Audible   Amazon   iTunes will be coming soon, and I’ll update when I have a link.

Oh, and if there’s anyone out there who reviews audiobooks, I’d love to hear from them, especially if they specialize in SF.

Prose & Cons: WWC Sunday, then back to Broken Plate

Sunday was my busy day at When Words Collide: three hours of participation in a five-hour span.

I opened the day with a solo presentation on Aviation in World-Building at 10:00 AM. Since I’m a morning person, I was down at the meeting room at 8:30, making sure the flip-chart had paper and felt pens. Yes and no, but the hotel staff quickly delivered pens, and I was able to outline the whole presentation well ahead of time. See this previous post to get an idea what was on those sheets of paper. I’ll expand on one of my topics.

Here are some of the titles on my Sky-Fi reading list:

Cycle of Fire, by Hal Clement, 1957. Aliens use gliders to preserve precious books. Old-style pulp sci-fi.

Windhaven, by George R.R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle, 1981. Three novellas about a windy, watery world where the islands are connected by messengers who fly on wings made of irreplaceable spaceship salvage. Seminal.

Emergence, by David R. Palmer, 1984. Diary of a post-human girl who survives an apocalypse and sets off to find others of her kind by learning to fly an ultralight. Influential.

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, 2004. Young Adult. A cabin boy on an airship lofted by a magical gas is drawn into adventures with a rich passenger. Entertaining. There are two sequels, Skybreaker and Starclimber.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher, 2015. Airships augmented by power crystals fight a vicious trade war for powerful merchant families. Exciting and amusing. A sequel is expected soon.

Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, by Jayne Barnard, 2015. Young Adult. Maddie is estranged from her family of Steamlords, but she gets swept up in the mysterious disappearance of an airship adventurer. Fun. There are two more books in the series already, and more coming.

Updraft, by Fran Wilde, 2015. Young Adult. Kirit wants to be a trader like her mother, flying from tower to tower on wings of bone and silk. Sinister politics intervene. Marvelous world-building. First of a series.

Icarus Down, by James Bow, 2016. Young Adult. Simon is a pilot, flying electric dragonfly ornithopters along the habitable canyons of his world, but he is grounded when he is injured in a terrible crash. Was it an accident? Big themes. Nominated for a Prix Aurora Award.

I did an enthusiastic presentation on this stuff and other aspects of how aviation fits in worldbuilding, for an engaged audience. I took further questions in the lobby area afterwards, and posed for a photo with a reader. I also sold a book, so I walked over with the buyer and personalized it for her at the dealership room.

After this, I got a break, so I went back to our room to eat left-over pizza. The tiny fridge had frozen it, and after microwaving, the pizza was chewy.

Then I had two hours of reading Live Action Slush, first in the Science Fiction category, and then Historic. The SF submissions weren’t as stellar as last year, but the Historic samples were epic. Ahem. Well, it’s true. One of the Historic pieces almost brought me to tears.

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Reading for Live Action Slush, Historic edition. Photo by B.A. Chemali.

This picture was taken by one of the submitting writers, who posted it on twitter, along with this comment: Thanks for such a fabulous read. You should definitely do audio books!

I don’t actually read with my eyes shut. I’m good, but I’m not that good. Two of the panel’s four  editors can be seen: Shirlee Smith Matheson, nearest me, and Tasha Alexander, Guest of Honour, at the left.

After so many hours on my feet, I didn’t have a lot of energy for anything else. I wandered the convention, greeting and chatting with friends and anyone else who couldn’t get away quickly.

Then I cashed out my book sales from Myth Hawker and picked up the copy of Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack that they’d been holding for me. I can’t wait to read it, the two previous BNG anthologies were good fun.

Dinner Debriefing: we went back to Broken Plate because Sunday is Pasta Night. We started by sharing a calamari salad. The pasta menu is not on their website, and I didn’t think to snap a picture of the card, but we had a beef dish on papardelle and a farfalle (I think) with a mushroom sauce. We shared because both were so good, and they made a wonderful combination. A bottle of Flechas De Los Andes Gran Malbec went beautifully with both. Caroline finished with Baklava, and I had the Semifredo with a coffee.

Prose & Cons: WWC Saturday and Another Dinner in Calgary

On Saturday, I had a second easy day at When Words Collide, so I picked a few sessions to attend: We’ve Been Edited, then World-Building: Your World is a Character, and Kaffeeklatsch with Dave Duncan before lunch, and You Oughta be in Audio in the afternoon. It’s possible to do back-to-back programming all day, but I don’t have that kind of stamina. I hadone time-slot where I had highlighted four different options on the schedule, because WWC puts together a lot of good stuff.

For lunch, I stuck to the sandwich and snack concession in the dealer room, and I ended up sitting with an old friend. She has positive things happening with a second book, but it’s too early to talk about it now.

Once again, it was the last event of my day that I enjoyed the most. Although Dawn Harvey and Nina Munteanu kept You Oughta be in Audio focused on the why and how of authors getting an audio-book version, and covered contract stuff like audio rights and payment options for engaging a professional reader, I learned that Dawn Harvey also offers courses for narrators that wish to turn pro. That would be me. I’ve been doing quite a few narrations for the AntiSF Radio Show, but I could use a little more info on the business and technical sides, so I might sign up if she puts a class on in Winnipeg.

Dinner Debriefing: Caroline and I headed out for Italian food at Toscana Italian Grill. That was a walk of twenty minutes or more, but the weather had cooled, and damper conditions had cleared out most of the forest fire smoke from the air. We split a Caesar salad, then Caroline had the Parma e Funghi stone-oven pizza while I chose the Veal Scallopini. I couldn’t decide whether I felt more like the Piccata or Funghi di Bosco option, but went with the mushroom option on Pietro’s recommendation, and didn’t regret it. We ordered wine by the glass, so that we could have different reds, and there was a good selection. Service was swift and the food was tasty. We took half the pizza back to our hotel- by taxi, because there had been a rainshower, and it looked like more might be on the way.

Would we go there again? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a longish walk. I liked the comprehensive Italian menu, but Caroline wasn’t wowed by the pizza. This is partly my fault; I make a wicked wild mushroom pizza. If you want the details on that, you’ll have to ask in the comments.

Prose & Cons: WWC Friday and Dinner in Calgary

Last weekend, I went to When Words Collide in Calgary with my wife, Caroline. It’s a great place to meet readers, writers, editors and publishers, and there are lots of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.

The trip out on WestJet was uneventful, and my suitcase, despite containing books, squeaked under the weight limit. I spent the flight listening to the opening chapters of the audio proof of Avians. That’s right, an audio book is coming soon!

We arrived at the hotel to register just after noon. I’d like to offer a shout-out to the WWC volunteers; they run one of the smoothest registrations I’ve seen, and they always get my name-tag and desk-card right.

It was hot and smoky in Calgary. The afternoon temperature rose to 37ºC!

We went for lunch at Jack Astor’s, because it’s a walk of barely two blocks. We had salads, and they were good, but I cannot seem to link to their full menu, so they will remain shrouded in mystery.

My schedule this year was light, with no obligations Friday or Saturday, so I was free to take in some panels. For Friday afternoon, I selected three from a full-to-bursting schedule: Shifting from Writer to Author; Now What?, The Best Advice I Ever Received, and Agency for Women in Fantasy / Feminism in Fantasy. 

That last one was my favourite of the day, because the panelists were passionate. One main point was about numbers. It’s not enough to have one woman in the role of spaceship captain: half of her crew should be female, too. Fonda Lee defended the point that by this measure, Black Panther is a more feminist movie than Wonder Woman, because while the latter has one woman who is exceptional, Black Panther, despite having a male lead, has lots of women in different significant roles.

Double standards came up, too. Write a male character with deep flaws, and he’s “complex”. Write a female with quirks, and she’s “unsympathetic.”

WWC has a great dealership room, where a dozen or more different booksellers and presses set up tables of books for sale. This is one of the best places in Canada to go book shopping if you’re looking for Canadian authors in almost any genre. I popped in to see Myth Hawker, because they’re good about selling my book, Avians. I left a few signed copies with them.

While I’m thinking about book sales, one book series I buy on sight is Brave New Girls. This is a set of anthologies of short stories about girls in STEM* and the third volume, subtitled Tales of Heroines Who Hack, has just come out.

That was it for my WWC attendance on Friday.

Dinner Debriefing: I joined Caroline, and we headed out to Broken Plate for dinner. It’s walking distance (about ten minutes) from the Delta Calgary South, and it’s become our regular first-night restaurant when we’re at WWC.

We love their calamari, so we started with that, and a glass of Seven Peaks Chardonnay. Caroline went for a Scallop dish, one of the daily specials, and I  picked the Roast Lamb. Menu link. It was tasty. I recommended it to the table that sat down next to us.

(I’m one of those people that talks to strangers on the elevator, and in the line at the grocery store. I can never go back to New York.)

For wine with dinner, Caroline stayed with the white and I ordered a glass of an Argentine Malbec, Flechas De Los Andes Aguaribay. It paired well with the fragrant lamb.

We finished with a Baklava Cheese Cake. The sour cherry compote was striking.

That’s all for Friday. I’ll do separate posts for each day.

 

 

*Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.

 

Prose & Cons: When Words Collide 2018

I’m heading to Calgary next week for the 2018 iteration of When Words Collide. This convention brings together writers of all genres, giving everyone a chance to brainstorm on problems common to all storytellers, such as plotting, pitching, publishing and procrastination, along with a few things that start with other letters. This will be my third visit to WWC, and my third time presenting there.

Last year, I launched Avians at WWC (buy my book!) plus I did a solo presentation on Writing Aviation, moderated panels on Worldbuilding and Pantsters versus Plotters, and was reader for the science fiction edition of Live Action Slush.*

*Live Action Slush, (it goes by other names at other conventions) is a chance to have a few pages of your work read out loud to a panel of editors. Bringing your work to this event takes courage, because the whole room–and in Calgary it’s usually packed–will get to hear not only your draft manuscript, but also the editors criticisms of it. WWC does it wonderfully, by which I mean the focus is on constructive criticism. No one gives in to the temptation to mock writing that falls short. Authors who take the opportunity to identify themselves after their piece is critiqued get generously applauded, especially if fundamental faults were pointed out.

My schedule for this year’s WWC is lighter than last year’s. I’m reading for the SF LAS again, and I just saw on the final schedule that they’ve taken me up on my offer to read for other kinds of slush– I’ll be doing the historical fiction one as well.

Organizer Randy McCharles mentioned to me that WWC is always on the lookout for presentations about aviation, so I decided to combine two of my favourite things, and do a talk on Aviation in Worldbuilding this year.

I plan to run through the who, what, when, where, why and how of Aviation as it pertains to writing fiction, and I’m hoping that the worldbuilding aspect will attract some writers of speculative fiction.

Under the Who, after introducing myself, I’ll talk about some writers who have included fabulous aviation in fiction, ranging from famous authors like Heinlein and Herbert to more current writers. Time permitting, I’ll plug some of my favourite Sky-Fi authors and books. Maybe I can get an easel or a whiteboard, and jot down some titles in advance. Note to self: create a web page on this blog for Tim’s Sky-Fi reading list.

What will be my opportunity to segue into talking about some kinds of aviation that are very different from our mundane metal monoplanes. Ornithopters, horse-drawn battle-kites, inter-colony ballistic missiles, human-powered flying machines, the usual stuff.

When will be a chance to speak about some historic aspects of aviation. I’m convinced we could have developed flight much earlier than the Wright Brothers, and I’ll use that to encourage writers who want to put aviation in low-tech worlds. In hindsight, some form of air travel should have been feasible in the age of sail, and even the iron age. My own novel is set on a world with technology not much above the stone age. Mini-rant: don’t underestimate stone-age societies, they had a lot more going on than hand-axes.

Where will take us to other planets, with a quick contemplation of potential aviation on Mars and Venus to introduce some of the basics of flying in less earth-like environments, and then some words on factors that make flying easier or harder, such as local gravity, atmospheric density and composition, otherworldly weather, and so on.

Why will cover reasons aviation matters in worldbuilding. Transportation is, I believe, a pivotal technology, like communication. It’s fundamental to a society’s trade and travel in ways that affect everything from family visits to restaurant menus. Seriously. Want fresh fruit from far away? You’re going to want it flown in. The existence of aviation also implies a whole lot of career choices. I’ll try not to get sidetracked into grumbling about pilot stereotyping.

How sounds like it could be a recap, but I think I’ll use it to discuss how to make aviation immersive and emotionally compelling. Then I’ll move on to ways to use aviation to advance the plot and reveal inner character.

Huh. I just killed two birds with one stone. I have used a blog post to write an outline for my presentation.

If you’re attending When Words Collide, come see me at 10:00 AM on Sunday in the Acadia Room, which is downstairs in the Tower Building.

 

 

Aurora Update

The Prix Aurora Award nominees have been announced, and I’m not one of them. There were thirty-four eligible novels in the Young Adult Novel category, so getting enough votes to finish in the top five was a pretty big challenge. I know four of the five finalists, and they are cool and interesting people who write great stories. The feminist within me is pleased to note that all five nominees in this category are women this year.

Best Young Adult Novel

Exo by Fonda Lee, Scholastic Press

Houses of the Old Blood by Elizabeth Whitton, Kettlescon Press

Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge by Jayne Barnard, Tyche Books

Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko, ECW Press

The West Woods by Suzy Vadori, Evil Alter Ego Press

I look forward to reading them all. Actually, I’ve already read Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge, and you can see my review at goodreads. Jayne and I have exchanged emails on topics related to alternative aviation, so I take a special interest in her books.

In the Novel Category, competition was even tougher; there were seventy-four eligible works! One of the six finalists is Light of a Distant Sun, by Brent Nichols, which I also enjoyed (and reviewed) soon after it came out.

Best Novel

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner, Tor Books

Jade City by Fonda Lee, Orbit

Light of a Distant Sun by Brent Nichols, Bundoran Press

The Rebel (Book 3 of the San Angeles Series) by Gerald Brandt, DAW Books

RecipeArium by Costi Gurgu, White Cat Publications

To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books

Several of these were already on my To Be Read pile.

I’ve reviewed some of the other books that were eligible but, like mine, did not secure a nomination. Check out my reviews for The Reluctant Barbarian (funny) and Parasomnia (clever).

Another book that didn’t make the cut is Edward Willett’s The Cityborn. I stumbled across it in a Winnipeg bookstore the other day, and bought it for something to read. It was very enjoyable, and a review will be up soon.

There is one nomination for this year’s Auroras that is very special to me. In the Artist category, Ann Crowe is nominated for her cover art for my book, Avians. It’s a lovely illustration, and a signed and framed print of it hangs in a place of honour on the wall of my study. I’m cheering for her.

 

 

The Prix Aurora Awards

Nominations are about to close for the Prix Aurora Awards. A little background if you’re not acquainted with them: the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association runs them, and any Canadian resident can join the CSFFA and vote. Annual membership is ten dollars, and it’s a good deal if you’re into speculative fiction.

Members of the CSSFA get electronic copies of (usually) all the nominees. That’s five Novels, five YA novels, five Graphic Novels, five short stories, and so on. That’s an armload of reading for ten bucks. Here’s a link to the CSFFA FAQ, if you’d like to get a better feel for what’s involved.

I’m a member because it’s a great way to keep in touch with the latest in Canadian SF. Nowadays, many of the eligible works are by people I’ve worked with, such as editors or book designers, or people I’ve met at conventions, on panels or at readings. Some books that I bought, read, and reviewed on Goodreads made the eligible list, so it felt great to vote for their nomination.

The deadline for nominating an eligible work is May 26, just days away.

This year, Avians is eligible in the YA Novels category. If it gets enough votes to be nominated, many more Canadian writers and SF enthusiasts will take a look at it, which would be nice. I’m also excited that my cover artist, Ann Crowe, is eligible in the Artist category.

Nominated works get  short-listed, which is an accomplishment in itself. The final round of voting, to select winners from the nominated works, will begin on July 28.