Monthly Archive: July 2008

World Building at SF Signal

Hey y’all,

I was recently asked my thoughts on an example of excellent SF/F world building by the good folks over at SF Signal. Go on over and see what I and plenty of folks smarter than me had to say about it. Why not? My god, you’re reading my blog, you can’t have much else to do right now.

More Unicorn

Well, heard back from my genius editor at Orbit about The Eternal Prison, so the long dark tea-time of my soul begins in earnest. Meaning I have some revisions to make.

Here’s my recollection of the conversation, which should go a long way to illustrating the Exciting Life of a Novelist in These, The End Times:

Genius Editor: Hello! Put on some pants and listen.

ME: Uh. . .pants, pants, pants. . .hold on. . .pants, pants, where the hell–ah! Here’s a pair. Not mine, but will have to do. <grunting noise> Whew! I’ve, uh, gained a few–okay! We’re in. Shoot.

GE: I just got done with The Eternal Prison. Excellent. Best one so far. You’re a genius.

ME: Hooray!

GE: Wait, don’t start drinking yet.

ME: <pausing with bottle in air> Uh, okay.

GE: I could not help but notice that we seem to be missing several chapters. Like, the whole sequence when they visit the Center of the Earth to retrieve the magic ring? Aside from not really being in concert with the universe you’ve created in the first two books, this whole sequence is just not there. At the end of one chapter they say they’re heading to the Center of the Earth, and the next chapter it’s like fifteen years later and that whole adventure is recalled in flashback by the characters. Very few flashbacks. It was very confusing. Was there a Unicorn? Because there was a lot of Unicorn imagery that might have made more sense if we’d been given that part of the story.

ME: Got it: more unicorn. I can do that.

GE: And, frankly, the whole last third of the book seems like ten chapters from a totally different book, just pasted in with the character and place names searched-and-replaced. Which I can tell because the search-and-replacing was sloppy, resulting in Avery Cates being referred to as Avery DorCatesothy throughout. Aside from this sort of unprofessional mistake, the last third of the book, as a consequence, makes absolutely no sense. Suddenly they’re in a zeppelin on an alien planet? And there’s elves?

ME: Uh. . .would more unicorn solve this as well?

GE: No, frankly, it would not. I think you have to re-write the whole last third. You know, so it makes sense.

ME: Uh-huh. Sure, sure. No problem.

GE: Good.

ME: What, exactly, does “make sense” mean, in this context? I really don’t see why more unicorn wouldn’t work here as well. It would, you know, create a visual link between the two sections.

GE: Moving on, I can’t help but notice that several chapters interspersed throughout the manuscript are, in actualilty, Wikipedia entries, simply cut-and-pasted into the file, with no attribution or explanation. The entries don’t even seem to have anything to do with the story. For example, chapter 17 is the entry for the Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden.

ME: Shows what you know. This is deep, Joyce-ian stuff, here. You have to look deeper. I am a genius. Of sorts.

GE: Well, we can’t publish it like this.

ME: Right! I’ve been taking notes. Let’s see. . .basically, you want more unicorn. That’s what I’m getting.


ME: Oh! Right. And lose the Wikipedia stuff, despite the fact that that’s the core of the book and will win awards for us. But I should delete the Wikipedia entries. And more unicorn. Got it! When do you need a rewrite? I’m pretty open, I could have it to you by tomorrow morning. Maybe noon, but probably morning.

GE: …

ME: Holy shit, do you think there’s a Wikipedia page on unicorns? Damn, I might have this re-write for you by tonight.

GE: <dial tone>

My memory may not be what it once was, so some of the details may have been fudged in there. Back to work!

Book Roasted

I am baked to a nice red color after my Book Roast. There was pantslessness, whiskey, and thong underwear, and someone did indeed win a signed copy of The Digital Plague. Truly, a great time to be alive.

Thanks to all the Book Roast folks for a grand time, and I’d encourage everyone to check it out on a regular basis for some book-based fun.

Roastin’ a-comin’

TDP, baby!Just a reminder that The Digital Plague is scheduled to be Roasted over at Book Roast in exactly 1 week, on July 22. It ought to be a lot of fun, and I’ll be on the site like a lonely guy at a dance, butting in to every comment and demanding attention. If you’re lucky I’ll still be drunk from the night before, and as a result ashamed and irritable.

Here’s how it works: They’ll post a short excerpt from The  Digital Plague and then 3 questions. The questions are written by the Book Roast folks, not me, and will skew towards the humorous and/or ridiculous. Then people post answers to the questions, and I’ll be monitoring the blog comments and jumping in as well, so feel free to ask me questions or, as I said, insult me (do I know my readers or what?). I will, of course, be sitting at my desk pantsless with a glass of whiskey in my hand and will post photos to prove this if asked. If anyone’s working on the little puzzle over at the TDP web site, I might be induced to offer hints. But only if you’re super nice.

Then, I pick a “winner” who I think answered the 3 questions best – not necessarily correctly, just “best” – and the winner gets a free book. I might get creative with the prize, actually, and if you already own TDP we can figure something out, and naturally I will sign the book as well if asked.


Friends, every author dreams of the day that he or she hits the big time. But how do you know you’ve hit the big time? Is it when you don’t have to siphon booze out of your neighbor’s bottles during parties in order to drink like a civilized human being? Is it when you have people on the payroll who do absolutely nothing? Is it when you actually have a payroll? Is it when the police, coming upon you once again pantsless and inebriated on a park bench after a night of “research” for your latest novel, drive you home instead of beating you senseless and forcing you to wash their squad car the next day while you shiver with hangover pain?

No, friends, you know you have hit it big when your novels turn up on file-sharing networks.

That’s right, I am proud to say that if you go looking, you can now find both my novels as HTML files, complete with full text – including copyright notices – and a nice JPG of the cover. I AM HUGE. Now all I need is for someone to start up a fan-made encyclopedia that I can sue, and my fame will be permanent.

Back to “research”.


As you may have heard I’ll be taking part in the KGB Bar’s Fantastic Fiction reading Series on August 20th. In the mean time, they’re holding a raffle to raise money for this amazing reading series. From what I understand on the night that I read I get to drink for free, so for god’s sake give them the funds needed.


New York, NY (July 2008) – The hosts of the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series in New York City are holding a raffle to help support the series. Well-known artists and professionals have donated prizes (see Partial List of Prizes below) which will be raffled off in July. All proceeds from the raffle will go to support the reading series, which has been a bright star in the speculative fiction scene for more than a decade.

Raffle tickets will cost one dollar US ($1) and can be purchased at You may purchase as many tickets as you want. Tickets will be available from July 14th, 2008 through July 28th, 2008. At midnight on July 28th, raffle winners will be selected randomly for each item and announced on the web. Prizes will be mailed to the lucky winners. (See a more detailed explanation in Raffle Rules).

Partial List of Prizes (a full list is available at the website)

· Story in a bottle by Michael Swanwick
· Tuckerization (your name in a story) by Lucius Shepard
· Tuckerization by Elizabeth Hand
· Tuckerization by Jeffrey Ford
· Pen & Ink drawing of an animal-your choice- by Gahan Wilson
· Original art for a George R. R. Martin novel by Tom Canty
· John Picacio signed print of art for Michael Moorcock novel
· Naomi Novik signed TEMERAIRE first edition
· Your very own wormhole from physicist Michio Kaku
· Peter Straub excerpt of a short story, “Mallon the Guru,” deleted from novel-in-progress, THE SKYLARK
· Holly Black signed advance copy of GOOD NEIGHBORS
· Original art by Terri Windling
· Carol Emshwiller signed manuscript of THE ABOMINABLE CHILD’S TALE
· Complete set of back issues and lifetime subscription to PARADOX MAGAZINE
· Critique of a short story by Ellen Datlow
· Critique of a short story by Gardner Dozois
· Critique of a short story by Nancy Kress
· Two year subscription to SYBIL’S GARAGE MAGAZINE
· Ray Bradbury limited edition worth $900
· And dozens more prizes on the website…

Raffle Information website:

List of All Raffle Items online:

Ellen Datlow, KGB co-host,,
Matthew Kressel, KGB co-host,,
Mary Robinette Kowal, raffle consultant,

Video Goodness

I almost forgot about this: A few months ago, when brainstorming how to get folks to pay attention to me (anything short of Daffy Duck’s Trick You Can Perform Only Once is fair game – nudity is fine), I made a little video “trailer” for The Digital Plague. No! Really! Using an array of public-domain stuff, I created a short clip to promote the book.

Then, what happened is, I was in a bar with a bunch of folks from and chatting with Annalee Newitz (much to her dismay, no doubt) and mentioned trailers for books, planning to wow her with the fact that I had, indeed, created such a trailer. before I could brag, however, she made a sour face and said that a trailer for a book is possibly the silliest thing she’d ever heard of. This isn’t a quote, since I didn’t take notes, was somewhat drunk, and have a poor memory anyway–it is entirely possible she said something completely different, and I am just remembering it wrong. I also remember wearing a tuxedo and fencing with a large green rat in a purple smoking jacket. It’s tough being inebriated all the time.

Anyway, after having my hopes and dreams of easy promotion crushed right in front of me, I forgot all about the video for a while. Until today, in fact, when, in a brief and shining moment of sobriety, I remembered it. So here it is. Be kind. I bruise easily.

Cats Has Taste

Cats Love Me!Consider here this lovely photo sent to me by one Tez Miller from Australia. I’ve always known that cats are the smartest creatures on the Earth (exceeding Dolphins, humans, and even white mice), but here is proof! Tez added this along with the pic: “A photo of my cat Manny with The Digital Plague. Sorry he doesn’t look more enthused – he had to visit the vet today.”

Don’t fret, if you read Tez’s blog you’ll see Manny is fine. Although I think the caption to this photo should be DUBIOUS CAT IZ DUBIOUS ABOUT YER BOOK.

Random Thoughts

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Well, a day late, but what can you do. My general incompetence is always leaking all over my life, ruining everything. I’ve got nothing coherent to say, but a few random things are bumping about, so I figure I’ll make use of them and just jot them here.

I keep pretty good track of my writing projects and how they fare, especially the short stories. I submit stories pretty regularly, far and wide. So far, over the course of my entire ‘professional’ career (since I was about 18), I’ve submitted 1120 stories to various markets, and sold a grand total of 24 (sold being a loose term - accepted might be more accurate, as many, especially in the early going, were sold for contrib copies or similar). This is a success rate of 2.1% for those keeping score at home. On the one hand, this is a pretty sucky percentage. On the other, this reflects the relative lack of due diligence I perform when researching markets – I’d guess a good 20% of my submissions are doomed from the beginning because I am too lazy to research markets properly.

My success rate with novels, on the other hand, is great: Out of 8 novels that I’ve attempted in some way to sell, I’ve sold 4, for a success rate of 50%. Out of the 4 that haven’t sold, one is still being actively shopped, so there’s always hope.

Other randomness:  I just finished playing the game Portal, which was a blast. I don’t play many video games; basically I am a whore for First Person Shooter-type games and that’s about it, unless you count Text Adventures. I played a mean Zork when I was a nerdy kid as opposed to a nerdy adult. Portal is a lot of fun, and I recommend it not merely as a cool FPS game, but as a puzzle-game – the whole game is about solving puzzles, really, and you never once hold an actual gun or kill another being in the game. Well, almost never. Depends on definitions, I suppose. Still, a fun game.

I’ve also been hearing a bit about MagCloud, which is interesting to me as a DIY publisher of a zine. MagCloud is kind of like for magazines – they let you upload a PDF for free and claim they will handle subscription fulfilment and manufacturing, with a base cost of 20 cents a page. You can set the cover price and keep the difference, so if you’re mag costs $5 you can set the price at $6 and keep the dollar. A nifty idea, especially if they really do handle fulfilment for you. . .except, sweet jebus, twenty cents a page? My fucking god. It sounds okay at first, because twenty cents doesn’t sound like much scratch, but my little zine right now costs between two and three cents a page to produce. Granted, I am manufacturing them myself and handling fulfilment myself, but still. If MagCloud cost five cents a page, I could see it as an alternative, but this shit is bananas. An issue of my zine would have to cost $12, and that’s without me making a dime from it.

Sure, if you want to do a small 10-page kind of thing, it might be do-able, especially considering the zero startup cost. But for anything else, not workable. Unless you want to be in the same boat as folks who put their books out through Publish America, where their books cost three million dollars each and they wonder why no one will take a chance and buy one.

So that’s what’s bouncing around in my head. That and drink recipes. And my complete inability to play my guitar in time. And the fact that it’s been raining in Hoboken for about sixteen years straight.