Monthly Archive: September 2010

Tuesday is Guitar Day

The Voices in My Head Demand that I post the most recent songs I’ve recorded with my shovel-like hands and, er, my guitar. Plus drum loops. And a distinct lack of shame. So, without further ado or any chance for y’all to protest or talk me out of it, here’s the latest batch:












The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

Death of the Cover Letter

Now and then, for my own obscure amusement, I like to calibrate my mortality in interesting ways: Twinkies eaten, years since I last used a typewriter un-ironically, hours spent watching TV since 1989 – that sort of thing. I do this on a pretty constant basis, as I have a real love for statistics and keep a raft of them reflecting my own life. One of the more prominent stats I keep on myself is my short story submissions, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog. I write a short story a month year in and year out, and if any of those stories seem good enough I try to keep them in circulation, trying to sell them to magazines or web sites or anyone, really, who might be willing to pay me five cents a word for them.

In my most industrious year, I managed 107 submissions. I have no idea how I managed that. Last year I managed 25. I’ll top that this year, but I’m not sure by how much. So I’m still pretty actively shilling fiction out there. I know there isn’t a lot of money in short stories, but the Somers Way is never about money, mainly because I am lazy and don’t understand money. Back in The Day all of these submission were through the post office. 107 submissions meant 107 photocopies of a story, 107 large envelopes, 107 letter-sized envelopes with my address and a stamp, and 107 cover letters. These days a lot of my submissions are via email or web form, which is fantastic, and I’m inching towards a Scalzi-esque refusal to submit to any magazine that requires a physical submission, because this is 2010 and goddammit it’s two thousand and ten.

But despite the increasing prevalence of electronic submissions, up until very recently I’ve still included a cover letter with each submission. I’m proud of my cover letters. I enjoy creating absurd, humorous cover letters that talk about Helper Monkeys and Wormholes delivering manuscripts to me, like this actual cover letter I have actually used:

“Having learned to subsist entirely on alcohol and the radiation beaming out of my computer monitor, I believe I am the next step in human evolution—assuming I can survive long enough to sow my soon-to-be-dominant seed. In order to buy time, I need money to pay for the best in health care. Imagine a race of supermen, drinking booze for nutrition, and downloading pornography from the Internet in lieu of sleep! We’d rule the universe in no time. But first I have to get my mutant genes into the pool, and that brings us back to the question of cash.

“You can help! If you publish approximately 500 of my short stories this year, by my calculations I’ll be moderately well off. Here’s the first one: “as soon as its day dawns” (~13,000 words). I hope you enjoy it.”

I’ve often received positive feedback on my cover letters, actually. I’ve even had editors offer me the (dubious) compliment of telling me they’d publish my cover letter, but not my actual story. I just kind of enjoy the whole cover-letter experience, to be honest.

Recently, however, I’ve started to see more and more markets instructing me to skip the cover letter. Usually it’s with a statement about only being interested in the work; some markets even ask that the story itself be anonymized so they can judge it solely on its merits, with no knowledge about you, the author. I don’t mind this in general; it’s not a bad idea to judge a story on its merits. But I will miss making up these ridiculous cover letters. For all I know my cover letters have cost me sales, as Serious Business Editors have been offended by my jolly missives, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I’m going to miss writing the little essays, is all.

The main reason this sticks out for me is that it’s one of those unpredicted consequences: The cover letter is an artifact of a paper age, if you think about it, it’s perfectly sane that it gets dropped when you’re just submitting a file via an automated form. Still, I never thought about cover letters going away. Yet another of my largely unmarketable skills, gone extinct, along with playing the spoons, knowing all the Pac Man patterns for the Atari 2600 version, and programming in BASIC.

Damn universe.

Review of The Terminal State

The fine folks over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist have reviewed The Terminal State, and loved it:

“Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, sick fuck. But I love him! For all his faults and shortcomings, it’s well nigh impossible not to root for him … I’ve said in the past that these books are addictive, and The Terminal State has done nothing to change that. Roll on The Final Evolution!”

Huzzah! Go buy twelve.

Palmer Vs. Somers, The Final Chapter

Well, mercifully, Orbit has posted the final hunk of video showing the fiasco Phil Palmer and I took part in. You can view it here:

I’ve been drinking heavily since the filming process began, and crying jags are not uncommon. Okay, niether of those things were ever uncommon, but still. It was traumatic. Can’t wait to see what Phil has to say about these final chapters on his blog.

Somers Vs. Palmer Day Three

My erstwhile documentary partner, Philip Palmer, posted this to his blog yesterday:

“I confess that I may have slightly misunderstood the original brief. I remember being told at one point that Jeff and I were going to compare the relative merits (toughness/sexiness/kickassitude) of our two protagonists, namely the intellectually brilliant and astonishingly physically powerful Version 43, and the rather dim-witted always-getting-beaten-up Avery Cates.  I took the view that it’s better to be objective and scientific about such questions; so I took the liberty of recruiting the world authority in such matters, Dr Paul Bostock (Professor in Protagonism and Genre Conflict at the Heinlein University, Colorado) to argue, basically, that my protagonist is better than Jeff’s protagonist.

In retrospect, perhaps I was over-achieving a bit there. So once again Jeff – a million apologies! I abase myself, etc etc.”

Can you believe this guy? You might see why the whole project devolved into a shouting match between us. To see the unholy mess collapse right before your eyes, you can check Orbit’s web site, where they’re posting more videos of our failed experiment. Here’s parts two and three:



Spoiler Madness

Friends, I support all lifestyles. Like to read Vampire Romances? Go with god. Prefer vodka to whiskey? You mystify and alarm me, but I’ll die defending your right to drink ghastly stuff. Think The Wire was impenetrable and dull? I will work tirelessly to restrain my urge to set your house on fire. Want to avoid even the barest hint of a spoiler for TV shows and movies? Fine by me. Within reason. There is, however, a limit on how long I am supposed to worry about spoiling something for you.

Recently, there’s been a kerfluffle because Wikipedia is now spoiling the endeding Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, a play that’s been running somewhere or other for about 50-60 years now. It’s a murder mystery with a twisty ending, and for decades now each show ends with the performers asking the audience to keep the secret to themselves and not spoil the ending. Now, of course, anyone who read the Wikipedia entry out of basic curiosity for the play can discover the ending, say “Meh,” and move on.

Let me repeat the most important part of that story: THE PLAY HAS BEEN PERFORMED CONTINUOUSLY FOR MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS.

I’m not sure anyone elected me to state when, exactly, the expiration date for spoilers occurs, but I am pretty damn sure it’s somewhere less than fifty goddamn years. Fifty years on, you are firmly on your own, and discussion of the “twist” in Mousetrap falls under the category of revealing to someone that Germany lost World War I in spoiler levels. Which is to say: It is no longer a goddamn spoiler.

Now, I’m notoriously spoiler-friendly. I don’t waste time avoiding twists, and I firmly believe that if I can’t enjoy a story even knowing the ending then it wasn’t very good to begin with. On the other hand, I understand perfectly the desire to enjoy newly released entertainments without the ruinous effect of spoilers – again, I support all lifestyles. but there are limits. Personally, I think that this limit should be pretty brief: Three months or so after initial release. However, I could be persuaded to support a spoiler-ban for up to a year, depending on the circumstances. But there is a point when a book or movie or TV show has been out there so long, if you still haven’t seen it and want to preserve the mystery, well, son, it’s on you to do the heavy lifting. That is to say, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense yet in 2010, and I happen to mention in casual conversation that the doctor is a frickin’ ghost, too bad. I will not cry for you, kid.

Because if you push Spoilerism too far, we’re gonna be protecting spoilers in Shakespeare, in the Bible, in Aesop’s Fables. We’re going to have to regard every twist ending in the history of the universe as a spoiler, and we’re going to have to start entering into contractual agreements when discussing anything. I end up having to pay out enough settlements after conversations with people – I don’t need to have something else to worry about.