More for Your Ears

Lady Reading by Robert James Gordon

It’s always nice to sell a story, it’s a special treat to sell one to a podcast. For years now, I’ve enjoyed listening to the written word as much as reading it. I discovered audio books and podcasts when my kids were little, and my sitting-and-reading time almost entirely disappeared. Conversely, I spent lots of time on mundane tasks like laundry and driving to and from endless errands.*

I found audio books first, on disk, at the library. I dug up my dorky old CD player and it’s dorkier neoprene jog-belt carrier and started listening to books. There’s an art to sweeping the floor and listening to a book, a different kind of focus. But, if you’re busy with the banal jobs of keeping body and soul together, the house clean, and the kids diapered, it’s an art definitely worth mastering. 

I load books onto my iPod now (which is getting old and I suppose one day will be dorky too). I also stay current by listening to just a few of the hundreds (thousands? Millions?) of podcasts out there. I’ve listed some of my favorites previously, here are some new ones that I’ve added to my feed.

Cast of Wonders
And not just because they produced my story! There’s a nice selection of excellent stories here as well as links to the Camp Myth novellas. Just because they call themselves a “young adult” podcast, doesn’t mean us grownups can’t listen to them too.

Toasted Cake
Another Parsec Award winning podcast run by author Tina Connolly. This one specializes in flash fiction – like a little dessert for your ears.

This excellent weekly speculative fiction magazine podcasts selected fiction and poetry read by the talented and satin-voiced Anaea Lay

Once a month the fiction editors at the New Yorker ask a writer to read one of their favorite stories that has been published in the magazines pages. This is followed by a brief discussion of the story. Good stuff for writers!

A free audio show covering the latest in science news. Once a month they read a flash fiction story from the print journal’s Nature Futures feature.

One of my favorites. Produced by The Poetry Foundation, this podcast features one or two poems followed by a short discussion. Always lovely and useful.  
Go forth and listen!
 


* When I think back to my college days, I remember spending entire afternoons with friends at our local hole-in-the-wall bar where we would all complain that we didn’t have any time!

Cast of Wonders Produces my Short Story – Flotsam – for your Ears!


Hey, Sunday!

Listen to my short story, Flotsam, for free over at the Cast of Wonders.

I’m so glad I discovered this nifty little outfit! Cast ofWonders is a Parsec Award* winning podcast out of Britain that specializes in Young adult fiction. As a reader and a parent, I love listening to novels, stories and podcasts. I also love reading out loud to my kids. I believe hearing stories, as well as reading them, is a great way to broaden your experience with all things literary. That’s why it’s so wonderful to find people who are passionate about bringing great stories to kids ears.
Be sure to check out their Camp Myth project while you’re there.  

“Cast of Wonders presents the first Camp Myth novella, Phoenix Watching, as a full cast audio drama serialized over 15 episodes. Each episode also features a camper spotlight, showcasing the rich and divers cast of characters.” 

Listen to it for free, get it on Kindle or spring for the actual, physical book. Camp Myth has its own very cool website and there’s even an RPG game – I think these guys get kids!

* The Parsec Awards are a “celebration of speculative fiction podcasting.” They’re like the Hugos of the podcast world. If you’re looking for great spec fic podcasts, these awards are great place to start!

Last WorldCon Post

A DRD (Diagnostic Repair Drone) came all the way from Farscape.

Here’s the rest of it.*

I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming (i.e. whatever tickles my fancy or chaps my hide) next week.

SATURDAY:

Breakfast with a dozen or so conventioneers, only a few of whom I knew, now I know more genre people. The delicious, if expensive, buffet went a long way toward soothing the rather prevalent hangover situation.

The How To Write a Short Story panel had a great lineup of some of my favorite writers dispensing nuggets of pure, golden wisdom:

Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly, Vylar Kaftan, and Cat Rambo
  •  Short fiction is where the new ideas and forms are forged. 
  • Aim high, not just the next sale, aim to make all science fiction to date obsolete. Now that’s shooting for the stars.
  • Short fiction is a good place to work on beginnings, middles and ends.
  • Short fiction is also a great place to find your voice. 
  • Stop looking for heroes, look for who gets damaged in the story
  • If a story isn’t working, sometimes you need to put it in the drawer to let it mulch with other story ideas
  • Don’t hoard your ideas – use them all up. Using them up is what generates more.
  • Try everything, find what works for YOU.
  • Kaftan pointed us to her great blog post The super-cool magic short-story formula. I plan on trying this as a writing exercise as soon as I’m finished with this post!


Kaffeeklatschs:

I sat down with Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki of Skyboat Media. They’ve been in charge of the Lightspeed podcasts for some time now. I’ve listened to their voices narrate so many stories, it was trippy to sit down and have a conversation with them. They are just finishing up with a full cast audioplay of Ender’s Game called Ender’s Game Alive. They were amused and maybe a little appalled when one of the other attendees admitted that she bumps up the playback speed on her podcasts when she’s in a hurry.

After that, I sat down with Tobias Buckell and David Nickle. I know Buckell more from his blog than his books though I have Arctic Rising on my to read list. Nickle brought some of his books, published by ChiZine, and they were gorgeous. Both Buckell and Nickle were friendly and generous with writing advice and anecdotes.

Another panel about short fiction, this one titled Short Stories – What’s Next? Another stellar group of writers and editors: Kij Johnson, David Levine, Steven Silver, John Joseph Adams, and Damien Broderick

  • There was a lively discussion as to whether length is becoming irrelevant. Certainly electronic publishing does not have print costs, and print-on-demand also mitigates up front print costs, but Adams points out that if you’re committed to paying writers pro rates, the costs are still a factor.
  • Kij Johnson noted the premise that Science Fiction is a literature in conversation with itself (true of all art IMHO), and sees many stories embellishing or rebutting other stories out there. She noted that stories can now respond to each other nearly in realtime because of new technologies. The panel agreed that there are many stories in dialogue with all kinds of media (i.e. responding to movies, comics, TV –  and not just recent material, e.g. Star Trek).

Paul Cornell

I’m not a cosplayer, but I enjoy admiring other people’s costumes, so I checked out the Masquerade. The costumes ranged from fantastic to strange to hilarious. The kids category was adorable through and through. Paul Cornell, Master of Ceremonies displayed his aplomb throughout a technically challenged show (I believe the tech was run by volunteers, God bless ’em. Seriously, tech is hard!) Cornell kept everyone entertained through all the glitches.

After that it was off to the room parties. Patrice scored an invite to a party thrown by a Texan scifi fan in the presidential suite. There I got to chat with David Brin, Michael Swanwick, Neil Clarke, Rachel Swirsky, and Ann VanderMeer! And Patrice got to talk with Lois McMaster Bujold. Honestly, I could have gone home after that and been completely satisfied with my WorldCon experience. But we soldiered on and went to more room parties including the Drabblecast party where we caught up with Matthew Bey and Norm Sherman. I also met Abigail Hilton, an indy author and podcaster. While I don’t have the time or gumption to go the indy publishing route, I am always interested in hearing about how others do it.

One of a myriad of room parties.

SUNDAY:

The presenter, Higashi Masao, has edited
three volumes of Japanese ghost stories.

Disaster and the Literature of the Supernatural, wasn’t so much a panel as a presentation about the nature of ghost stories in Japan both in the past and today. In Japan there is a deep connection between the literature of the supernatural and natural disasters such as the Tsunami of 2011. Here’s a quote from a short film the panelists brought about the ad hoc shrines to the dead that sprang up amid the devastation the Tsunami left behind:

“Each of us alone is weak and powerless, but even the longest story begins with a single letter.” 

Of course I had to check out the panel with the wildly optimistic title of The Anthology Renaissance: The Return of the Short Story Market. It boasted another great line up of editors: Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Gordan Van Gelder, Kasey Lansdale, and Rick Klaw. They discussed:

  • the growth of flash fiction on the internet.
  • that there are more novella markets doing chapbooks – more but it’s still a tough market.
  • that unthemed anthologies don’t sell well. This was an interesting fact for me. I prefer unthemed anthos for the variety, and the panel noted that many people SAY they prefer unthemed anthologies, but they don’t BUY them. Hence the proliferation of themed anthologies.
  • how they ordered anthologies. (Even though people often read anthologies out of order, they still order them with the idea of reading straight through.) The first and last stories are usually the strongest ones. The first story has to be accessible, to invite the reader in and set the tone of the book. The longest story often next to last, with a shorter one at the end as a grace note.
  • the impact of Kickstarter on the anthology market, which is generally positive. From an editorial perspective it has its own challenges, but can be an excellent option if an editor wants complete artistic control over a project.

Selling Poetry, with Mari Ness, Jo Walton, Rachel Swirksy, stayed true to its no nonsense title and was stuffed with lots of interesting information about speculative poetry markets and also poets that I will have to check out.

Markets:
Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, and Mythic Delirium.

Poets (including the panelists!)
Mari NessJo Walton (posts most of her poetry on her LiveJournal, scroll down),  Rachel SwirkskyNancy Hightower, and Catherynne M. Valente

THE HUGOS!

  • I discovered that awards shows are much more interesting if you’re invested in what the awards are for and who’s on the ballot.
  • The short story I voted for didn’t win, but they were all good stories so it’s hard to hold a grudge. 
  • I watched George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones cream three episodes of Dr. Who. in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Nothing against Dr. Who, but seemed apt somehow, GOT being so warlike and all. 
  • I have decided that Paul Cornell should host the Oscars. Someone make that happen, OK?

MONDAY:

I was pretty exhausted at this point, so I focused on finding some gifts for the family in the dealers’ room and chatting with old and new friends and acquaintances. I did manage to go to a science panel about the Cambrian explosion (I love me some biology).

The last thing I went to was Nancy Hightower‘s reading. She read from her forthcoming novel Elementari Rising, a flash fiction piece, and three amazing poems. She also mentioned that she’s been published in Bourbon Penn, a magazine I am soon to be an alumni of as well!

Nancy Hightower

File under miscellaneous:

  • I got to meet one of my Online Writing Workshop crit buddies, D. L. Young. We had a long talk about fitting writing in around family and kids and about the pros and cons of different kinds of face-to-face critique groups.

People who I didn’t see or talk to nearly enough:



* This isn’t an exhaustive report, just the highlights. WorldCon was great, but it’s gone on long enough!

Reading Those Stories


Indeed May is officially National Short Story month. I had no idea. NPR posted a nice bit about it here. There are even links to their interviews with some great short story authors, all decidedly literary, not genre. Don’t hold that against them though!

I have a fair stack of paper and glue short story collections waiting to be read and ima going to get to those, really I am. This week was all about onscreen and earbuds.

First, in case you are wondering where to can find the latest genre short stories in print and online. Here are a couple places to find out about the freshest short stories in the genre.

My reading so far –
The first three are also available as podcasts from their respective sites.

May 1 Monkeys by Ken Liu published in Nature – A nice little flash piece with a couple post docs, some monkeys, and a typewriter. You know Shakespeare is bound to show up.



May 2 Prayer by Robert Reed in Clarkesworld – I really enjoyed this one, religion, insurgency, a girl, and her sentient gun.



May 3 Our Town by Kim Stanley Robinson in Lightspeed – A rare shorter piece by K. S. Robinson. The cloud city with artists made me think of The Cloud Minders the classic Star Trek episode.  I loved the human sculpture idea.



May 4 An Old Acquaintance K.G. Jewell – Another flash piece. Short and sweet, with a likeable bogeyman. (To read this today, sign up to receive their daily emails. You won’t regret it! If you don’t want to weigh your inbox down just check into their site a week from now when it will be posted.)

Next week I’ll try to focus on the pile of books on my nightstand.

Listening to Stories


I listen to about as much material as I read if not more. With two kids and their lessons, a part-time job and a dog to walk, it’s the only way I stay current at all.

Listening is different from reading with your eyeballs. But once you adjust to the aural attentiveness required to take in a spoken word piece its delightful to knit or scrub or walk while someone reaches across time and space to tell you a story.

With audio there are three people involved, you the writer and the reader. I great reader can really add dimension to whatever you are listening to, and a not so great reader can make a difficult slog of a great story. It’s the price you pay for the extra company.

It feels both modern – with the technology that makes audio books and podcasting so accessible – and primal to listen to a story. Put in your earbuds and join those long gone people who sat around the fire listening to the Illiad, Gilgamesh and Beowulf (all of which you can get as audiobooks by the way).

Mostly, I get audiobooks from the library and load them onto my iPod, but my queue of novels and nonfiction is getting dusty since I discovered so many great podcasts this year. Turns out the Pod-o-sphere is chock full of fantastic genre stories, news and chat. To write great short stories you have to read lots of them. Thanks to these podcasts I’ve listened to more stories, and to a broader range of stories within the genre, than I could have possibly read this year.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but I still say it’s awesome. It’s made cleaning the house, running errands and walking the dog immeasurably more pleasant.

STORIES


Podcastle
All kinds of fantasy stories from swords and socerey to slipstream.



Escape Pod
Great science fiction stories in all styles from new and established authors in the field.



Beneath Ceaseless Skies
This one specializes in literary adventure fantasy that takes place on secondary worlds.



Clarkesworld
This online magazine has won the Hugo for best semipro magazine two years running. The stories are fantastic and varied. The first thing I did when I got my Kindle for Christmas was subscribe to this and to Lightspeed Magazine.



Lightspeed
A John Joseph Adams joint this magazine and podcast is combining with its sister magazine Fantasy for double the podcasts and stories.



NEWS & CHAT


SFSignal
Both the website and this podcast are a great source of news about goings on in the genre.



Coode Street Podcast
I really enjoy hearing these two friends chatting about all things science fiction and fantasy. Both Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Woolfe are award-winning anthologists and editors.



SCIENCE
(File under inspiration. keeping the “science” in science fiction.)


Groks Science Radio Show
The production values are low but the two hosts are great interviewers and often have some big names in science on their show to discuss current science topics.


ON WRITING

Odyssey
Samples of lectures from the Odyssey Writer’s Workshop. They don’t post very often, but I’ve listened through their entire catalog and there’s a lot of great writing and genre advice. If you can’t afford six weeks to attend this workshop, check out their podcast.



Writing Excuses
Fun and chatty with good advice too. Gotta love their motto: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”


I Should Be Writing

Another great genre focused podcast. Advice and interviews mixed with writerly commiseration.


So that’s what’s keeping my ears happy right now. I know there’s lots more out there. Tell me about your favorites in the comments and I’ll add them on. Enjoy!