Dec 02

Synthetic Voices #12 – November 2012 Top Picks

November was another fantastic month!  Even the more unreliable markets were on their game.  I hope you enjoy my eclectic Top Picks this time around, plus a few juicy feature sections!


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Oct 15

Capclave 2012 Reflections

For those who don’t know, I was at Capclave 2012 this weekend in Gaithersburg, MD.  It’s a speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and horror) con that is focused on the literary aspects of genre fiction.  As a big fan of short fiction and a sometimes reader of novels, there were a LOT of great panels for me.  I’m also a member of WSFA, the hosting organization, so it was doubly good.

One of the most exciting parts of Capclave this year was my podcast‘s inclusion in the programing.  On Saturday I held a roundtable discussion mirroring the ones we do at normal WSFA meetings.  Unfortunately, it mirrored a little two closely — it was the same people.  I’m glad they came, but it did make me reevaluate how we’re going to do this thing next year (assuming I’m still in a Capclave-adjacent area next year).  We’ll probably make it more of a “what are all these podcasts I hear so much about” info session.

Personally, I went to a lot of great panels and events.  The Edgar Rice Burroughs panel was staffed by some really impressive experts.  The same goes for the “xenobiology” panel, which was very scientifically stimulating!

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May 07

A Small Delay for Synthetic Voices

Just a little update.  The next episode IS coming, but I’m in the middle of some pretty heavy grad school stuff and I need some more time.  There will be no discussion this month of podcasts at WSFA this month either, as our meeting at the Nebula’s is usually a smallish affair.

Listen in whenever I DO manage to get it up (a week at the most, I hope)!

Apr 02

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, it’s that time of year again!  The bees are buzzing, the birds are chirping, and everyone has realized that…they haven’t cleaned, their todo list is an epic poem, and finally it’s warm enough to get outside again!

For me, this means it’s time to dust off all my old hobbies and see what’s fallen by the wayside…

Research

My first priority right now, of course, is grad school.  I have a Research In Progress talk (RIPs) coming up in the middle of April.  This means I need to give a 30 minute or so talk about what I’m working on at the moment.  It’s also the first time I’ve had to speak publicly about my research to the department!  I’m a little nervous.

Magic

After that, I’ve got Magi-Whirl coming up.  It’s a mid-Atlantic conference for magicians of all shapes and sizes.  The headliner there is going to be Losander, who is considered one of the greats of levitation!  It’s also just a great weekend to enjoy the company of fellow magi and great lectures.  Plus, vendors will be there, hawking all of their fabulous (EXPENSIVE) goods!

[By the way, if you’re up for a great magic show, all of the greats at the convention will be doing an evening show for the public…tickets are 15 bucks and WELL worth it (these are international talents, what did you spend on your last local rock concert?)!]

The conference has also gotten me worried though.  I’m afraid my recent hiatus from magic has left me rusty.  I’ve been breaking out all my go-to books and trying to at least get my regular repertoire up and ready again!

Writing

Lastly, I’ve been working super hard on my new-found love of writing.  I still don’t know if I have any particular talent at creating fiction, but I feel like I’m at least getting better with every attempt.

My recent energy has been focused on a longer piece (maybe 7k words when I finish with it?) that spans space travel, galactic machinations, and close-quarters squabbling.  An early reviewer said she thought it was very interesting and much better than my first piece, Let’s Do Lunch, which I am still trying to sell.  I’m about 4/5ths through it, so I just need to ride out the end!

That first piece has now been rejected about 10 times.  I expected as much, as no matter how inspired, one’s first works are usually pretty horrible.  That said, I don’t think it’s unreadable.  Also, after reviewing more over at Critters, I realize how my particular story is not particularly novel in its construction.  There are MANY pasty white guys out there trying to sell a neat idea with no plot or drive to back it up.  At least it has been a good lesson on the overall process!

Just before now, I finished writing another short story called Real-Live Thinking Cap, which has a decidedly more whimsical tone.  It’s about a boy who buys a contraption out of the back of Boy’s Life – delightful adventures ensue.  There is a decidedly less “hard SF” ethos to it, so I’m hoping the experience will allow me to broaden my writing style.  Until now, I’ve mostly stayed within a few well-defined tropes.  The story is going up on Critters next week, so we’ll see how it fairs!

That’s it for now.  I hope to publish a LITTLE more frequently in the future. :)

Nov 17

Writing Up A Storm!

As you can probably tell by the lack of post on this blog, it’s been a BUSY fall! I’ve taken on two sections of microbiology lab (only had to do one last semester and NONE over the summer) and that has kept me busy enough on its own.  On top of that, my research is continuously picking up steam and I’ve spent a lot more hours in the lab recently.

Beyond academic obligations, I’ve also been exploring a new hobby: SF writing.  Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I read the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and other “Golden Age” science fiction greats.  They inspired me to think scientifically and to consider alternate worlds and cultures.  I did also attempt some sci-fi writing (my favorite format has always been the short story).  Looking back on those early works, I see I was lacking a lot of the basic writing skills I’ve acquired through school and freelance blogging.

Recently I began working my way through The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (above: Analog, a magazine I’d LOVE to publish in some day; the cover of the aforementioned book).  Vinge’s science fiction isn’t the absolute greatest out there, but he DOES have the distinction of having coined the word “Singularity” as it pertains to the field of Futurism.  As I read into his vastly complex stories, I began to get the old itch again, the itch to create something of my own!

I set down at my computer and figured out a really neat idea based on some thoughts on physics.  After some analysis, though, I determined that my theory wasn’t quite as interesting, original, or even feasible as I thought.  I needed to find something else to base my story around.

A few days later, I had an interesting conversation with a labmate about The Singularity and some “endgame” scenarios proposed by Ray Kurtzweil.  I won’t go into detail, partially to protect the plot of my story, but essentially the entire universe becomes this enormous computer.  I took that idea and ran with it, putting together a dialog-driven short story.  The first draft FLEW out of my head and into the Word file and in two sittings I was done.

For the last month or so I’ve been proofing, drafting, and handing the story out to a choice number of people.  My ultimate goal is to publish in a reputable (read: paying) magazine or SF website.

I’ve been reading essays all over the web about how to write in the science fiction genre.  One of the best resources is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website.  If you sit down and read all of their “new writer” articles you’re well on your way already.  Of course being able to write is important too…

Another important tool I have discovered is the Critters SF and Fantasy Workshop.  Part of the larger Critique.org, Critters is a wonderful place to submit your manuscripts and critique manuscripts of others.  In order to keep away story thieves and, more importantly, bad critiquers, Critters has an activity ratio system (similar to how a private torrent tracker works) so that you must pitch in and write great critiques before you can get your own work reviewed.  Here’s their banner, since banners are fun and I want the community to stay nice and large:

Unleash your inner Shakespeare at Critters.org

If you’re interested in reading/proofing my story, feel free to @me on Twitter.  Otherwise, I’ll keep you guys posted on the story’s progression and if I ever get it sold!  I’ve sold TONS of articles to blogs and a few to print publications, but fiction is a new area for me and it’s a little intimidating to be honest.  Wish me luck!

[Cover Art Image from DarkRoastedBlend]