Posts Tagged ‘HM’

Komet, and Impact

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Me163 Komet

That’s the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet in the Smithsonian Air & Space annex, snapped on a recent visit with a fellow writer and history buff.

The Komet was one of the late-war German “wonder weapons.” It was a revolutionary and amazing design–a liquid-fueled rocket plane. But it was utterly impractical–it flew so fast it couldn’t shoot other planes down. And it had zero impact on the war.

By contrast, many if not most American, British, and Soviet designs were dull and plain, yet were inimitably practical and had huge impacts on the war.

Maybe there’s an analogy for genre novels in there.  The huge impact seems to come from novels that might be dull and plain but are also inimitably practical.  And the revolutionary and sometimes impractical often has little impact.  And maybe ends up ogled in museums.

A Thirsty Friday Duel

Friday, March 16th, 2012

For Friday, and in honor of my buddy Justin Howe sharing this thirsty link, I present to you “Serrated-Sword Man vs. the Mug Monster”:

Serrated-Sword Man vs. the Mug Monster

As you can see, Serrated-Sword Man, backed by an old BCS flyer, standing on the infirm footing of a page of short story notes, is battling his much larger foe, and the Mug Monster appears to have lost over half its vital fluids.

You don’t see that type of English pub mug often here in the States. The RAF blokes in that old advert have them. My folks got a bunch of them when we lived over there. My favorite American pub, the anglophile (and sadly departed) Wharf Rat, used them. I’ve had several sets going back fifteen years, and I use mine every day!

So I hope this one emerges unscathed from its mortal struggle.

“Demo Love,” Rewrites, and First Draft Spark

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

One of my music buddies years ago coined a neat term: “demo love.”

Sometimes the first version of a song you ever hear is not the original but some other band’s cover of it.  Then later you hear the original version, by the original artist.  But the cover version you heard first is so indelibly impressed on your mind that the original never sounds right.  Your lasting impression of that song is dominated by the other version that you heard first.

Sometimes for the better–Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” takes Dylan’s original to a new level. But sometimes for the worse (I pity all the kids in the late 80s who the first version of “Purple Haze” they ever heard was Winger’s cover…).

My buddy has a home studio and records lots of bands. He noticed this phenomenon with demo recordings.  Bands usually record a demo version of their songs first–to get the ideas on tape; to help plan their approach for when they record a real, fancy or polished version. That demo was the first version of those songs you ever heard, and sometimes it would stick so indelibly in your mind that you had “demo love”–you always liked the demo better, even compared to the later fancy polished recording.

I think there’s another reason that demo love happens, in both music and fiction.  First drafts often have some subconscious spark; some bit of raw inspiration or “quan” (cf. Jerry McGuire). There’s something very cool in there that’s more than the sum of the parts.

And sometimes when writers aren’t careful on a rewrite, that spark gets lost.

I see this happen in stories rewritten for BCS. One cause I think is writers rushing the rewrite. They spent months writing the story; then they spend thirty minutes on the rewrite.  The new insertions don’t have the same spark as the rest of the story–maybe they don’t match the story’s voice, or they’re inconsistent with the tone of the character, or any number of things.

Sometimes I see writers adding a lot of new stuff.  Bigger or longer changes to me means more risk of spoiling the original voice.

Another cause I think is writers not making a dedicated effort to match the voice that the previous draft has.  We writers often get into an odd “head space” when writing a story; a mental state colored not only by the character and the story but also by who we are on that day; what we’re thinking about or dealing with. I think it takes a deliberate effort to recapture that same “head space” when you’re making insertions into that story.

This is why I pretty much beg the writers I give rewrite requests to to take their time with the rewrite.  All the time they want.  However much time the story needs. And to make their changes or insertions as small as they can–the smallest possible tweak that will fix whatever the problem is. And to do all they can to match the same voice that the original had.

So for rewrites, demo love can be a good thing. To help you preserve whatever innate spark the demo had, that you (or the editor!) fell in love with.

Take a Look at Some Less-Known

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I’ve been trying to alert people to the Hugo nominations deadline this Sunday and the stuff from Beneath Ceaseless Skies that’s Hugo eligible; now I have to remember to send in my own nominations. :)

Neil Clarke, Hugo-winning editor and tireless advocate for the field of semipro zines, had a cool tweet yesterday that he hopes to see more new blood represented in the field of finalists this year, and another listing some of the quality semipro zines that have never made it to the finalist ballot.

I agree completely.  Of course, I do have a horse in this race myself: BCS is eligible for Best Semiprozine, and according to reviewer/editor Rich Horton, we publish more total fiction than any other online mag.

But leaving that aside, there are at least a dozen other less-noticed semipro zines doing great work. And the ballot in past years has seemed to feature the same magazines a lot.  (Glancing at thehugoawards.org for example shows Locus and Interzone on the ballot every year in the last ten years and Ansible seven of the last ten.)

So in recent years, I’ve been nominating those under-represented or less-noticed semipro zines who I think are worthy.  Neil’s list is a great starting point–On Spec (who just published a story of mine), Abyss & Apex, GigaNotoSaurus (a ‘sole proprietor’ zine like BCS, and I know the tons of work that entails), Black Gate (that stalwart swords & sorcery mag that never seems to get much notice). And may others.

So if you’re nominating for Hugos, before you fill out your ballot take a look at some of those less-noticed zines.  You might find their work just as worthy as the better-known ones.