dr_phil_physics: (tiger-eye-videogame)
So back in March -- was it just March of 2015? -- my online and con friend Ferrett Steinmetz came out with his debut novel Flex (DW) (LJ).
I pre-ordered this from Amazon way back on 14 April 2014 and it arrived yesterday, 4 March 2015. Yeah, publishing can take a while. I devoured 92 pages Wednesday night and then polished off the rest in sessions on Thursday on either side of a doctor's appointment.
This time, The Flux was pre-ordered from Amazon on 21 May 2015 and arrived on its release day, Tuesday 6 October 2015 -- just 216 days after Flex. Yeah, those publishers can be brutal after that first book. Not even a year between books? Now you know why I want at least the first two books in my YA series completed as I go to shop the first. I'm not crazy. (grin) Well, I am, but not stupid crazy.

Anyway, I cracked this open Friday evening and finished it before midnight Saturday. Devoured. Yum.

The Flux / Ferrett Steinmetz. Nottingham UK : Angry Robot, New York : Random House, 2015.
Amazon.com, paperback, $7.99. ***

Flex itself is a drug -- magic distilled into a drug. Which gives you magic, even if you aren't magical. Now I don't write much fantasy, but as a Physicist, one of the things I can really appreciate in fantasy is applications of conservation laws regarding the use of magic. Magic should have a cost. And that cost is the Flux.

The first book has our hero Paul learning the ropes of magic and making Flex. The second book is about consequences. Going all out AND pulling punches. But most especially, this book is the things we do for love -- good or bad.

So. Sequel. Second book. That's a lot of pressure on both the writer and the reader. But as noted above, the first wasn't all that long ago, so it was pretty fresh in my mind even without a re-read. That Flex was so lovingly unique and memorable sure as hell didn't hurt.

Ferrett talks about the Four Things I Learned About Sequels From The Empire Strikes Back. Ah, young Jedi, learned well your lessons you have. Here's my reactions to the first evening's reading:

Didn't see that coming.

Didn't see that coming.

Didn't see that coming.

Whoa, Did Not See That Coming.

It is too easy for the sequel to be a me-too effort rehash. Give the public what they want. But, and especially after such an original romp as the first, what we want is originality and some convolution. The very last thing I wanted out of The Flux was predictability. And our hero is a paperwork specialist, not some Big Damn Action Hero. So we don't want him to be one. On the contrary, what we want is for him to suffer. And it sure doesn't hurt to start off with a bang.

Oh I don't mean suffering to be mean. But you need conflicts and things to go bad, some of which can be fixed by the end. And if, along the way, you manage to uncover the reasons Why Things Are, especially even about the events in Book 1, well... you're on the way to something special.

Paul and his daughter are back, of course. And thankfully Valentine is, too. Valentine is... well, she's sort of the Big Damn Videogame Action Anti-Hero. She doesn't play by the same set of rules Paul does and doesn't always/mostly play nice with others -- she is her own spirit. And a great character.

It helps to know some references to videogames and videogame systems. Also movies -- one in particular which isn't even mentioned by name for quite a while after the reader hopefully knows what is being talked about. Now I rather famously don't play videogames, but I do keep up with titles and graphics. The Dr. Phil level of gaming is more than enough for me to get most of the references, even before they're named. So if you aren't a huge videogamer, then you will probably do all right. Frankly, I'm loving how all the techie/geekie stuff from the 80s onward is becoming the stuff of literature -- Ready Player One, for example. Mrs. Dr. Phil was reading a mystery series just now which has been moving from the 70s into the 90s, and she mentioned someone using a Zeos 386 PC. Man, I haven't thought about the Zeos in YEARS, so right now us Old Fogies™ have some advantages in reading over The Young Whippersnappers.

As an added bonus, we have a shifting array of good guys and bad guys. Some books you need a scorecard to keep up with what's going on. With The Flux that scorecard isn't going to help, much like one of my most favorite movies, Wim Wenders Until The End Of The World. (grin)

The third act almost bogs down with how far our hero has fallen, but then we wanted him to suffer and now I had to keep pressing on to find out how the hell he was going to get out of all this crap he's under. Well played.

Ah, Mister Steinmetz. I am going to have to deduct 1000 points, the standard deduction, for getting the Physics SI units wrong on the top of page 382. You almost made it to the end before you hit a derail and momentarily threw me out of the story so hard, I even remembered the damned page number when I wrote this review. Maybe it was a publisher's typo. I've had trouble with getting Physics terms/equations to come out right after typesetting -- E=mc² just isn't the same without that square.

Finally, I think you could read The Flux without having read Flex, but don't cheat yourself. This is a fine pair of books, and if you're like me, you'll HATE reading them out of order.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Back in March, I wrote about Flex, "To call this the Best Book I read in 2015 would be fairly disingenuous, seeing that the only other book I've read so far this year is half an anthology, which I should really finish." So, how do I compare two Ferrett Steinmetz novels? In part we're dealing with Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels -- for which The Flux holds up quite admirably. But, as usual, I suspect I might have to give the nod to Flex based on the whole innocence of the first book trick. Still, it's a tight race and, much like the original Star Wars trilogy, a lot rests on the third book, The Fix. Full disclosure -- I've been one of the physicists consulted on How To Destroy Europe With 'Mancy for this third book. (big-huge-evil-grin)

Dr. Phil

PS -- the LJ icon above is from the release artwork from the videogame of Marjorie Liu's Tiger Eye, which I think is the only videogame icon I have in my collection.

PPS -- Dammit, just noticed I twice had The Flex instead of The Flux. This is hard enough to keep straight without typos!


*** -- In typical Amazon pricing fashion, my pre-order copy ended up discounted to $4.37. With free shipping. Go figure.
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (minions)
So Ferrett Steinmetz is a writer from Cleveland that I've met at ConFusion, etc., and online for years. We've been on a few panels together and even did a joint reading once. He writes wonderful essays and his short fiction is way outside what I write and I really like it. His debut novel? No-brainer for me.

I pre-ordered this from Amazon way back on 14 April 2014 and it arrived yesterday, 4 March 2015. Yeah, publishing can take a while. I devoured 92 pages Wednesday night and then polished off the rest in sessions on Thursday on either side of a doctor's appointment.

Flex / Ferrett Steinmetz. Nottingham UK : Angry Robot, New York : Random House, 2015.
Amazon.com, paperback, $7.99.

This is the second time recently where I've read something which I could almost see was written specifically at me. Nonsense to be sure, but having your hero have a missing foot and wearing an orthotic? (grin) Well, it gets my attention.

One of the blurbs on this book claims "Breaking Bad by way of Scott Pilgrim versus the World". To that, I would add Good Omens / Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett plus The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul / Douglas Adams. Yes, these two are humorous novels, but also highly detailed and excitingly enjoyable. This is the league that Ferrett is playing in -- and he does a fine job.

Urban fantasy? Insurance scam? Flex itself is a drug -- magic distilled into a drug. Which gives you magic, even if you aren't magical. Now I don't write much fantasy, but as a Physicist, one of the things I can really appreciate in fantasy is applications of conservation laws regarding the use of magic. Magic should have a cost. I really liked A Wizard of Earthsea where the more powerful the wizard, the less likely they were to use the magic. Ferrett has learned these lessons well.

Though I don't play, I am conversant in gaming and video games. Ready Player One by Ernie Cline really read better if you knew early video games. Flex works on a generation of games after that, but like Cline, Ferrett doesn't penalize you if your video game knowledge isn't at the level of an entire misspent life. (grin)

Flex the book is a fast read. The first half is a roller coaster of a ride, if roller coasters had sharp edged 127° turns, hyperspace jumps and head on collisions. By the second half, you almost have some semblance of the rules -- though you're wrong more often than right.

This is not the kind of fiction that I write and I am more than okay with that. But one thing I can really appreciate is his non-standard cast of characters. And the opening? Brilliant. Brian De Palma's 1998 Snake Eyes opens with what looks like a continuous long shot of Nicholas Cage entering, no make that sauntering into an arena. We are taught that openings and opening lines are important. Indeed, there was a meme going around asking people to list some of their favorite opening lines. To this group, I would add:
Julian knew the exact price of everyone’s pants in this nightclub.
Ferrett talks about the opening hook here. It makes a nice point about what the first line should be -- and not what you might have done in a short story.

You give birth to a novel or any story, and send it into the world -- and no one really knows what it cost to write. But if you've followed Ferrett's blog for a long time, you might have some idea. I thought about that a lot while I was following the cost and effect of the magic in play throughout the story. If writing this caused you any pain, Ferrett, sorry -- it's totally worth it.

It sounds like Flux will be next.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

To call this the Best Book I read in 2015 would be fairly disingenuous, seeing that the only other book I've read so far this year is half an anthology, which I should really finish.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (pleased-to-meet-you)
The Magic of Books

Michigan writer Jim C. Hines [personal profile] jimhines launched his first DAW hardcover book, Libriomancer, this week. Since first seeing him at ConFusion years ago, I've attended quite a number of Jim's book launch/tour/events (DW) across the width of Michigan. So making a run up to Schuler's Books on Alpine in Grand Rapids at 7pm tonight was pretty much a no-brainer. Especially when you have a book about a Yooper librarian!

The basic idea is of a class of wizards who are libriomancers -- people who can reach into a book and pull out an object from the book. Of course it can't be bigger than the book in width and some books are locked by the Guild -- no One Ring To Rule Them All -- but swords and other things are fair game. And it sounds like our hero not only loves books, but loves being able to do magic with books. Who wouldn't?

A Bite To Eat and Then On With The Show

I drove up from WMU in Kalamazoo to Schuler's in a steady rain -- the temps were running in the mid- to upper 60s! -- in plenty of time to buy some books and then hit the Chapbook Cafe to get "my usual":

English Roast Beef with Aged Cheddar and Fresh Horseradish Cream, and Caesar salad. Plus the inevitable Coke. (Click on photo for larger.)

Saw Jim arrive while I was eating, later gave him a hard time because he's been busy the last couple of days updating the Amazon sales figures and watching the book fly off the shelves. Needless to say, it hasn't been a productive writing week for him. (grin)


Waiting for the clock to strike seven. (Click on photo for larger.)


Oops -- false start. The rep from Schuler's had to come in and properly introduce Jim. And remind every one that Schuler's is celebrating their 30th anniversary. Yay, Schuler's! (Click on photo for larger.)


About my new book... You don't just listen to Jim, you get to watch, too. (Click on photo for larger.)


In the Q&A part, of course Jim's recent postings about the poses of women (and men) in urban fantasy covers. Here we are demonstrating the bare midriff reveal, including Jim's insulin pump. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)


Some of the crowd of about two dozen at Schuler's. Say, isn't that SF/F writer Mary Robinette Kowal in my row? (Click on photo for larger.)


Dave Klecha (center), who will be handling Programming for ConFusion in January and indeed that is Mary Robinette Kowal, who was in the area doing audio recordings. Both Jim and Mary Robinette are up for Hugos at WorldCon in Chicago in a couple of weeks. (Click on photo for larger.)



And on to the task of signing books... (Click on photo for larger.)

Congratulations, Jim! Great launch week and now we have a copy to read.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-33)
A Long Holiday Week

The Fourth of July is on a Wednesday this year, so those Americans who have any meager vacation time available are likely to front load, back load or take the whole damn week off. Mrs. Dr. Phil is taking Monday and Tuesday off, so when she got off work Friday, it was the start of a long weekend.

Mrs. Dr. Phil decided we needed to see a holiday blockbuster movie and what were the showtimes for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Turned out that the last 3D showing at the Holland 7 was at 7:20pm. It was 5:46pm, and we'd need to leave at around 6:20pm. Fortunately our dinner plans were not complex, as we'd planned on a light supper using this season's first local tomato (DW) to make tomato sandwiches (DW).

Having declared that we could have popcorn for dessert, as surely this would be a popcorn movie, Mrs. Dr. Phil showed up with both popcorn and a box of SnoCaps. Interesting experiment -- there's just enough residual heat in brand new fresh popcorn to do a number on the SnoCaps, which are small enough to slip between the kernels and make a yummy gooey chocolate popcorn treat. Not sure we'll do that again, or if we do, very often, but it was fun.

Also we had a private screening. The Holland 7 was swamped with people, and even more crowded when we got out, but they were all going to see Ted or Brave or something. The comfortable widebody seat for two in Theatre 5 is perfectly dead center, and is next to a regular seat which has a cup holder. Win. (grin)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D [R]
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 7:20pm, 2×$11.25

Writer Charles Coleman Finlay had posted on Facebook that he liked this movie a lot more than he'd thought, adding that it provided the "only explanation for Pickett's Charge that has ever made any sense." That was enough to pique our interest.

When we first meet the young adult Lincoln, he doesn't seem to be the iconic Lincoln we know. Of course, Lincoln himself wasn't that vision until quite late in his career. Is this actor tall enough? Skinny enough? Too handsome? Perhaps. But then we're talking about an origin vampire hunter movie and not a biopic, so really, find something else to worry about -- the man does a good job as this particular Lincoln. And that's good, because Stephen Douglas gets only a brief outing in this film and Mary Todd Lincoln does not strike me as the MTL of history.

The 3D work is mostly reasonable, although early in the movie there is an out of focus head closer than the main subject which makes the 3D look fake. Otherwise there are spectacular costumes and amusing, if impossible, fight choreography. The Matrix may have invented Bullet Time, Lincoln gives us Swirling Airborne Blood Time. And everything with a blade sings through the air. (grin) Who knew that an axe could be a sexy weapon? Or so versatile and convertible? (double-edged-grin)

There are surely great gaping holes in the "history" being shown here, but if you check your brain at the door, then those little bits of history which have been integrated into the story will tease and delight, rather than leave a sour taste in your mouth. The latter will be reserved for the one true flaw in the movie -- making the slave trade a cover for the vampires' food supply, while a nice trick, has the unfortunate effect of letting the real issues of slavery off the hook. Not only does it dilute what should be an important discussion, hell, it was already done by Anne Rice in Interview With The Vampire.

There are two very impressive bits of CGI work. One is shown in the trailer, in which a flying shot of Washington DC circling the Washington Monument, dissolves to its 1854-77 construction hiatus. The other briefly shows the intense riverboat traffic around New Orleans. This one amuses me, because Saturday night's Midnight Special on WFMT was playing the first disk of the CD Mark Twain: Words & Music, which talks about the traffic on the Mississippi.

A third elaborate CGI scene involving a burning railway trestle bridge lasts for far too long -- it must be the longest bridge in the world -- and suffers from some dreadful Physics.

The movie suffers from some problems, of course. For one thing, there is hardly anyone living or working in the White House, except for the extended family. Allan Pinkerton, whose security for Lincoln later developed into the Secret Service, seems to be absent. Wikipedia mentions that the legislation for the Secret Service was on Lincoln's desk when he went out to the play.

And then there's the canonical vampire issues, such as whether or not silver is going to do you a damned bit of good against a vampire. They throw in some faux lore to make it so, and I have to say that silver cannonballs are rather pretty. (grin)

We hadn't read the book, only heard a bit about it, so other than the obvious and the trailer, didn't go into this movie knowing the story. It's an interesting and amusing summer film. Some of the Civil War set pieces are nicely done -- I'm sure the reenactment crowd contributed. And the vampires confound and confuse, so there's that.

Recommended for Popcorn Fun.

TRAILERS: With Tim Burton involved in Lincoln, it seems like half the movie trailers were also Tim Burton productions. Other than that, the trailers didn't make an impression on me. Or I'd seen them before.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
This Is Interesting

From Ralan's I've learned that Lightspeed (SF) and Fantasy magazines are merging. John Joseph Adams, who used to read The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Science Fiction's slush for Gordon Van Gelder, edits both and recently bought them, becoming editor/publisher.

SF subs are still open, but fantasy subs are closed for the moment. Good news, JJA isn't changing the number of either SF or fantasy stories per month.

I'd heard about JJA becoming publisher, but not the merger. Ralan is great about updating us struggling authors. (grin) We'll see how this turns out.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (steampunk-royal-keyboard)
A Saturday Goal

Off to the movies on Saturday afternoon, as we are sorely behind, and I promised Mrs. Dr. Phil a Thai dinner -- after I had to eat Thai down in Atlanta. So after the movie, it was just hop onto I-196 and down to the new Baldwin Ave. half-exit and Bangkok Taste. We were going to start with a couple of vegetarian Thai spring rolls, but instead I spotted a peanut curry noddle dish, so we added that to the curried eggplant and Thai BBQ duck -- and had a splendid meal.

There was a table near us with a large group, including three little girls, each one blonder and shorter than the next. They were very busy with their crayons and were very cute and well behaved.

Hugo 3D [PG]
Celebration Cinema North, Theatre #4, 3:15pm

There's been a lot of talk about Martin Scorsese's first 3D film as an homage to film. But this is thoroughly delightful and convoluted and beautifully filmed movie which is as entertaining a two hours as you'll find anywhere. It's a steampunk dream, but rooted in a reasonable version of history and technology. There's clockwork mechanisms galore, both large and small, steam trains, the Paris train station -- both gleaming public spaces and dirty, steamy bowels, love of all sizes and depths, an automaton that can write, and orphans.

Hugo is a boy trying to survive by secretly keeping the clocks running in the station. His father is dead and his uncle has abandoned him, both were clockmakers of a sort. The train station is populated with a variety of people living and working there. The toy seller, the book seller -- played by Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee, respectively -- the cafe owner, the newspaper seller, the flower seller, and... (duh-duh-DUH) the station inspector. The last is played by Borat, er, Sacha Baron Cohen in what I think is his finest role. Needless to say Hugo is constantly in danger from being deported to the orphanage by the station inspector, who has no idea Hugo is keeping his station on time.

Is this realistic? SF? Fantasy? Yes. It is also about the people who work in the station, rather than travel through it. It's about books and movies, especially Harold Lloyd and Georges Méliès. It is about the aftermaths of The Great War, what would later become known as World War I, and how you cannot understand the period between the wars without knowing how WW I impacted people.

Scorsese's attention to details, in both characters and technical issues, is a delight. The station inspector has a lovely Doberman -- and there's a very cute side story involving a long hair dachshund. There's something here to keep everyone happy, and I haven't provided a single spoiler. (grin)

Except for a bit of focus error I fought with in a scene right near the end, this is one of the better done 3D movies. It is sharp and clear and detailed. If this is how and why they want to make 3D movies, it's fine with me -- not like some of the crap that's been passed as 3D-worthy in the last couple of years. What in the world was Martin Scorsese thinking? I think he was enchanted with the story and I think we're going to have to get a copy of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret and see what the book is all about.

Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (jude-mourning-1)
Realms of Fantasy Closing

I've already written this obituary -- twice -- here and here. This has gotten convoluted enough that I missed posting about RoF's sale, though I did post about their impending (past tense) switch to e-subs.

Ian Randal Strock reports some details on SFScope today, announcing "The third death of Realms of Fantasy". He includes this posting from the latest owners:
When we purchased Realms of Fantasy last year we truly thought that we could succeed in publishing the magazine for the foreseeable future. We were unable to realize this goal, have been losing money, and we must regretfully announce the closure of the magazine.

During our time with the magazine we picked up without missing a single issue and were lucky enough to produce the 100th issue. We were able to introduce poetry and bring back the table top gaming column. We have been truly amazed at the positive feedback on the issues we have produced from all of the fans. This is what makes this decision so painful for us.

As we were considering closing the magazine we thought it was important for the October 2011 issue to be released in print for the fans. We did this knowing there would not be a return on the investment, but did it simply because we felt it was right. This does mean the October 2011 issue will be the last issue. The issue did go to newsstands and we have copies for those who are not active subscribers.

Since the October issue shipped late please allow until November 15th before contacting us about lost mailings. International subscribers please allow an additional two weeks.

We are currently trying to work with other magazines to assume the subscription list. This will ensure that subscribers get something for the portions of the subscriptions not fulfilled. This does mean that we will not be issuing refunds unless we are unable to secure a deal, at which point we will follow our posted refund policy. We will update you when we have more information.

If there is anyone interested in purchasing the magazine we will listen to all offers. Those interested should send an email to support [at] rofmag [dot] com.

We would like to thank Shawna McCarthy and Douglas Cohen for all of your support and help. You have both been wonderful to work with during the last year. We would also like to thank all of the remaining staff for the quality columns and attention to detail. Lastly, but definitely not least, we would like to thank all of the fans for your support and encouragement.

Please direct all further inquiries to support [at] rofmag [dot] com.

William and Kim Gilchrist
Damnation Books LLC

As the deja vu-ness of this all unfolds, we have farewell editorials (again) by Shawna McCarthy and Douglas Cohen, whose closing comments included:
There is of course that small voice in the back of my head, saying, “Maybe you’ll rise from the dead again!” Hey, maybe we will. But as I said to Shawna, “Each cancellation has felt a little more final than the last one. This one feels like the end of the road.”

If it is, we’ve had a final year we can be proud of. We’ve won a Nebula Award, and we were nominated for another one. Our longtime fiction editor, Shawna McCarthy, was honored at this year’s World Fantasy Convention as the Editorial Guest of Honor. Artwork we’ve published has received some wonderful honors. We reached issue 100, and with this latest issue we’ve managed to publish 600 stories in RoF’s lifetime. We published poetry for the first time, and in my admittedly biased opinion, the work our nonfiction columnists delivered was second to none. There’s a lot to be proud of in this final year, and I’m glad we and the magazine managed to have it. It makes for a fitting end. It’s time to move on, and I’m excited at what the future holds for me in this field.

As I said in January 2009 and October 2010, I'm not much of a fantasy writer, so it's not that this is a market that I submit to. But it's one I've read from time to time, and a lot of the writers I know DO write fantasy. So I know this will affect some people.

Is this REALLY the end? Dunno. Lots of people tell me that the glossy physical magazine is dead in this e-world -- and "no one" has figured out how to make money in said e-world. Dunno about that either. Still, someone else might pony up and restart RoF again -- nothing would surprise me. And copy-and-paste is making this easier each time. (sad wry grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Helping A Friend of a Friend -- And Furthering The Field of Spec Fic

SF/F/H fans/writers -- take this poll -- it's for someone's dissertation research:
Click here

Help much wanted--and it will only take you three minutes!
cecile-c.livejournal.com
As I mentioned a couple of times, I am currently writing a dissertation on imaginary universes in science fiction and fantasy. My supervisor recently asked me whether I could find some statistics about the readership of SF&F.

Thanks!

Dr. Phil

A Weird Tale

Wednesday, 28 September 2011 15:52
dr_phil_physics: (steampunk-royal-keyboard)
One Of The Older Titles Undergoes "Change"

Weird Tales is a venerable title, but it's seen a lot of changes even since I've been writing to markets. And somehow I've managed, with only two subs, to hit the transition points. (grin)

In more recent news, last month there was an announcement on the sudden sale and editorial change at Weird Tales. Ann VanderMeer, editor since early 2007 is finishing up an issue, but the new owner/editor Marvin Kaye will have an all new staff and new direction. Seems scary after VanderMeer's several Hugo nominations and one Hugo win. But that's free enterprise for ya.

Of course this news came just two weeks after I got around to making my second sub ever to Weird Tales and first-time to VanderMeer. I suppose this just goes to show that you need to keep after your Invenstory and markets -- or it doesn't actually mean anything. (grin)

So today there was an update on Facebook that Ralan's had a link to a notice freeing all the stories in Weird Tales's submission queue.
To all writers who have submitted work to us and not yet heard back. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your manuscript. Alas, this venerable magazine has recently been acquired by a new publisher. And therefore there will be a new Editor-in-Chief: Marvin Kaye. If you have a submission in the electronic submission portal at Weird Tales, your submission should be considered returned to you whether or not you have heard back. All stories sent via snail mail will be returned. Please check back to the website for updated information. (NOTE: currently closed to all submissions until further notice).

Win, Lose Or...

When I first started submitting stories to markets, I thought I'd track responses as wins and losses. But reality is more complicated than that. There are qualified "wins", such as WOTF Honorable Mentions or receiving an encouraging letter or nice critique which don't result in a sale or a publication. And then there's the category of NO CALLS. The very first story I sent out generated this, when the space station story contest I'd submitted to was canceled due to insufficient submissions.

Editorial changes and returning all subs? Outside of my writing skills -- no matter how good that story might be. (grin) This is my ninth NO CALL. Most of them are for markets closing or disappearing, but one was for a whole bin of WOTF submissions that got lost in the USPS system and another was from withdrawing a contest entry after I'd made a pro sale and no longer qualified. That last shows you that even a NO CALL can be a positive sign of progress.

Who knows what the new guidelines for Weird Tales will look like, or whether I'll have any stories suitable for them. We'll see.

Dr. Phil

A Summer Sampler

Thursday, 4 August 2011 12:12
dr_phil_physics: (reading-bennett-2)
Some Awesomeness

[livejournal.com profile] jimhines posted about people who are awesome. Among those listed were:
Tobias Buckell - Toby wanted a group of professional speculative fiction novelists who could share information and support one another. So he sat down and founded SF Novelists.


That's pretty good. But SF Novelists is now offering 25 free SF/F first chapters:

FREE EBOOK

Twenty-five First Chapters from Twenty-five Writers

SF Novelists proudly offers you OPENING ACTS, a free ebook presenting twenty-five first chapters across the spectrum of science fiction and fantasy. Twenty-five tastes, to tempt your appetite for adventure...to lure you into unknown worlds...and give you something new to read.


Not sure what to read next? Or just researching how to write openings for novels? One-stop shopping!

Win.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Welcome to Fantasy Island

LocusOnline had a link to say that Realms of Fantasy is going to all-electronic submissions. Yet another genre print magazine is going e-sub.

Actually, what the announcement from Douglas Cohen says is:
... that on September 1st Realms of Fantasy will be closing to fiction submissions. This closure is part of our plan to switch over to electronic submissions. When we reopen, RoF will begin accepting electronic submissions for both fiction and poetry. Please note that we’ll be letting the fiction p.o. box expire. The last day it will be open is August 31st. So if you send us a submission with a postmark of August 31st, it won’t reach us. It needs to make it to the p.o. box by no later than August 31st. Please take this into account when submitting your work to us in August. Also, no, I’m afraid we don’t have an exact date yet for when you might expect us to open to electronic subs. When I have more information on this front, I’ll be sure to share it. When we reopen and begin accepting electronic subs, if someone should still need to send us a snail mail submission for some reason, we will have a plan in place to accommodate you (though I imagine most of you will elect to take advantage of the electronic option).

So if you're sending them stuff, take note.

The Changing Reality

I've sent twenty subs out so far this year, a little under my average rate but that's okay. Thing is, nineteen of them have been e-subs. I've only sent one snail mail sub all year. In fact, you have to go back to October 2010 to find my previous postal submission. There was a time, and for me this starts in June of 2002 so we're not talking prehistory here, that all my subs were postal. That it was the odd market or SF contest which took email subs or had some sort of web submission system. Now I have to scramble to find envelopes, stamps, SASEs, etc., I do it so rarely.

There's no question that we're in a different world. Whether it's the future, I can't say. And while we haven't achieved the paperless office by a long shot, I have only had to fire up the HP LaserJet 4ML once this year to print out a disposable manuscript. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (hermione-granger)
And So We Come To The End, As We Must

We knew this day was coming. It had been foretold long ago, first as the books began to count up the magic number of seven, and then we held our collective breaths, hoping that the movies would stay true to the course and make it all the way to seven as well.

Alas, it didn't happen that way. But in a good way. Seven movies begat eight. And the conclusion to the Harry Potter saga was not going to be gypped for us by cutting it short to appeal to the treacherous modern American movie-going audience.

As we did with HP 6 and HP 7.1, we started the run-up to HP 7.2 by doing our pre-lab viewing the DVD of 7.1, which turned out to be both a good thing and a bad thing.

DVD: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One [PG-13]
Widescreen Version

Almost had to give up on this one. As Harry gets older and Voldemort gets stronger, the movies get darker. Figuratively and literally. But in the case of the regular DVD, they went too far. We could hardly see anything on a 24" Sony TV. Finally I paused the movie, went into the TV's Menu and ramped the Brightness all the way up. At this point I could see it was actually Ginny talking to Harry. Yeesh. There's nothing wrong with either DVD or TV -- this coding was just too damned dark.

I'd forgotten about the charming animated telling of the story of what the hell the Deathly Hallows actually are. Pretty much the rest of the comments are as before.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two 2-D [PG-13]
Regal Grande Theatre, Greensboro NC, Theatre #9, 2×$6.75

The first good news -- the very first image on the screen for HP 7.2 is the very last image from HP 7.1. If you had any doubts that this was one movie, merely split into two parts, rest easy. Also, at 130 minutes, it's shorter than HP 7.1 (150 minutes), Half-Blood Prince (158 minutes), Order of the Phoenix (138 minutes), Goblet of Fire (157 minutes), Prisoner of Azkaban (142 minutes), Chamber of Secrets (161 minutes) or HP 1.0 Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone (152 minutes). Or... if you cut out the first set of credits and call it one movie, then the Deathly Hallows is some 270 minutes of End Times for Harry & Co.

Still this is tremendously better than some of the time allowed for some "movies", which clock in at 88 minutes -- or even less. And given the split in halves, there was plenty of room to put in much more of the book than a single movie could ever have done.

Now, I'm not particularly interested in giving spoilery reviews. But given that many of those who are here have read the books, it's hardly a spoiler to talk about a few things, isn't it?

Look, we knew pretty much that J.K. Rowling wasn't going to kill off Harry, Hermione or Ron. In Star Wars and Star Trek, we know that the leads just aren't going to die. At least not permanently. But unlike even The Lord of the Rings, where although there is carnage galore, only kills off one of the Fellowship -- and that's in Book One and is as much about the ugly power of The Ring as it is about breaking faith and desiring personal gain -- Rowling does go out of her way to put everyone else in mortal danger. No one is safe. Enough so in a first reading, you are concerned about whether The Three shall make it.

In the course of the first five films, we meet a lot of characters. And, especially as we move into the sixth and seventh books, some of them, even those very important to Harry, get killed. There are many bodies after the assault on Hogwarts by the forces of the Dark Lord. This is war and we learn that many suffer and die and that's part of war, as well.

And to some extent, as we have observed before, the hero of the story may really be Neville Longbottom. This is not to discount Harry, Hermione or Ron. They're central. But Neville has always been endearing and loyal and determined, and he does not fail us at this crucial end. Nor will Luna Lovegood be ignored at the correct time with the correct clue. Even Draco Malfoy plays his part. This is a civil war, to be sure, with a schism between wizards and witches who'd grown up together.

Also, we're so immersed in the Potterverse at this point, there is very little explanation of everything. We don't need to be told that the steam train is going to Hogwarts. Or what Hogwarts is. Or who Dumbledore was. Or the Room of Requirement. Or the Marauder's Map. These are given, as are all our friends. When Kreacher and Dobby appear, we know who they are, and what house elves are. No one has to explain polyjuice potions. Alas, even in so long and grand a series of movies, many characters are just seen as placeholders in this finale -- their time in the movies done in earlier chapters -- they serve only to enrich our universe and make it personal. But we don't need to know more about them or given them more than background muttering parts. Not unless we want to add another hundred minutes to the movie. It is sufficient that, with only one exception, they kept this enormous cast together through ten years and eight movies. What a remarkable accomplishment.

I'd forgotten about the King's Cross Station scene in the book. They did a lovely job with it. The best line in the movie? Probably goes to Maggie Smith, who utters, "I always wanted to do that spell," with a wistful smile and a hint of glee, on the eve of a Very Dire Situation.

Poor Ginny. She get's short shrift, and even in the afterword nineteen years later, she is slid out of the final camera shot to focus on the Main Three.

But even these nits are not fatal. If you want more details, go re-read the books. I shall. But I shall also re-watch these movies -- and I'll go see HP 7.2 in 3-D IMAX when I get the chance back home. This is, in all, a very satisfactory conclusion to an epic series. One which, as John Scalzi observes, we may not see the likes of for a long time. And in part, it is because the Harry Potter story has an ending. And it's a good one.

Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil

HP Version 7.1

Wednesday, 22 December 2010 23:17
dr_phil_physics: (hermione-granger)
Oh MY!

While watching Top Chef All-Stars, I just made a batch of bourbon franks -- they'll steep in the fridge and then tomorrow we'll have them with some boxed macaroni & cheese. (grin) If that's not festive enough for the season, and believe me, bourbon franks are pretty damned festive, there are suddenly Christmas cookies lurking in the kitchen. Snowballs. My favorites. I think Mrs. Dr. Phil loves me. And loves Christmas. (double-trouble-grin)

Tuesday Double Feature Part Two

Over the weekend we did our pre-lab for HP 7.1 -- watched the DVD of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Because we had to wait to see HP 7.1, we couldn't see it in IMAX. But that's okay.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One [PG-13]
Celebration Cinema North, Theatre #17, 2×$7.50

And now we get serious... No question about it. After ten years of filming and seven of eight films (and six-and-a-half of seven books), Harry Potter has grown up. Both the character and the story. And it is getting more serious by the moment. We know we're getting to the final battle -- and it doesn't matter that we've read the book and know what's going to happen. In the movie-verse on the screen, it hasn't happened yet.

As I commented in summer 2009, I think breaking the last book into two parts is brilliant strategy. And I don't mean that in a bad way, as if only marketing and filthy greed was involved. Last year I wrote: "At 158 minutes, HP6 is about the right length and twenty minutes longer that HP5. But we did miss the ending of the book version." HP 7.1 clocks in at 150 minutes. What would one cut to make the whole thing fit in one film? How much longer can you make an American audience sit in a theatre? No. Like Peter Jackson filming LOTR in three films, doing Deathly Hallows in two parts is the thing to do.

I'm sure some will complain that this movie is all about waiting moves. Well, yeah. In parts. But you have to show some of this friction between Harry, Hermione and Ron. And the devastation and fear that Voldemort and his Death Eaters are spreading in both the wizarding and muggle worlds. At one point our three main characters walk through a destroyed mobile home park and emptied countryside. Bleak. Yeah, this is wizarding armageddon here, folks.

And like desperate times, there are moments of pleasure and amusements. A bit of dancing in the tent is a tough counterpoint to the interrupted dancing at Bill and Fleur's wedding. There's no handholding here -- either you know the characters and the places or you don't. You've had six movies to learn the playlist, now it's time to put the pieces in play.

I love Kreacher, who hates Harry Potter with a passion, but is obligated to help him. And the ex-house elf Dobby, who loves Harry Potter and will help him to the extent of his powers. And elf powers are not the same as wizards, which helps them out of some tough jams. But we're also losing characters. Some incapacitated with battle injuries and some killed outright. And trust -- oh many do we have trust issues between the good guys.

Still, not all is sunshine and light, so to speak, over on the dark side. Voldemort holding the most uncomfortable boardroom meeting as information is traded and debated. Lucious Malfoy being broken and desperate. Bellatrix, so ably acted by Helena Bonham Carter, being mad and wantonly destructive.

We want the good side to win, of course, so it cheers us when the bad guys are incompetent. But "our" side is ineffective and divided. And between shapeshifting and polyjuice potions, no one trusts who the other really is. And in the middle of the film our heroes head straight into the fallen Ministry of Magic. Ugh -- is there a more despicable character than the very pink Dolores Umbridge? Fantastically designed character.

Outstanding "new" character? Bill Nighy shows up as the deposed Minster of Magic and has to have a talk with Harry, Hermione and Ron. Well done, Bill. And Hermione's purse -- legendary. (grin)

We were very happy with what they've done with HP 7.1. And we'll be there bright and early for HP 7.2, you can be assured.

Highly Recommended

Oh... and the snowball cookies? Mmmm... wonderful. Along with a couple of delightful kumquats. Beginning to get into the mood for Christmas for sure. Holiday movies and vacation definitely help that a great deal. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (jude-mourning-1)
Realms of Fantasy Closing

Didn't I already write this obituary? Apparently yes. But from multiple sources, I got the link to Warren Lapine's farewell.

As I said in January 2009, I'm not much of a fantasy writer, so it's not that this is a market that I submit to. But it's one I've read from time to time, and a lot of the writers I know DO write fantasy. So I know this will affect some people.

I wasn't quite sure if Warren was the right person to run RoF, but he had it and there were some signs of life -- including writing checks to people -- and there was even some controversy about covers and such. So at least RoF was splashing around noisily in the pool and not being a wallflower. But still.

Intriguing Postscript

Towards the end of Warren's post, he did mention the following:
Should there be any interest in purchasing the magazine I will gladly sell Realms to a responsible party for $1.00 and give them the finished files for the December issue.

Does this represent true love for RoF? Or a quick way to pass on a magazine's debt load for a buck? Or does it even matter? If anyone really wanted to keep RoF going, if Warren is good to his word, then he would not be an impediment. It will be interesting to see if anyone takes him up on this.

Of course Nick Mamatas [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid pointed out that "I'm tempted. A shame this wasn't announced last month, when an enterprising person could have had the December issue out for World Fantasy as a pick-up."

Alas, if Real Estate is all about location, then Publishing is all about timing.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-irosf)
A New Non-Fiction SF/F E-Mag

With the death of IROSF in February, I lamented the loss of an interesting source of reviews and commentaries about SF/F/H. At least Lois Tilton was able to move her Reviews of Short Fiction quickly to LOCUSonline.

Now it seems in September that writer Cheryl Morgan has started up Salon Futura:
Hello, and welcome to the first issue of Salon Futura, a new and hopefully somewhat different magazine devoted to the discussion of science fiction, fantasy and other forms of speculative literature.

It's October, so there are two issues out now for you to peruse. The webzine is a mix of online print and audio podcast, and is also available in the EPUB format for e-readers and mobile devices. It is currently free to read, but they will take donations to keep going.

If Cheryl Morgan's name seems familiar in the non-fiction genre field, it may be because she's the non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld and ran the old Emerald City webzine, which a lot of people talked about.

I ran into Salon Futura from the most excellent current issue of Dave Langford's Ansible.

I've only looked at a few of the items, but I think this will be a welcome addition to those who wish to read commentary about our field. Check it out.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (att-purple-creature)
September Is Almost 3/4 Done

If you're a SF/F/H writer, you may very well either use or need to use the excellent online resource Ralan.com for timely information about markets, guidelines and deadlines. About once a year Ralan gets around to passing the hat to help defray the cost of running the system. I'm not only a user, but I've contributed Tips to the database a number of times and I've had some very nice email exchanges with Ralan, who is pretty dedicated to keeping things current.

Whenever I need to do something and nothing comes to mind, Ralan's is one of the places I've got to check to see what's new. I knew September was his fundraising month, but I noted that only "60 out of 7,000+ visitors have donated".

Now I know that not everyone has the wherewithal to donate to every cause and thing out there. And if your web business model is to expect a 98% donation rate to an otherwise free web service, you are going to be in for a surprise. But 60/7000 is 0.86%. Surely there are more than 60 English speaking/writing SF/F/H people on the entire planet who find Ralan's a useful service.

I finally got around to sending €25, so I've done my part. PayPal's current exchange rate is "1 USD = 0.745600EUR", so that's about $33.53. But you can send what you want. And I can give Ralan.com a plug here on my LJ without personal embarrassment. (grin)

Hell, if nothing else you can check out the winners of his old Spectravaganza contests and read some actual short story content -- including my 2nd Prize 2006 Grabber Contest winner "Dead Forever" here.

Thank you for your attention and we shall now return you to your regularly scheduled web browsing.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (7of9voyager)
Pro Markets

According to SFWA, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the pro rate for a short story market is 5 cents/word or higher, minimum $50. While this isn't going to get you rich, because there aren't a lot of pro paying markets and they can buy only so many of your stories, the sad truth is that many publications pay less -- often a lot less. And periodically, we lose another pro paying market. So you can imagine that new pro paying markets are of great interest to SF/F/H writers.

Alas, there may be a dog in sheep's clothing out there. [livejournal.com profile] j_cheney and Absolute Write yesterday mentioned a new operation, which is coming out with not one, but several new pro paying markets -- or so it seems on the surface.

Who Is Astra Publications?

Hmm... looks hazy, try again. Those who spent some time digging seemed to find a website advertising all these new publications, asking for donations or sales without detailing tables of contents, and possible connections between all the names which are mentioned. Plus stories which are already in the public domain.

To me, though, I worried about the name "Astra". There's already a Canadian con called Ad Astra, and Ad Astra is a publication of the National Space Society. You can call yourselves anything you want, but if you're after confusing people, picking something which might sound like something else might do it.

Like "Readshift" for "Redshift" or "LightSpeed SF" vs. John Joseph Adam's "Lightspeed".

This seems like someone intends to poach on Google searches for other sites. Uh-huh, real classy.

First Bad Signs

I'm not putting the link to this outfit, because I think they may be a scam, but you be the judge. Because when I went to the website, I got the following warning.

From ZoneAlarm/Checkpoint:
This Web site is suspicious. Leave now unless you are sure this site is safe.

Okay...

And even when you get there, the HTML is poorly coded. Blanks on the left side marked "Banner Ads", without any, say, banner ads.

Ten Brand New Publications All At Once?

Admittedly they may be annuals or other periods longer than monthly, but starting up with 10 publications, 7 of 10 at pro rates? Look at this:
nth Dimension - Short Science Fiction - 500-7000 words - 5.5 cents per word.
Desert Rose Fiction - Short Mainstream Fiction - 1000-5000 words - 5 cents per word.
Atomic Chipmunk - Short Speculative Fiction - 750-6000 words - 6 cents per word.
Pulp Fic Press - Short Fantasy, Science Fiction, Crime, Adventure, Romance, Horror - 100-4000 words - 6 cents per word.
ReadShiftSF - Short Science Fiction - 1000-6000 words - 6 cents per word.
Fragment Fiction - Short Fiction - 250-6000 words - 5 cents per word.
LightSpeed SF - Short Speculative Fiction - 500-5000 words - 5.5 cents per word.
Futura Machine - Short Speculative Fiction - 250-5000 words - 2.5 cents per word.
The Written Word - Mainstream - 250-4500 words - 2.5 cents per word.
Athena's Flower - Mainstream - 250 - 10000 words - 2 cents per word.

A few years ago a friend of mine tried to start up a pro paying e-zine. Even with buying only two stories an issue, there were problems and eventually it got to be too much and too expensive up front, and he folded it after a couple of issues. And that was a sincere effort.

I fear that this is an attempt to get money for publishing someone and their friends' trunk stories, plus raise money via donations to keep these valuable pro markets going... without actually being a valuable pro market. I mean, it looks like it's something but you print your own stuff and reject all other submissions -- what a business plan!

Unless someone comes forward and successfully argues that this outfit is legitimate, I'm not wasting any time sending to any of these so-called pro markets. As a professional SF writer, it is my obligation to do due diligence on places I submit to, and this outfit doesn't pass the smell tests.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (avatar)
Thank You, Sue!

Sue Hill from Michigan Tech posted this link on Facebook: My Little Pony for Geeks. There are FIFTY, count 'em, FIFTY My Little Ponies, done up as Stormtroopers, Princess Leia (bikini and white robe), Han Solo in Carbonite, Tron, Edward Scissorshands, Kill Bill, Alien, Spock, Klingons, Freddie Kruger, Borg, Wonder Woman, "Pony Stark" -- just one impressive list of geek standards in art form. Which just happened to be made from My Little Ponies.

Enjoy!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (cinderella-fabletown)
Apologies

For those who saw a raw version of this post which accidentally got posted before it had any text...

Chased Across The State

Michigan author [livejournal.com profile] jimhines was having a reading of his latest "kick-ass princesses" novel at the Schuler Books at Meridian Mall in Okemos MI (east of East Lansing). I'd been to his reading for the last book at Schuler's on Alpine in Grand Rapids MI in October 2009. It being summer, it would be easy enough to run from work in Kalamazoo and get back just as it got dark. Well, that was the plan.

Instead there was an ugly furball of severe thunderstorms coming our way. I managed to get off campus and onto US-131 south and thence to I-94, driving east at 70 mph while the storm was coming at 50 mph. It threw off a possible tornado at Battle Creek, but shortly after that I was heading north on I-69 and by the time I got to Schuler's it wasn't raining.

Also ran into this Jim C. Hines fellow in the parking lot. Told him there was going to be a Big Name Author at Schuler's tonight -- he hoped to get some books signed. I told him these big swelled head BNA's don't sign books for the little people any more. He said that what was worse was authors featured in big coffee table books -- which would be both of us. (grin)

Just In Time For The Show

We got there at 5:50pm, just as the guy from Dominos was arriving with the pizzas for the party. (grin) Not wanting for the pizza to get cold, food came first. Then the good sized crowd, which had to be in the 20-30 range, settled in as Jim read the original James Bond-like opening to the next/fourth Princesses book -- which he's decided to cut, so we may have been the only public airing of that scene. (grin) You wouldn't have liked it. It has humor, fighting, crowds, and a spy running as fast as he can who turned out to be a golem made from a dark spicy cookie... (double-trouble-grin)

The reading and signing was a great success for Jim, as far as I could tell. He posted on Facebook tonight that: "Bookstore ordered 50 copies of RED HOOD'S REVENGE for tonight's signing. When I left, I believe they had two copies left. Victory!" Huh, I only saw one left. Someone must've been holding one back at the bookstore. (triple-word-score-grin)


The Many Reading Faces of Jim C. Hines

Just part of the line to get books signed, interspersed with Q&A with the crowd.

Note how the well-prepared book signer has (1) multiple pens, (2) a big stack of special Red Hood's Revenge bookmarks and (3) a sheet of paper to write down names before you sign the book. Just in case you try to spell "Linda" with a "Th". (evil-grin)

Anyway, I got home before the next storm came to Allendale -- and at that hour northern Kalamazoo County was getting clobbered. So I pretty much managed to make the triangle drive of Allendale-Kalamazoo-East Lansing-Allendale without getting blown, flooded or hailed off the road. Definitely a good summer outing.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WOTF XXIV)
What's In The Box, Dr. Phil? Oh PLEASE Tell Me What's In The Box?!

Stopped by the P.O. Box in town as part of my normal Saturday errands and there was a key to parcel locker #5. The white box inside nearly filled the locker, and as #5 was on the bottom, it took a few seconds to get fingers purchased on said box and pull it out. Oh look, the heavy box is from Galaxy Press -- I know what this is. (grin)


L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: The First 25 Years

My Contributor's Copy Of The WOTF Coffee Table Book

Quite some months ago the Writers of the Future people sent out a call for anyone in the WOTF winners community interested in submitting comments about what the WOTF contest means to them, in connection with putting together a coffee table book of pictures and essays and history of the first twenty-five years of WOTF, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Naturally being shy about expressing myself, to say nothing of having been a Published Finalist in WOTF XXIV, I of course sent in a short essay. Because of that, I got a free contributor's copy of the finished book in lieu of cash payment. Makes me happy. (grin)



Besides my piece on page 233, it looks like one of my pictures of Al Bogdan signing the WOTF XXIV anthology at the Event also made the book:



More About This Later

The official release will be at the 26th WOTF Awards on 28 August 2010 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

So far I haven't seen this for pre-order anywhere. But I should note that this impressive book uses very heavy paper stock -- and that if you order it online, get free shipping. (wry-grin) I know both the publisher Galaxy Press and Amazon routinely offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more -- and the list price on the dust jacket is $44.95.

I think that most readers of SF/F will prefer the annual anthologies for the stories. An expensive coffee table book isn't for everyone and contest hopefuls would no doubt be best off reading more SF/F -- buying this book isn't going to give you an "in" into winning the contest. For that you have to write a great story. (double-word-score-grin)

To those involved in the Contest, this is like a reunion -- for everyone it's a collection about new and notable authors stretching back to the early days of modern 20th century SF/F (in the case of the judges) and including a big chunk of my LJ Friends list. (happy grin) The more I read about the history of the Writers of the Future contest, the more amazing it seems that (a) it got started, (b) it has kept going and (c) it has done so well. I've barely made a dent in reading the whole thing.

As for the contest itself, the next contest deadline, for those eligible, is Thursday 30 September 2010. Yeah, I'm a nudge. College professors are like that.

Dr. Phil

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