This Is First Publication? Really?

Soooo um, ahem. I may have screwed myself a little bit by posting the Airworld story as I go. There’s this concept of “First Publication Rights” which is apparently kind of a big deal to publishers. For some very strange reason, many of them are only interested in publishing things that have never been published before, and some of them might think that posting on the Interwebs is publishing. Oops!

I think I’m probably okay though since, 1) This is only a first draft, 2) I definitely will re-write portions, 3) my work is of such high quality that people will throw out all convention in order to publish it, ahem, and 4) according to Google Analytics, only like 8 people are seeing this.

But I need to re-think this process going forward (ugh, I used corporate speak). Apparently it’s okay to post a story if it’s protected  in some way, which is what Mary Robinette Kowal does, the Writing Excuses author who inspired me to try this in the first place. I don’t like password-protecting posts in WordPress though because it’s a pain in the butt for the author and the reader. Mary Robinette Kowal gets away with it because she is a big enough star that readers won’t mind the inconvenience. Me, not so much.

So I’ll be ruminating upon this over the weekend.

Rachel Aaron Talked To Me!

Squee! A real live fantasy author answered my question! (This was actually the second one she answered – the first one was more about my own personal insecurities though.)

This is what I asked:

Hi! Me again. Early in this thread you said: “Fantasy has changed a LOT as a genre over the past few years, and if you’re not reading modern books, you might be surprised.” I didn’t see where you had already done this, and if you did, feel free to ignore this, but I wonder if you could expand on that a little (or a lot, that’s fine too :). In your view, what’s changed about the genre? I am curious to hear your take on it. Thank you!

And this was the response (I hope she doesn’t mind me posting this):

Ohhhhh, you’ve opened the can of worms now! This is one of my soap box topics. Ahem.

I grew up reading Fantasy in the 90s and early 2000s. This means lots of Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon (I practically memorized The Deed of Paksenarrion), Mercedes Lackey, Sherri S. Tepper, and way too much Robert Jordan. I also read classics like C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

Up until about 10 years ago, the feel of Fantasy was largely sweeping and epic. Writers took their cues from the Tolkienian influence. When people grumble about fantasy being trope ridden, they’re largely talking about this area. Thanks to growing geek culture and the mega success of several fantasy authors like Jordan, Fantasy was flooded with books that were very similar – lush, sweeping, but often laboring under the weight of their own cliche.

And then, something happened. It started in the early 90s when authors like Laurel K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison started writing books with fantasy elements like magic that were not only set in modern times, they were written more like thrillers than epic fantasy. I’m of course talking about the rise of Urban Fantasy, which exploded into the happy hobbit hole of the fantasy genre in the early 90s.

By the early 2000s, Urban Fantasy was a booming industry, meeting and then outselling its older, stuffier, dragon loving Epic Fantasy sibling. But the real kicker was the way the readership changed. Fantasy, long seen as a realm for kids and aging nerds, was now picking up a whole slew of more main stream adult readers. Combine this with the success of UF shows like Buffy and Angel and you had a serious cultural wave building.

The real kicker through was Harry Potter. HP brought money like never before into our genre, but even better, it brought readers. Kids who grew up reading HP learned from a young age that reading fantasy wasn’t just fun, it was cool. Everyone was a nerd now, and they wanted more to read, and publishing gave it to them in the form of the massive and varied selection of fantasy books no available.

With change comes innovation. Thanks to all the money that UF and then HP brought to Fantasy publishing, the door was thrown wide open. Modern fantasy is no longer defined by the tropes of its predecessors. Fantasy no longer has to be even remotely Tolkenian, or epic, or sweeping to be treated as Fantasy. The very idea of what is Fantasy (elves, a quest, etc) has been thrown completely out the window. Major publishers are taking big money risks on high concept series they wouldn’t have touched a decade ago. Fantasy books no longer resemble doorstops as a rule. The playing field is wide open!

(This is why threads on NaNo that talk about “most annoying Fantasy tropes/cliches” drive me CRAZY. I always want to go and shout HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE FANTASY SHELVES LATELY?! Because it’s a whole new, wonderful, dazzling, diverse world out there.)

Also, the style of fantasy books has opened up enormously thanks to these influences. Where as before most fantasies were largely variations on the epic style – huge word counts, sprawling worlds, political nuance, numinous writing that was heavy on the description – modern fantasy is everything you can think of. There are huge epics like Game of Thrones, small personal dramas, fast paced adventure fantasies that read like thrillers, dark fantasy that reads more like horror, brutal military fantasy that reads like the most classic war thrillers. Fantasy is in no way a unified mass anymore. It’s this huge, diverse, beautiful genre that is so varied it’s actually hard to define any longer what fantasy really is (though we know it when we see it)

Funny enough, my books are actually considered very retro because of my quasi-Euro, quasi-Medieval setting where as if I’d tried to sell the same books in the 80s, I would have been totally out of line thanks to my urban fantasy style quick pacing. This just goes to show how much Fantasy as a genre has changed and evolved. And now, thanks to the mega popularity of Fantasy video games, we’re changing again. That’s fine, change is good. So long as writers keep bringing us amazing new ideas, Fantasy will continue to be one of the best selling genres in publishing.

Anyway, I hope this sheds some light on the subject. I’ve said many times now that I believe we’re living in a golden age of fantasy publishing where a combination of money from huge best sellers, the enormous widening of the fantasy fan base, and an increasing willingness on behalf of publishers to take risks will later be hailed as a glorious time of really amazing books. There’s fantasy everywhere, on TV, in Target (seriously, what was once a tiny rack is now a full wall of YA and adult fantasy). It’s huge, it’s flourishing, and it’s not going away any time soon. It’s truly a great time to be a fantasy writer!

(After I read this I immediately thought of Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day.)

Suck it, thrillers and mysteries!

I totally agree about those fantasy-trope rants against elves and princesses. Nothing I’ve seen published recently has even remotely resembled the “traditional” fantasy I remember.

P.S. I am tremendously jealous of young people who get to grow up in a world where reading a fantasy book doesn’t get them beat up in high school.

The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 4

A while back I was making fun of the first episode of Walking Dead, Season 2. I still think that episode kind of sucked. But I diligently carried on and the show got much better. I thought the pacing was really slow, though, and then everything happened all at once in the season finale.

So of course I had to watch Season 3. But that’s the current season, so it isn’t on Netflix. And I don’t have cable or even a television (I’m watching on an iPad), so I did something I’ve never done before: I bought Season 3 on Amazon Prime.

So far, Season 3 is ten times better than the first two put together. Just finished Episode 4, “Killer Within.” Wow. Just wow.

When The Pitch is Better Than The Book

In a fit of inspiration, I wrote out a “pitch” for Kubak Outpost, in case I wanted to write a query letter for it. This is what I wrote:

Fen, a man who has lost his love and his livelihood, enlists in the army to fight in the war against magic-wielding kaanfar warriors encroaching on the border. Along the way, he meets The Demon Hunter, who has to drink the blood of his victims to power his own form of magic. Together they must find a way to stop the kaanfar from summoning a powerful ancient foe before the king’s defenses are overwhelmed.

That actually sounds a lot cooler than the draft I wrote. Maybe I should rewrite it to match that summary. (As it happens, I think it needs a rewrite anyway.)


The Missing Word

I am sure you have all seen this photo by now.

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I am SO glad that this picture came to light, so I can ask this vitally important question:

WHAT IS THIS EXPRESSION CALLED?? Preferably in a past tense verb form.

The president _____ ed for the photo.

Here is the context in which I would like to use this word.

“I’m really looking forward to Black Friday,” Jack said.

“Me too,” I replied. “I can’t wait to face death at Wal-mart.”

“Yeah! It’s my favorite time of year.”

I _____ ed, trying to keep a straight face. (I am obviously sarcastificating, but Jack doesn’t get it, so I’m going to keep going until he notices, because it is highly amusing to me.) “The pushing and shoving and trampling really gets the blood pumping.”

“You know it. I can’t wait!”

“Not-impressed” is clearly not going to work. “Smirked” is close but I think of that as conveying ill-will, whereas this face is clearly whimsical. “Sneered” is wrong. “Made a face” might work but I usually think of that as a response to something icky. “Blanched” isn’t right for the same reason. “Grinned” is wrong. I like “sarcastificated” but it isn’t a word.

There is also an exasperated variation of this expression, which might deserve a whole different word. The face you would make after you explain to Jack that you were being sarcastic and didn’t really like Black Friday at all, but he still doesn’t get it, so you turn to your other friend and ____.

That expression

Yes, I am obsessed with this problem. If I find this word, it will be my greatest achievement in life.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets their throat cut

I started out writing Airworld as a sort of light-hearted adventure. Despite a somewhat serious premise (the home town is dying!), I didn’t intend for anyone to get into any real trouble.

But somewhere along the way, things got pretty serious. People are getting their throats cut. People are getting their heads smashed on stone walls. People are getting framed and tortured. People are coming face-to-face with their worst nightmares, and doubting their own convictions, and having to make life-altering decisions.

At the moment I’m sitting at my keyboard wondering what else can go wrong for these poor characters.

Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 1

Okay so I’m a little bit ahead in writing today, so I thought I would finally sit down and watch the first episode of Walking Dead Season 2 on Netflix. I thought the first season was “okay” but I didn’t see where it deserved all the nerd praise it got. I guess it’s a generational thing. Zombies are “cool” with the kids and whatnot. But since Walking Dead is now in it’s third season and everyone is still raving about it, I thought I should give it another chance.

So I’ve watched twenty minutes now and these people have committed roughly 50,000 moronic mistakes. No wonder I’ve had a hard time sitting through this episode in the past. Drive into the middle of a traffic jam full of dead people in stalled cars? Check. In an RV with a bad engine, so it dies right in the middle of it? Check. Walk around in the car graveyard without paying any attention to what their doing? Check. Consider shooting a zombie even though we all know that will bring a million zombies down on them? Check. Not run away when the zombies show up, even though they saw them coming a mile away? Check. Be surprised and caught off guard and barely manage to hide when the zombies show up? Check. Black guy accidentally slices half his arm off on some metal thingy and probably is going to die? Check. White blonde chick hides in a closet from a zombie, but accidentally makes noise, and screams her head off when the zombie scratches the door instead of keeping her mouth shut? Check.

Some other stuff happened but I didn’t pay attention because I was writing all that above. There was a bunch of stabbing zombies with screwdrivers, that’s all I know.

Now a kid is opening a truck door. WTF. I don’t remember the first season being a constant series of telegraphing what was going to happen five minutes ahead of time. Even if what you think is going to happen doesn’t happen, it’s still pretty annoying. So this kid found a bunch of machetes in this truck, so I assume we’re going to see them again later.

Hrm, maybe I shouldn’t have stopped paying attention to the show to type this. I have no idea why these two dudes are wandering around in the forest. I thought they were following the blonde chick, but now I see she’s still with the others. So these two dudes apparently just went out there to cut open a zombie stomach for no apparent reason.

Oh, now I see. There’s another kid lost in the woods somewhere. So they cut open the zombie stomach to make sure he hadn’t eaten the kid. Ewwww.

Uh oh. It’s getting dark. And they’re still in the car graveyard.

Ah! Here’s the machetes again. I knew it! Oh, it’s light out now. No need to be scared of the dark, I guess.

Oh, the black guy is still alive. Looks pretty good considering he lost about ten gallons of blood from slicing his arm open earlier.

Now why are they sprinting toward this church when they’ve been tip-toeing everywhere else. Oh crap, zombies praying in the church. Okay, we won’t run away, we’ll use the machetes on them. That makes sense I guess. I notice they didn’t cut open all those zombies’ stomachs though.

Okay the kid is staying with the two main dudes. So I assume this kid is going to have to use those machetes at some point, since he found them. That would be suitably shocking. Except they’ve set the shock value pretty high on this show already.

Well I was wrong about the machetes, but obviously something shocking is going to happen here with this kid and this buck.

Spoiler alert: Nailed it. Roll credits.

Well that was kind of snarky. Now back to writing!