Friday, January 5, 2001

Wow, folks can't seem to get enough of these pictures of Aviva. I mean, I know she's absolutely darling, but you really want to see other people's baby pictures? OK, twist my arm... here she is with my mom, with Esther's mom, with a hat, with Esther, and here she is rooting (which means searching an expanse of skin with her mouth to see if there's a nipple hidden there somewhere, and getting rather worked up about it -- something she does quite a lot). And here are some artifacts named in her honor.

And there's more where those came from, if you're really gluttons for punishment....

I must apologize to the noble RMCrit'ers for speculating that they ignored my appeal for crits for Other Cities: Hilary wrote me that she never saw it, so I most likely screwed up sending it, or some mail server along the way ate it. Well, it's already sent off to GVG now anyway.

I wrote another story last night: Baby Love. I'm quite excited about it. First, because I finished it. Granted, it's pretty short, but I think I have been driving myself crazy by writing half or a third of a good story and then putting it down for a few days... which turns into a week... which turns into a month... and then I'm at the point I am with Danny, Amra, and Corporate Anthropology, where the original inspiration is gone and I'm trying to drag myself through finishing it or a major rewrite, and it's just murder. The idea for Baby Love struck as I was lying in bed about 2 a.m., just when Aviva had finally quieted down to sleep a bit, and I'm very glad that I actually got myself out of bed to go write the thing in one sitting. In On Writing (which everyone seems to be reading), Stephen King talks about "writing with the door closed" -- not asking the Muse any questions, not checking any facts, not thinking about theme or structure, just taking dictation from your brain as fast as you can, riding the white-hot wave of inspiration without looking back. Only when you've got the first draft done (and he's talking about entire novels, which means interrupting the flow for food, sleep and an optional day job, which is the trick I have to learn) only then do you start picking at it, showing it around, writing "with the door open". I think I have been not paying enough attention to this dynamic -- the nonlinear structure of time when you're writing, the reality of creative momentum. Which is why I have so many great unfinished stories.

Second reason I'm excited about Baby Love: it's mainstream sf, something I can imagine in Asimov's. This is nice, because as much as I love writing literary, fantastic, surrealist whimsy, I haven't figured out where to sell it yet (though see below...)

Third reason: it was just such fun to write. I have no idea if it's any good (I'm still too close to it), but it was one of those ones that wrote itself -- no struggle, just going with it. The distinctive, folksy voice of the narrator just showed up (I only hope that, in the cold light of revision, he doesn't read as kitschy). And the theme is one that is dear to my heart right now -- the story is about what the title says. It's about how much I love Aviva.

Speaking of markets -- whether for mainstream sf, literary surrealist whimsy, or whatever -- there's been lots of interesting turnover in the markets for speculative fiction lately. I follow the markets by way of the Rumor Mill, Ralan's website, the Writer's Market genre fiction Market List, and the Spicy Green Iguana. Mostly I just follow the "pro markets", broadly defined, which means markets paying over 3 cents a word for fiction. (The actual Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America definition of "pro market" is more stringent). I don't know if it's always this fluid, but in the last year we've seen the demise of Omni Online, SF Age, Amazing and possibly Altair, the resurrection of Century, the launch of Black Gate and Spectrum SF, and the birth of a huge spate of pro webzines -- Writer Online, Would That It Were, Vestal Review, Strange Horizons, Speculon, The Infinite Matrix, and -- I think those were all launched in 2000, anyway. Some of the webzines, presumably flush with Internet Venture Capital money, are paying astronomical sums (20 cents a word for both and The Infinite Matrix, 5 to 10 cents for Writer Online). It's hard to get a clear picture, but I think this is actually a boom time for writers, as long as you don't mind people reading your stuff on a screen. I have to admit I'm rather partial to print, myself -- which is why I admire the contrarian courage of Spectrum and Black Gate, launching print rags in the midst of a mob loudly proclaiming the approaching doom of print (or at least print-not-on-demand) publishing.  But the diversity of the web offerings is awfully nice -- in particular it seems like the (non-profit!) Strange Horizons may be a haven for some of my weirder, more literary stuff. The ultimate effect may be to get you pro rates for stories previously publishable only in the minors.

One thing I factor in to my calculation of where to send stuff first (and I mean "calculation" quite literally, it's a formula in a cell of my Excel spreadsheet tracking the markets) is circulation. Determining what circulation means is a headache, both for me and for the SFWA (which will have to make a determination about it soon, I think, as these webzines are explicitly launched with the intention of fitting the definition of "pro" required to have a sale count for SFWA membership -- which includes a circulation "over 2,000"). How many web hits is equvalent to a single print-magazine subscription? Writer Online claims to have 35,000 subscribers -- but are 35,000 people who idly entered their email address in a pop-up box and now receive an email with a bunch of writing tips and, oh, some fiction -- who may just be hitting "delete" rather than bothering to unsubscribe -- really worth more than the 10,000 people who cough up £3.50 each month for a copy of Interzone and probably read it cover to cover?

On the other hand, one thing that's pretty seductive about some of the webzines is their turnaround time for getting your submissions back to you, both as advertised and as recorded by the Critters' Submitting to the Black Hole response times tracking site. Writer Online claims to respond in a week; Vestal Review recorded responses average 19 days, which is edging up on GVG's amazing 12-day average and kicks the snot out of Interzone's 78 days, never mind Zoetrope's horrid 96. That and the ease of emailing submissions -- no stamps, no IRCs, no trip to the post office to have the damn thing weighed, no buying paper and inkjet cartridges.

So what does this mean for me? Well, the major print mags are still going to get the bulk of my submissions if I think they have any chance of success. GVG is fast enough that he'll probably see everything first, with the exception of mainstream hard-sf stuff that I think has a good chance at Asimov's or Analog (just because, since I've sold to F&SF, it would be nice to get into the other two U.S. majors for variety and exposure). But for short shorts, or stories that are pretty weird, and the like -- well, it's going to be awfully tempting to pop them in an email to Strange Horizons (22-day response time) or Vestal for short-shorts, rather than schlep the thing over to Interzone... and the pro webzines will probably see my stuff before Talebones (17-day responses and very well respected, but pays crap).

Also, the webzines have got me submitting poetry again. I'm not a big fan of the kind of poetry the mainstream spec fic mags publish, and it's really not worth it to mail a poem off to the lit mags and wait six months to get paid $20. But to pop a poem in an email to Pif or Writer Online? Why the hell not?

Bravo to all the WebRats darers, welcome Jim, and I just gotta say that I absolutely love Hilary's ongoing conversations with Ganpati-Baba. Can he come over and play sometime?