Category: writerly administrivia
New year, newsletter?
Let’s try this as a way for staying in touch. You can sign up at here and I’ll do a trial run next week. Feel free to let me know what you like to see in a newsletter, assuming you’re interested in them in the first place.
Don’t worry if they’re not your thing. I’ll continue posting updates here and on Mastodon as well as Facebook as I always have. I’ll stick with Twitter until it implodes or becomes wholly unusable – though my account there is currently locked to limit fake followers and junk replies.
And writing this post, I’ve just spotted the typo ‘Faebook’ and must now resist the urge to write a short story about social media for supernaturals…
A quick social media update
As social media gets more fractious and fractured, I am still on Twitter for the moment, but my account’s currently protected from the recent deluge of fake followers and junk replies, as well as unnecessarily combative responses from people with no obvious interest in books, SF&F or anything else I do. Follower requests from self-evidently real readers will get approved.
Now I have a better understanding of how Mastodon works, I’m at @JulietEMcKenna@wandering.shop. You can also find me at facebook.com/jemck. And when I get a bit of spare time, I am going to set up a newsletter. Honest!
The UK Society of Authors AGM and issues arising
I would like to ask friends who belong to the UK Society of Authors to consider attending this year’s online AGM on 17th November or to register a proxy vote by 15th November.
Please note that while I am a member of the Society of Authors’ Management Committee, this post is made entirely in a personal capacity. Since I am a member of the Management Committee, I will not be debating these matters here and comments are disabled.
There are five resolutions to be decided which deal with procedural issues and two resolutions proposed by a group of members which are as follows.
“Resolution 6: That in light of her documented behaviour and comments, which are not compatible with the Society’s goals of protecting free expression and their policy of dignity and respect, that Joanne Harris stand down as Chair of the Management Committee.”
Proposed by Julie Bindel, Amanda Craig, Jane Harris, Milli Hill, Richard Morgan, Jane Roffe, Michelle Smart, Michelle Styles, Heather Welford, Julia Williams.”
No evidence is offered to support these assertions, but this subjective opinion is presented as objective fact, requiring punitive action that takes no account of the Society’s established complaints procedures.
Those of you who have been following the so-called ‘Terf Wars’ on Twitter and in other media will recognise prominent ‘Gender Critical’ activists among these signatories, whose personal antagonism towards Joanne Harris can readily be found online.
You may care to note that Joanne was recently honoured by Pink News as ‘Ally of the Year’.
“Resolution 7: That in the light of disturbing recent press coverage about the Society, that the Society urgently reviews how to pursue its stated aim “to protect free speech” and puts in place a robust framework to do so, including a member and Management Committee working group that looks at how best to protect the fundamental right of all authors to express themselves freely within the law, and to uphold the impartiality expected of the Society, including all who govern and work for it. This should include a sub-committee of the Management Committee.”
Proposed by Julie Bindel, Elizabeth Buchan, Marika Cobbald, Amanda Craig, Jane Harris, Milli Hill, Richard Morgan, Jane Roffe, Michelle Smart, Michelle Styles, Heather Welford, Julia Williams
No evidence is cited to prove the implication that the Society has failed to be impartial, and no reference is made to the Society’s existing policies and ongoing work to defend free speech. This proposal nevertheless requires the Society to undertake an ill-defined review process which would take up considerable staff time as well as financial resources, all of which would otherwise be directed towards practical support for authors which is the organisation’s proper function.
Please note that none of these signatories stood in the recent elections to the Management Committee in an attempt to address their concerns. As far as I can see, almost all the recent antagonistic press coverage has been the result of journalists being briefed about these resolutions in a very one-sided fashion.
Please find the time, if possible, to consider the implications of these resolutions for the Society going forward and cast your votes accordingly.
Off to North Wales for a writers’ week. Meantime, a writerly warning.
The very briefest of updates as I am racing around getting stuff done before disappearing to the Milford SF writers’ week in Snowdonia tomorrow. I expect to be largely absent from social media until I get back.
So I don’t have time to write a lengthy takedown at the moment, but this is worth flagging up. I’ve noticed that vanity/predatory ‘publishers’ are co-opting the term ‘hybrid’ in an attempt to veil their scams.
As widely understood in the booktrade for a decade or so now, ‘a hybrid author’ is someone combining self-published and small press projects with traditional writing contracts from major publishers. Someone like me, and any number of others I could name.
It is NOT an author paying an exorbitant sum of money to some outfit with no record of measurable success in the marketplace, for unspecified services that won’t be properly accounted for, under some exploitative ‘partnership’ contract that will see the scammer pocketing the cash while the writer ends up with an unedited, shoddily produced ebook that will never sell to anyone but family and friends.
And as a new pal on Twitter pointed out, it’s also muddying the waters as follows: “They may be yoinking its academic article publishing definition. There, money never flows to the author anyway and a “hybrid” journal is partially unpaywalled, funded by authors paying $$$ to make their article open access.”
All told, remember that con artists preying on writers haven’t gone away, they’ve just evolved for the digital age, along with other such vermin.
Do your due diligence, check with reputable author organisations for red flags, talk to other authors, check out Writer Beware!
Right, I’ll get back to getting on 🙂
As sharp-eyed observers will note, there’s some redesign going on…
Issues with WordPress and its technical underpinnings mean we need to do some updating and rethinking hereabouts.
Bear with us, as Cheryl deals with my inability to visualise things until I can actually see them, or the lack of them, and thus make up my mind…
We will endeavour to have everything sorted and stable as soon as possible.
An update on updates
Right, we’ve hit the halfway mark on the Desert Island Books (and music) list, so this looks like a good time to put those on pause. I’m off to Moniack Mhor on Monday, and that’s going to be a full-on week of teaching and mentoring – which I am really looking forward to – so I don’t expect to be blogging or doing much, if any, social media, until I get back.
I do have one more piece to post, which will follow this. Retrospective posts are all well and good but I’ve also been reflecting on the current state of play in politics and culture. We need to start thinking more seriously about what’s going on at the toxic intersection of fact and fiction at the moment. If you’re going to tell lies, what’s your justification?
Right, now I have workshops to prepare, student submissions to critique, and the fun and exciting game of working out how much warm clothing I can pack in a suitcase that meets Flybe’s size and weight requirements for hold luggage. It’s a nine to ten hour journey on the train from Oxford to Inverness, so I am taking a train to Birmingham airport and flying from there instead. In a plane where I suspect goggles and a long white scarf will be issued on check-in. Mind you, the Highlands are currently warmer than the Cotswolds, according the BBC Weather website.
Interesting things from the last little while – and explaining the recent link posts
I’m doing a lot of background reading, world-building and story-plotting at the moment, as well as the admin and other stuff associated with getting the next ebook out. Then there’s all the domestic administrivia which is mostly down to me at present since Husband’s currently working 12-14 hour days, six days a week, on a demanding new project for a prestigious new client. So me finding time for reflective and interesting blog posts isn’t really happening.
Fortunately there are all sorts of interesting things crossing my radar online.
On the history front – “Vatican library digitises 1,600-year-old edition of Virgil”
The 1,600-year-old document is one of more than 80,000 manuscripts, running to 41m pages, in the library, which was founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V.
A major project to digitise all 80,000 documents will ensure that scholars have less need to consult the originals, and also make the texts available to the general public.
“Our library is an important storehouse of the global culture of humankind,” said Cesare Pasini, prefect of the library. “We are delighted the process of digital archiving will make these wonderful ancient manuscripts more widely available to the world and thereby strengthen the deep spirit of humankind’s shared universal heritage.”
On the equality in SFF front – “Eisner Nominee Renae De Liz Shares Short Guide for Artists on How to De-Objectify Female Characters”
Renae De Liz, the Eisner-nominated artist and writer behind such series as The Legend of Wonder Woman, The Last Unicorn and Lady Powerpunch, shared her thoughts on how to draw women without objectifying and oversexualizing them. In her impromptu guide, she tries to dispel many assumptions people have when they set out to draw women because of deep-set trends in comics.
And I found this prompted me to consider the assumptions people make about writing women because of deep-set trends in SF&F
On the technology front – “Slow-motion replays can distort criminal responsibility”
“Researchers found that slowing down footage of violent acts caused viewers to see greater intent to harm than when viewed at normal speed.
Viewing a killing only in slow motion made a jury three times more likely to convict of first degree murder.”
As a lifelong crime and mystery fan, in books and TV/film, I found this very interesting. I’m also thinking about the ways in which perceived technological progress can turn out to be not so helpful after all. When I get round to a longer blogpost, that’s something I want to discuss.
On the SF conventions front – no, I’m not going to discuss the debacle of this year’s World Fantasy Convention programme. For those of you coming late to this story, this particular convention has a long-established lousy record for offering interesting or up-to-date panels and this year’s offering might just as well come with an introductory, explanatory note saying “Yes, we hear you explain how everybody gains from diverse and inclusive programming. WE JUST DON’T CARE”
So how about trying one of the many conventions that offer a packed programme of fascinating discussions between people with plenty of relevant things to say?
Fantasycon by the Sea 23rd- 25th September in Scarborough – guests of honour Mike Carey, Elizabeth Bear, Frances Hardinge, Scott Lynch, Adam Nevill and James Smythe>
Bristolcon – 29th October – guests of honour Fangorn, Ken MacLeod and Sarah Pinborough.
Cool things for a hot week plus a Newsletter question
It’s unusually hot here in the Cotswolds. The cats are unimpressed and I’m working in the garden as much as possible, thanks to the marvels of wifi. Moving on to the cool stuff.
If you have access to BBC programming don’t miss Artsnight on BBC tomorrow, Friday 22nd July.
“Is fiction the best way to access the truth? Award-winning Scottish crime writer Val McDermid explores the relationship between fiction, video games and real-life crime documentary. She talks to Ken MacLeod and Richard K Morgan, whose science fiction novels offer a commentary on current political events. She meets Malath Abbas, the designer of Killbox, a new game about the ethics of drone warfare, and Lucas Pope, whose Bafta-winning Papers Please examines the moral and political decisions faced by an immigration officer. McDermid discusses the importance and the pitfalls of covering real-life crime with veteran documentary maker and criminologist Roger Graef.”
Here’s a link to the BBC website though I suspect access will depend on your location.
For more outstanding SF, here’s an update from the SF Gateway
“Today, we direct your attention to one of the great forces for good in modern SF, the one and only Pat Cadigan.
Twice winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award: in 1992 for Synners and then again in 1995 for Fools, Pat has also been shortlisted multiple times for the Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, BSFA, World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, among many others. In 2013, she won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for ‘The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi’.
Many are the good and great of the field who have lined up to praise her. Can Neil Gaiman, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling all be wrong? We think not. Nor could fellow Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Paul McAuley, who wrote an astute review of Fools in the early days of this very blog.
OK, we’re sure by now that you’re champing at the bit to sample some of Pat’s extraordinary work – but where to begin? We’re glad you asked!”
So click on through to find out how to get reading!
Apropos good reading, you may – or may not – be aware that I really don’t do Horror. I simply don’t get it. Whatever – that’s just me. I have a good many writerly pals among horror authors and find they have a lot of useful and interesting things to say about both the craft and the business of writing. One of those is Adam Nevill. Here’s the latest news from him, if horror’s remotely your sort of thing.
I’m offering a FREE full-length book, CRIES FROM THE CRYPT: SELECTED WRITINGS, for folks who take my monthly newsletter, and it’s now available to download from my homepage.
CRIES FROM THE CRYPT is a selection of uncollected short fiction, unpublished chapters from my novels, advice for writers, features on horror, and some favourite interviews that accompanied the publication of my books. I guess it’s a horror companion and weighs in at 70K words. Just register at my homepage and collect your free copy.
Click through for a full table of contents and other information on how this will work.
Now for my question. That news from Adam got me thinking about newsletters. Increasing numbers of authors I know are doing them and as a reader myself, I see why. Facebook, Twitter and other such social media are increasingly ‘curating’ their content with algorithms and such which ensure you see what they want you to see (and make money from) rather than what you necessarily want to see.
Okay, that’s commerce for you. But how to make sure you don’t miss the latest news from a favourite author? Do you want that landing in your inbox?
If you’d be interested in a newsletter from me, let me know in comments. I’m interested in whatever thoughts you may on the pros and cons. How often might you like to get such a thing – monthly, every two months, quarterly? What sort of thing would you be looking for? Snippets from work in progress? Bits of idle flash fiction?
Any and all observations welcome.
Contemplating 2016 – some thoughts on the year ahead
Well, I know this much; my year will be bookended by teaching. I’ve got a trip to Lancaster University scheduled for late January and in early December I’ll be tutoring alongside Pippa Goldschmidt at Moniack Mhor’s residential creative writing course on Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’m very much looking forward to both trips. George Green at Lancaster is both a good friend and amiably shrewd educator. Pippa and I have been bouncing ideas back and forth for a while now and finalising/integrating our workshops promises to be most rewarding.
In fact my diary is already fuller for the end of the year than it is for the early months. In November I’ll be the Guest of Honour at Novacon in Nottingham; an unlooked-for honour, offering interesting opportunities to discuss our genre and related issues. In between times, I have a couple of new short story commissions and some of my last year’s writing will be published. All things being equal, I hope to be at Bristolcon in October.
What else will I be doing with my time – alongside getting the latter two Aldabreshin Compass books out in ebook editions? I think this is where the flip side to my last blog post becomes relevant. Listing my achievements in 2015 was as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, because I’m very conscious of the things I had planned a year ago and which simply didn’t get done, given all the other calls on my time.
I didn’t write a full length work of fiction last year – for the first time since 1997. To save you counting on your fingers, yes, this does mean I have already-completed, as-yet-unpublished novels sitting on my hard drive. Finding the right agent/editor for one or more of those, to get the fresh professional eyes and input needed for a final rewrite so they make the mainstream publishing grade, is something else that didn’t happen last year. In two cases I already have ideas for significant revisions but it’s been impossible to schedule the necessary time and mental space to do such work.
I have assorted short stories and the novella ‘The Ties that Bind’ set in the River Kingdom milieu which I want to see published as ebooks, as well as novel proposals complete with opening chapters set in that same world which I want to get in front of an agent/editor. That didn’t happen last year either. Nor did investigating crowd funding systems such as Patreon – beyond establishing that crowd funding’s handling of EU digital VAT is a confused mess on all sides.
All of which has had a significant impact on my professional cash flow. If you’re wondering why I’m not listing any other convention trips as currently planned, bluntly, I cannot afford them as the writerly finances stand.
I didn’t contribute to any of the ‘Best Read of 2015’ pieces I was invited to take part in towards the end of the year, because I cannot recall when I was last so woefully under-read in both fiction and non-fiction. The folders of unwatched television drama and documentaries on the DVR tell the same story. As does the folder of internet bookmarks and notes for a good few blogposts that never got written.
Just to be crystal clear, this is an assessment not a lament. There’s no need for anyone, however gently and/or well-intentioned, to point out that I made my own choices and set my own priorities last year. Quite so. I’ll be doing the same in 2016 and I rather think those choices and priorities will be markedly different in this coming year.
I don’t suppose you’ll be in the least surprised to learn that campaigning against the new EU VAT legislation on crossborder digital sales continues to take up a lot of my time. We are now collecting evidence on just how unworkable the supposedly simple system is – and that is thankfully getting the attention of various MEPs and MPs. Updates here, from EU VAT Action and here on the other blog I started to handle this issue.
Since all this means making noise about other things like the representation of women in SFF is taking a back seat, I’m particularly pleased to see this on Marianne de Pierre’s blog
So here’s the thing guys… I need your help. I began my Research Masters on Future Feminism today, and I’m compiling a list of contemporary female SF authors (not fantasy, not YA, and not straight SF romance) who have been published in novel length work since 2000.
I’d love to hear who your favourite female SF (post 2000) author is so I can add them to my reading list. Please leave the names in the comments section and I’ll add them to my main list. I’ve made a solid start, but there are many more! I’ve alphabetised by surname.
Do check out the blog and see if you can add to the list?
In other news? Well, I’ve had a short story accepted for an anthology and am currently turning that from a draft into a final version thanks to the editor’s helpful feedback. It’s nice to be tackling some fiction again!
In between times, I am working on prepping the texts of the Aldabreshin Compass novels for their ebook editions. We’re also briefing an artist for cover art. The plan is to get all four done at once so we can release them in alternate months later this year. I’m also seriously considering writing some related short stories as re-reading the books has tempted me into tugging on a few lingering loose threads…
Once that’s all underway, I’ll turn my attention to getting the River Kingdom novella ‘The Ties that Bind’ out as an ebook as well as a collection of the short stories I’ve written in that setting.
Meantime, the novel I wrote last year is doing the round of agents… Reactions so far remind me just how subjective this game is. I’ve had ‘thanks but no thanks’ responses like ‘Aspect A is great but I’d really be looking for more Aspect B’ to set against ‘Aspect A is lacking for me, though Aspect B is very well done’. Plus the always baffling ‘I really like Aspect A and Aspect B… but I don’t quite love the whole thing enough to represent it…’
So on we go…