Sunday, October 31, 2010

Goldilocks Planet 1

After decades of reading stories concerning colonies on other planets, I was thrilled to finally hear scientists had discovered a planet that was in the "Goldilocks Zone" around another star. Woohoo! Bring on the story ideas!

Well, that planet is not exactly another Earth, so in order to be 'realistic', I've got to do some thinkin'.

Temperature: Not too hot, not too cold. Warm enough to allow liquid water. Yeah, water's good. I can work with water.

Gravity: Okay, this planet has about 3 times the mass of Earth. Hmm, does that mean a 100-pound man on Earth weighs 300 pounds on Goldilocks A? I'm going to have to check on that. Even if gravity isn't a full 3 times Earth-G, it's still going to take some getting used to. Some kind of biological augmentation? Like I said, I need to research this aspect.

Planetary year: In this case, about 37 days. Wow. That's fast. How would colonists deal with a year that feels more like a month? And with a year this short, is there any room for 'seasons'? Can you imagine a winter that lasts 8-9 days? I'll have to check on this, too, but I'm thinking it would take an exaggerated elliptical orbit, or a lop-sided orbit to produce anything like seasons. It's possible, so … I'll take it under advisement. Could be interesting to play with.

Planetary day: In this case, about 37 days. Oh. That basically means it keeps one blistering-hot face toward its sun, and one frozen face toward the stars. Wait, didn't the scientists say it was not too hot, not too cold? Sure, in the twilight area between the two sides. So that's where the colony would need to be, with either perpetual dawn or perpetual sundown on the horizon. That is definitely going to take some thinkin' about, as well as some research.

I'll get back to you about this 'Goldilocks Planet'.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Death in the Family

I was so shocked to get word today (or yesterday?) that Realms of Fantasy was going under. Again. Horrendous confusion for several moments, the only semi-coherent thought in my head something on the order of, "But … but … but … I just send them a submission!"

Yes, as so often is the case, self-centeredness was the first reaction.

And then confusion crowded in, blotted out everything else as I tried to figure out, "Why can the 'Big Three (or Four?)' science fiction magazines manage to eke out an existence even in these hard times, but apparently a fantasy magazine can't? I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering that. It must be mind-blowing to the RoF publisher, editors and staff.

I don't know the answer to that. Probably nobody does. I'm sure if the publisher and editors had any ideas on the subject, they would have used them to try to stay afloat. According to Shawna McCarthy, fantasy out-sells science fiction three to one, so somehow, somewhere, the math just doesn't make sense. Since I'm a big fan of mathematics, this whole thing feels kind of … surreal.

Let's have a moment of silence for Realms of Fantasy, a moment to think about the stories it MIGHT have published for our entertainment. Now let's heave a sigh and trudge off into a bleaker future. Sad as it is to say, may RoF RiP.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nice Rejection

I've been looking for an agent for my second novel. (In a fit of frustration, I sent novel 1 straight to a publisher, so it's sitting on a slush pile right now.) I got a nice rejection this morning from my latest query to an agent.

I don't take these rejections personally. These people don't know me, so how can it be personal? I appreciate that their desks are full of hopeful submissions and queries, and they have to work through them, because tomorrow will bring another big batch to swamp them.

I've noticed that rejections of a short story differ from rejections of a novel. The rejection of a short story is likely to be brief, a simple, "It doesn't meet our needs," and it might even be on a piece of notepaper, meaning a half-page or 1/3-page form, if it's hard copy form rejection. Even an email rejection is likely a form rejection that gets pasted into the email box.

Agents responding to a query about a novel usually send it in the form of a letter, if it's hard-copy. Whether hard or electronic, the ones I've been getting have been longer than a short story rejection; the agent spends several sentences explaining that their workload is horrendous, they can't take on new clients right now unless the project seems red hot, they need to concentrate on their current clients, that this in no way reflects on my ability as a writer, and good luck in my efforts. (Yes, I paraphrased.) I almost feel like sending them a thank you note for such a nice rejection, even if it is (most likely) a form rejection pasted in an email or mail-merged into a letter.

Although getting a rejection is (obviously) not the outcome I was hoping for, it's far nicer than not getting ANY response from an agent. Some claim they are just too busy to respond to any query except those they are interested in. Maybe they get that many queries, but it just leaves me with a cold feeling about that agency. Maybe they need a part-time assistant to send out nice rejections for them. Or maybe they don't feel they need to be nice to writers they don't already represent.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pet Peeve 1

I want to talk about one of my pet peeves.

Now, I'm not so stodgy that I insist the language remain exactly the same as it was in my youth. I just don't think that's realistic. The world is changing and language needs to change also, or we'll soon notice we can't verbalize our observations about the world. Slang and dialects are part of that, so that's not the type of thing I usually get upset about.

This particular pet peeve is this: "My co-worker that has red hair…" I hear this all the time, not to mention read it. In this example, 'that' refers to 'co-worker', so a person has just been referred to with a non-person pronoun. In my mind, 'that' can refer to sofas, cars, houses, and even animals. But when you are speaking about a person, it is far more respectful to refer to them as 'who'. It is acknowledgement that they are human. "So I said to my co-worker, the one who has red hair…"

I could be wrong. I don't profess to have any kind of high-level college degree in English. It just seems to me that if you are referring to people, you should at least acknowledge that they are people, and not 'things'. After all, what goes around comes around, right? Would you like to be called a 'thing'?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Not Exactly Writing

I recently wrote about my figures concerning how many hours I could spend on a 5000-word story in order to make writing worth the time. If you'll remember, I had arrived at the conclusion that if I spent 25 hours on a 5000-word story, I needed to sell it for $0.05 per word to make $10 an hour.

I was counting that as hours spent in writing and re-writing, editing and polishing. I can easily measure them. Have I opened this file? Start the timer. Moving on to something else? Stop the timer.

It's not so easy to measure research, time spent submitting, and all the other stuff that comes with the territory of being a fiction writer. That's because you don't know how many times you'll have to submit any particular story. If you spend 24 hours writing a story, are you going to stop submitting after you've spent an hour checking on guidelines and stuff? No, I don't think so. That would be 25 hours spent making $0 per hour. No, keep submitting, even dipping a bit below that $0.05 per word, because $7 or even $5 an hour is better than $0 an hour, right? So I won't count the time I spend submitting.

And research – how could I possibly count the time spent on that? For one thing, it is seldom research for the benefit of only one story; the facts I discover about the Jupiter moon could easily be used in any number of stories, not just the one I'm currently working on. And there's the science reading I do in hopes of finding something that I might use, someday. Some of what I read might be useful tomorrow, or next year, or never. Or all of them. To what story would I 'charge' that time?

So, when I talk about how much time I can spend on a story, I'm talking about the actual writing stage. The Befores and Afters will just have to count as 'hobbies'. Everybody should have some hobbies.

See ya next week.    Trudy