Write a Short Story a Week Like Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Once many years ago, Ray Bradbury decided the best way to become a good short story writer was to write a whole bunch of them. So he committed to writing a short story every week for a year. He also decided the only way to get published was to submit short stories, so he submitted a story once a week for a year too.

It’s a simple formula many beginning writers just don’t get — you got to put in the effort, and you have to send your stuff out there. As Bradbury explained in this speech, practice will help you, and it is impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.

So let me introduce you to Write1Sub1, an online group where we encourage each other to write and submit a short story every week. They don’t have to be the same short story, because you probably want to let a story sit for a while before going back and editing it with a fresh set of eyes.

Many of us (including yours truly) are more novelists at heart, so if you don’t think you can face a weekly challenge, you can write and submit once a month. When I did this challenge back in 2014, I tried the weekly challenge. I burned out after four months, but got 16 stories written, more short stories than all previous years combined. Many got published in magazines and anthologies and the rest assembled into a collection I indie published. It really does work!

Check us out on our Facebook page. It costs nothing but your time, commitment, and perhaps your immortal soul. Keep on writing!

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The Mighty Electric Men

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

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“This man is a Samson in physical strength – in fact, the limit of his strength is unknown even to me., as every bone and muscle in him is of the finest steel. The machinery that works his limbs is inside of him, and he can walk, run, jump, and kick forward or backward with wonderful agility. The motive power that moves him is in a powerful electric battery enclosed in yonder box, under the floor of the carriage, and is communicated to him through wires inside the shafts. … By pressing one knob inside the carriage, there, I start the battery under the floor, and the man shows signs of light and life. That globe inside the helmet gives forth a light that equals the noonday sun, and his eyes do the same. At will I can extinguish all the lights, or only one at a time, just as I may elect. Then another knob starts him going, and another will turn him to the right and another to the left – just as a faithful horse obeys the rein and the bit – and all, too, without my being exposed to any danger from without.”

We think of robots being fairly modern marvels, but that’s definitely a description of a robot and it dates to October 10, 1886. The Electric Man in Australia (the fantastically racist cover is from a later London magazine reprint, and yes, those are supposed to be Australian aborigines) was the invention of Frank Reade, Jr., a young inventor who was the prototype for Tom Swift and all his ilk. The adventures of young Frank – there had been a Frank Sr. for four books, with Harry Enton disguised as “Noname” – were written by the amazingly prolific “Noname,” really Luis Senarens, himself a teenager when the first Frank Reade, Jr. book, Frank Reade Jr. and His Steam Wonder, appeared in 1882 in Frank Tousey’s Boys Weekly. A “boys weekly” became a generic term for 8, 16, or 32 page weekly newsprint magazines. For a nickel, later a dime, readers got an exciting illustration on the front page, with the others crammed full of tiny type adventure or mystery novels or stories, sometimes serialized, sometimes filling an entire issue. Dozens of them appeared in the late 19th century only to be superseded by the coming of the pulp magazines.

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Shark Ships and Marching Morons: The Best of C. M. Kornbluth

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Best of C. M. Kornbluth-small The Best of C. M. Kornbluth-back-small

The Best of C. M. Kornbluth (1977) was the eighth installment in Del Rey’s Classic Science Fiction Series. Kornbluth’s long time friend and collaborator Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) served as editor; he also provided an introduction and brief intros to each story. Dean Ellis (1920-2009), who did the cover art for the first four volumes, returns to the series to do the cover art for this one — a scene from “Marching Morons.” Unlike previous volumes, there is no afterword.

Cyril M. Kornbluth (1923–1958) was an original voice in American science fiction. His middle initial “M” apparently stood for a non-existent name, and was meant to include his wife Mary, whom he hoped would eventually collaborate with him, but this evidently never materialized. Though he died at a very young age, his fiction corpus was long, varied, and lasting. He is probably most remembered today for his very influential novel The Space Merchants (1953), co-authored with Pohl. It’s strange to me that Korbluth and Pohl collaborated together since their writing styles seem almost polar opposites. But they were lifelong friends, which perhaps explains Pohl’s presence as editor here.

I’ve listened to most of the audible book His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth. Though that collection is clearly larger, I think Pohl did an excellent job choosing tales for The Best of C. M. Kornbluth. The stories here are truly representative of Kornbluth’s best.

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February Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

ssmJust a little to report from this past month’s excursion into the realm of short heroic fantasy. First, there’s the best issue in some time of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. Second, issue #14 of Grimdark Magazine. While the latter is loaded with good non-fiction articles, there’s only a single, albeit 15,000-word-long, story.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine rarely falls below good, but less often rises to great. I suspect it’s the nature of a magazine that only is able to pay $10 a story. Nonetheless, I found myself not only enjoying issue #72 but, despite not being surprised by anything in them, absolutely loving this month’s stories.

With the first, “Godsteel,” by Michael Meyerhofer, it came down completely to his characters’ voices and relationships. Three archers in the army of the Godprince, stationed in the siege lines surrounding the city of Haltan, are being ground down day after day. The ongoing possibility of a pointless death during an endless blockade brings the trio to a fateful decision that will affect the outcome of the battle and their futures.

During the soldiers’ introductions in the first paragraphs I became wary. While the senior one is named Mennaus, the others were called Tongue, because he lacks one, and Brain, because he hasn’t much of one. I’m immediately leery of any story where everyone has a cutesy nickname based on some trait, a trait which is also usually his singular characteristic. I was relieved to see that wasn’t the case in Meyerhofer’s story.

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Tell Me a Story: What Makes a Good Audiobook?

Monday, February 5th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Dolores Claiborne-smallI love audiobooks. I’d go so far as to call them my favorite means of ingesting stories.

It’s partly because of a failing on my part: I am capable of reading incredibly fast, but much like speeding through the countryside in a jet, this causes me to miss a lot. I can read a standard length novel in a couple hours, but I can tell you very little about style, minor plot details, and descriptions. I can force myself to slow down and read carefully. But I usually won’t. Hearing a story forces me to slow down and really absorb all the details of setting and characterization that I would otherwise bolt past. Beyond that, there’s something about the simple joy of being read to that I love. Maybe it’s the happy memories associated with bedtime stories, or my restless mind’s ability to putter about while hearing a book.

Within that affection, it also must be confessed that some stories? Are made for audiobook. Just as not every story is suited to be read aloud (House of Leaves is not available on Audible for a reason), some stories are so fantastic as audiobooks that reading them on the page feels like a letdown.

Dolores Claiborne comes to mind. Produced by Simon and Schuster Audio, Stephen King’s tale of domestic violence, murder, and friendship is narrated by Frances Sternhagen.

Sternhagen has the kind of Broadway and Hollywood resume most actors would murder for: people of a certain age :cough: probably best remember her as Cliff mother, Esther, on Cheers.

Dolores Claiborne is written as a monologue. The entirety of the book is conceived as Delores’ statement to the police on the death of her elderly employer. The circumstances under which Vera Donovan and Dolores are found upon the former’s death raise suspicion that Dolores has killed her. In addition, her fellow townspeople have long suspected that Delores had murdered her own husband decades before. The book is her attempt to set the entire story straight, from the 1950s to the present day.

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Birthday Reviews: Joseph H. Delaney’s “Survival Course”

Monday, February 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ed Soyka

Cover by Ed Soyka

Joseph H. Delaney was born on February 5, 1932 and died on December 21, 1999. He worked as an attorney before he began publishing in 1982 with the story “Brainchild.” Delaney was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1983 and 1984.

He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella three years in a row, beginning in 1983 for “Brainchild,” “In the Face of My Enemy” the following year, and finally for “Valentina,” written with Marc Stiegler, in 1985.

“Survival Course” was purchased for Analog by Stanley Schmidt and appeared in the June 1989 issue. It has not been republished.

“Survival Course” is a pretty typical time safari story, reminiscent of L. Sprague de Camp’s A Gun for Dinosaur and subsequent stories. What sets Delaney’s version apart is that his characters, Clint Mineau and Cletus Running Wolf, have been sent back to the Tertiary period to confirm the cause of the destruction of dinosaurs. Their mission was spurred on by a glancing blow by an asteroid which wiped out millions of people.

Delaney spends quite a bit of the story providing a travelogue of the period, allowing Clint and Cletus to see the local megafauna while they worry that their timing is off. There aren’t as many dinosaurs then they would have expected to find.

Unfortunately, this section runs a little long. Although it sets the scene, it also has a feel of Delaney wanting to share his homework with the reader, catching them up on the most recent (and now thirty years out of date) understanding of dinosaurs. When he finally gets around to the cause of saurian extinction, it almost feels like an afterthought, coming a little too late and a little too slight, and it feels like it lacks originality.

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Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I’ve lived in Latin America, visited Asia, parts of Europe, and even been part of the Canadian Foreign Service. I can’t say I understand our neighbors to the south. (I only recently discovered that ‘Bless your heart’ is an insult.) But I’m doing my best to cross the cultural barriers between Canada and the States because as my writing career continues, more and more of my social and professional group is in the US. Writers. Agents. Editors. Friends.

Recently, when Mishell Baker was visiting, I demonstrated how Canadian milk works and when the time came to open a new bag, gave her the chance to try. When Analog editor Trevor Quachri was visiting, I made sure to show him the bear sculpture and show him beaver tails.

But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.

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Birthday Reviews: Alex Bledsoe’s “Shall We Gather”

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jonathan Bartlett

Cover by Jonathan Bartlett

Alex Bledsoe was born on February 3, 1963. His story “The Big Finish” appeared in the June 1998 issue of Crossroads and his first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, which kicked off the Eddie LaCrosse series, was published in 2007. To date, the series includes five novels and a short story. He co-wrote the novel Sword Sisters with Tara Cardinal.

“Shall We Gather” was purchased by Paul Stevens for Tor.com, appearing on May 14, 2013. At the same time, it was released as an e-chapbook by Tor.com, and would later be included in the e-anthology The Stories: Five Years of Original Fiction. It is part of his Tufa series, which began with the novel The Hum and the Shiver and continued through five additional novels, with The Fairies of Sadieville scheduled for an April release.

“Shall We Gather” is set in eastern Tennessee in Bledsoe’s mythical Cloud County, where a fantastic race, the Tufa, have lived since before the coming of the Native Americans. Akin to Celtic fairies, the Tufa do not permit any churches to be built in the county, where most inhabitants have at least some Tufa blood.

When Old Man Foyt, one of the few humans who lives in Cloud County, is dying, he requests that Methodist minister Craig Chess attend to him to help him pass to the other side. After checking with his girlfriend, a Tufa, to ensure that his presence won’t offend the Tufa, Chess travels to help ease Foyt. Before he can enter the house, however, he is approached by Mandalay Harris, a powerful Tufa, who wants him to find out from Foyt whether the Tufa will face the same God as Christians upon their death. She believes that since Foyt has lived his entire life in Cloud County, something of the Tufa has infiltrated him and he might be able to share the answer with Chess at the moment of his death.

Despite Chess’s trepidation about entering Cloud County to perform in his capacity as a minister, all of the interactions between him and the Tufa or humans are completely amicable. The way Harris phrases her question for Foyt is interesting and seems Christiancentric rather than assuming a central place of her own race in her worldview.

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Birthday Review: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “The Cave”

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

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Cover by Russell Fitzgerald

Yevgeny Zamyatin (originally Евгений Замятин) was born in Levedyan, Russia on February 1, 1884. He was an early supporter of the Bolshevik Party, joining them before the Russian Revolution of 1917, but he grew disillusioned with their policies following the October Revolution. In 1921 he wrote the essay “I Am Afraid” and also published his major science fiction novel, We (Мы), which became the first work of fiction banned by the Goskomizdat, the Soviet censorship bureau.

The novel was first published in English in 1924 and received a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1994. In 1931, Zamyatin appealed to Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Communist Party and was granted permission to emigrate to Paris, where he died in poverty from an heart attack on March 10, 1937.

Zamyatin’s story “The Cave” (“Пещера) was originally published in Russian in 1922, and reprinted in English in the February 1969 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In Russian the work was seen as focusing attention on the everyday man when they were still trying to establish the Communist State. The story was also seen as a direct challenge to the ideals of the Revolution which Zamyatin has supported only five years before.

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Birthday Reviews: January Index

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ho Che Anderson Cover by Howard V. Brown

One twelfth of the way through the year, here’s a listing of the birthday reviews that appeared at Black Gate in January.

January 1, E.M. Forster: “The Machine Stops
January 2, Isaac Asimov: “Buy Jupiter
January 3, Patricia Anthony: “Lunch with Daddy
January 4, Ramsey Campbell: “No End of Fun
January 5, Tananarive Due: “Suffer the Little Children
January 6, Eric Frank Russell: “A Great Deal of Power
January 7, Hayford Peirce: “Mail Supremacy
January 8, Jack Womack: “Audience

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