Archive for the 'Genre: Science Fiction' Category

Ten Terrific Sites for Speculative Fiction Writers

Some of my favorite speculative fiction websites, listed in no particular order:

1. Ralan’s Webstravaganza: A fairly extensive listing of markets, paying and non-paying for horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.

2. Duotrope’s Digest: Another markets database; this one is sortable and includes non-genre markets as well.  Also offers statistics about the markets, such as the acceptance rates, etc.

3. Endicott Studio: If I had to pick a favorite website, this would probably be it. A treasure trove of mythology, folklore, and fairy tales, and information for writers who love them.

4. Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy: Jeffrey Carver’s free online writing course. If you’re an accomplished writer, a lot of this is probably repetition, but some of it probably isn’t, and a refresher never hurt anyone. If you’re just beginning, this site is invaluable.

5. Vision: A Resource for Writers: An online zine dedicated to writers, with all sorts of useful info.

6. Uncle Orson’s Writing Class: Part of Orson Scott Card’s Hatrack River website. Tips, hints and info from one of the masters.

7.  Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy:  Vonda N. McIntyre’s advice to writers.

8.  David Walton’s Writing Page:  A plethora of advice to spec-fic writers.

9.  Critters Workshop: One of the best writers’ workshops online, and the site includes a number of resources, including market stats.

10. SFWA’s Articles on Writing:  Advice from a number of pros.

This is, of course, far from an extensive list.  If you have any resources you’d like to share, please post them in the comments!

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Writing another life

Today, a student I tutor came in with a paper about cultural appropriation in film; I won’t go into what the student said, but it got me thinking.

I’ve seen lots of articles, blog posts and advice about writing from the viewpoint of a culture that is not the author’s own; it’s kind of a touchy topic, and understandably so. Here’s one take on the matter, and here’s another and yet another.

So, here’s my take.

There are times when the use of elements from another’s culture is simply, blatantly wrong; the use of various Native American symbology by non-Native opportunists in order to sell “spiritual enlightenment” for huge profits (none of which usually makes its way into the hands of the people from whom the opportunists are stealing) comes to mind.

But when am I commiting cultural appropriation as a writer?

I write fantasy. Contemporary fantasy, yes, but fantasy all the same, and I think that it’s in the speculative fiction genres that cultural appropriation is the most problematic. I use various elements from various cultures to construct the mythos of the world my characters walk through. As someone of very, very Irish descent, I have long been fascinated by Irish and Celtic stories and faith; when I first began to write seriously, it was from this that I drew most of my fiction’s symbology. These symbols came from my heritage, from my understanding of the culture of my ancestors.

But then I started expanding my horizons; I became extremely interested in Native American faith and spiritual practice, and created a character based on a Navajo spiritual figure.

When I submitted the story to an online group for critique, I was lambasted.

It wasn’t that I’d drawn the character inaccurately; it was that I, a white woman, drew the character at all. Truthfully, nobody in that particular group was of Native descent; they couldn’t say whether or not the character was done accurately or even respectfully, because they didn’t know.

I understand this. There are a lot of people out there for whom the figure that I’d appropriated is a spiritual figure, not just a folktale out of the distant past. The act of using this figure in fiction can very easily be seen as disrespectful. I certainly didn’t intend any disrespect when I wrote the story, but I trashed it after that.

In retrospect, the act of writing that story was disrespectful. I’d approached a holy figure in a way that made him a fantasy, something not true.

I have made use of elements of Native culture in stories since then; some of the stories are more successful than others. But I’m extremely careful now. I research. A lot. I cannot stress how much I research when I start writing at all about a culture that is not my own. And I try to have empathy. I try to imagine the various ways in which my story could be viewed.

Is it still problematic? Most certainly. I’m a child of the majority culture, a white woman, not visibly different from the majority culture at all. I know that I cannot possibly understand what it is like to live the life of any culture but my own. But not to try, I think, only furthers the problem. If every writer of European descent only writes about the culture of descendents of Europeans, their writing becomes stale, and we begin to write with blinders on.  I learn when I write.  I may make mistakes, but I will continue to try.

Great site for writers: DeepGenre

I love this blog. It’s written/maintained a number of authors: Constance Ash, Carol Berg, Barbara Denz, David Louis Edelman, Kate Elliot, Katherine Kerr, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Laura J. Mixon, Sherwood Smith and Lois Tilton.

There’s a lot of info here; discussion on a number of writers’ first novels, 13-line critiques, ins and outs of writing craft and business…I could go on.

So check it out: DeepGenre.

Literary Fantasy/SF/SFF books and authors

In relation to my last post about genre snobbery and people who dismiss entire genres as mind candy, I thought I’d post a list of fantasy and science fiction books (and authors) I consider to be of “literary merit”.  By that, I mean those works that aren’t simply escapist, as many dismiss fantasy/science fiction to be.  This list is by no means exhaustive; feel free to add!

  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis:  incredibly well-researched; paints a vivid and realistic picture of what  life in the Middle Ages might have been like.  Willis’ short stories are also amazingly good.
  • Anything by Patricia McKillip, particularly The Tower at Stoney Wood, The Changeling Sea and Ombria in Shadow.  Her language is lyrical and poetic, and her characters are complex and compelling.
  • Neverwhere and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  His other books and stories are great as well, but these two particularly stand out.
  • Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay.  The latter two of these three are almost alternate history; he writes about  recognizable historical periods and personae, but tweaks them in such a way that their stories come alive.  His use of language is beautiful as well.
  • Gregory Maguire.  Wicked.  Need I say more?  Actually, Wicked is not my favorite of his novels; Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is.
  • Some of Clive Barker’s work, especially the story “The Last Will and Testament of Jacqueline Ess.” It’s certainly on the dark side, but well worth reading.  The Thief of Always is also amazing.
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley.  Beautifully written, compelling and subtle.

And now I’m drawing a blank.  There are so many others, but it’s late and I still have writing to do tonight.  Anyone else care to add?


All in the Past: Even So Archives

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