Mary Robinette Kowal and Jane Austen: separated at birth by a time-traveller


(Left: Mary Robinette Kowal. Right: Jane Austen, photo by TV West Country/Katie Rowlett)

Mary Robinette Kowal writes regency novels like Shades of Milk and Honey that blend magic with the milieu of Jane Austen.

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An American in Yemen: unlikely and wonderful tourism


Polish-American software developer Maciej Cegłowski decided to take a holiday in Yemen's capital city of Sana'a, home to breathtaking, 600-year-old skyscrapers that look like gingerbread houses.

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Elements of Spook Style

The terrible writing and design of spook memos and Powerpoint slides have come to the fore since June 2013. However, that doesn't mean that there's not some pretty good style guides available for America's brave spooks. USA USA USA.

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Novel-writing is very energy-efficient

How much energy is expended in all the keypresses made in the course of typing a novel? Not much: "With a lot of rewrites, you might expend several kilojoules—but you'd need to rewrite every word 10 times to match the energy stored in a single AA battery." [XKCD What If?]

Jay Lake, on blogging your own death

jaylake

Simon Owens writes, "I got a chance to interview Jay Lake extensively not long before his death and wrote a long profile on him and his cancer blogging that explores the impact he's had, both on the cancer and science fiction communities. He spoke extensively on what he hoped his legacy would be and how he'd be remembered after he died."

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RIP, Jay Lake


The first time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was after the 2006 Los Angeles World Science Fiction convention; I was invited to a dinner with a bunch of other Campbell Award winners from years gone by. It was the year John Scalzi won the award, and I want to say it was me, him, Jay and Elizabeth Bear, though these dinners do blend together and I may be missing a name.

The last time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was last July, at the San Diego Comic Con, where Jay was in a wheelchair, and when I asked him how he was, he said he was dying, and that he wasn't going to last more than about six months. He was frank about this, and seemed to have made some peace with it. His daughter, the other people around him, we all knew he was dying. He didn't let us get maudlin. But every conversation I had with him meant something, because I had gotten to know Jay by then, and to know what a fantastic person and what a fantastic writer he was. I made a conscious effort to fix every interaction in my mind. I hugged him goodbye when I left. He was still a bear of a man, but unmistakably frail.

Jay died today.

He'd had cancer for years, and had been brave about it, and had fought. He even beat it for a while. Not long ago, though, it became clear that he was going to lose. Every time I saw Jay thereafter, he was the model of a person who was looking death in its snake-eyed gaze and not allowing the fear to paralyze him.

But I think he was afraid, and his loss -- like the loss of every single person who is taken by cancer -- represents a loss to us all. Not just because he was a prolific, imaginative and talented writer. Not just because he was a devoted father and a very good friend. Not even because he was a good man. He was every one of those things.

But we lost something today when Jay died, because every person who dies of a mindless, terrible, awful disease like cancer costs our species something.

Good-bye Jay. You are missed already.

From the official announcement:

If you want to make a contribution in Jay’s name, please make it to:
Clayton Memorial Medical Fund
c/o OSFCI
P.O. Box 5703
Portland, Oregon 97228

See also:

* John Scalzi

* Tor.com

Clarion SF/F writeathon: write, sponsor writers, help a new generation

Once again, it's time for the Clarion Writers Workshop writeathon - we need writers and sponsors to help fund the Clarion Workshop, the respected, long-running science fiction writers' bootcamp. A writeathon is just what is sounds like: a fundraiser where writers ask their friends to sponsor their writing. I'm writing 1,000 words a day, five days a week, on UTOPIA (working tile), a novel for adults: you can sponsor me here. (Disclosure: I'm proud to volunteer as a board member for the 501(c)3 nonprofit Clarion Foundation)

You should try the 1913 Webster's, seriously


James Somers thinks you should switch to the Websters 1913 dictionary, and he cites John McPhee's composition method of looking up synonyms for problematic words as the key to his peerless prose style. Somers makes a great case for the romance of historical dictionaries, but for my money (literally -- I spent a fortune on this one), the hands-down best reference for synonyms and historical language reference is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, whose magnificence cannot be overstated.

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Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts

Ellen Kushner writes, "The editors of Interfictions Online are happy to announce the birth of the journal's latest issue, the third in the past twelve months of the trailblazing journal of the weird, the interstitial, and the uncategorizable. Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts is published online by the Interstitial Arts Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit devoted to giving border-crossing artists, academics, critics and the general public a forum and a focus to discuss and create works of art that defy categories and confound boundaries.

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240 Writers Guild of America members sign pro-Net Neutrality letter to the FCC

Robbo sez, "The WGA (Writers Guild of America West) has stepped into the fray over the FCC's proposed non-Net Neutrality rules with over 240 members (show runners, creators & writers alike) signing a letter urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to protect a free and open internet and not let it become like cable television. While the larger tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla and others have also publicly expressed their concerns over FCC proposals to create a two-tiered approach to Internet access there has been little if any outcry from any major players in the Hollywood industry - until now."

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Authors Alliance: new pro-fair use writers' group


The major US writers' group, the Authors Guild, claims to represent all writers when it sues over library book-scanning and other fair uses; a new group, the Authors Alliance, has been launched by leading copyright expert Pam Samuelson to represent the authors who like fair use, users' rights, and who reject censorship and surveillance. I'm a proud founding member, along with Jonathan Lethem, Katie Hafner and Kevin Kelly.

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Kickstarting Storium: turn writing into a multiplayer game

Mur Lafferty sez, "This week, Storium launched its Kickstarter and reached funding ($25000) in the first day. Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game."

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New Disruptors 65: Made from Scratch with Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin

Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin founded Scratch Magazine, a born-digital publication that tells writers what they're worth and how the publishing industry sausage-making factory actually works. Jane has an extensive background as an editor, and may be best known for her decade at Writer's Digest. Manjula is a freelance writer, whose work has appeared widely in places like Modern Farmer, San Francisco Weekly, and our own The Magazine, in which she wrote about musician and producer John Vanderslice.

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This episode is sponsored by:

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Cold Equations and Moral Hazard: science fiction considered harmful to the future

My latest Locus column is "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard", an essay about the way that our narratives about the future can pave the way for bad people to create, and benefit from, disasters. "If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?"

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Talking diversity in comics with John Ridley, writer of 12 Years a Slave


Zack Smith writes, "I recently got to talk to John Ridley, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, about his past writing superhero comics and cartoons including JUSTICE LEAGUE and THE AUTHORITY. Ridley had a number of smart things to say on such topics as the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Humnan Torch, working with the late Dwayne McDuffie on the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie 'Starcrossed' and his own experiences working in the comics industry. Though he's obviously gone on to big things, Ridley still has a great deal of passion for comics and the people who create them."

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