Category Archives: Education

“You Will Be Assimilated: Data vs. The Borg” Up at The Book Smugglers

I’ve got an article out today about a sci-fi trope I’ve always found rather curious: the robot who wants to be human.  As you know, robots are near and dear to my heart, and how they’re treated in-narrative speaks volumes to me about empathy and humanity.

In “You Will Be Assimilated: Data vs. The Borg” I discuss the cultural implications of the trope and how it relates to assimilation and colonialism.  And I cover more than just Star Trek–we’ve got Xenomorphs, pod people, Cybermen, and more.

We as biological entities are positive we understand what losing ourselves to the artificial would be like. And yet we fail to lend a similar understanding to how a robot might feel upon assimilating into the biological, because we can easily see the horror in personally being overtaken, but refuse to see the horror when we overtake.

data and borg queen

To read the full article,  head on over to The Book Smugglers.

Happy reading!

~Marina

 

 

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LoneStarCon 3 and the Five Minute Rule

So, my plan was to do a LoneStarCon 3 overview today, but alas, I feel I am too late. There are already a ton of rehashes all across the web focusing on everything from the lack of a YA Hugo , to the overall older vibe (google it and take your pick), to how it stacks up against other cons.

There are even some nice blogs that cover who met whom and who did what. (What, you say I’m only linking to Lou Anders’ post because I’m in it? Not so, not so!)

What could I possibly bring to the table when we’ve already got an embarrassment of riches (ie. blog posts)?

I’m here to give you the one thing I learned at Worldcon that trumps everything else: the five minute rule.

What is that, you ask? Is it like the five second rule? Er, no.

The five minute rule relates to a paranormal phenomenon that can only be experienced when a large number of people you want to meet are all gathered in close proximity for long periods of time. Here’s the theory:

Whenever you are about to leave a social area of the con–say you’re sleepy and want to call it a night–wait five minutes. If you do, someone interesting will inevitably make an appearance and talk to you.

The first time it happened we (a group of us from the Writers of the Future forum hung out a good chunk of the time) were at the hotel bar just as it closed. The staff were ‘encouraging’ us to leave, and we thought it best to comply. However, we lagged, and the lady taking out the garbage bins kind of barreled through the crowd–inevitably pushing us (literally) into Lou Anders from Pyr. He was great to meet. I had attended several of his panels that day, and ended up going to several more. We ran into each other on other occasions during the con, and each time was a pleasure.

The second time I encountered the phenomenon, the group of people I was with had just decided to head to bed, but as it was nearing two (or was it three?) in the morning, we were all moving rather slowly. Within five minutes, an editor form Orbit (who shall remain unnamed, as it seems this is one of her favorite con games) came and sat at our table (led there by a friend). She immediately asked us all to pitch our books, and was kind enough to critique our attempts. If we’d left when we’d decided to, we would have missed out.

It happened again and again throughout the con. We wanted to leave, but we lingered, and ran into Joshua Bilmes. We wanted to leave, but lingered, and ran into Kim Stanley Robinson. We wanted to leave, but decided we better wait five minutes because, geez, the correlation between us deciding to leave and interesting people showing up was just getting weird…

So, anyway, that’s my unique Worldcon observation: when you think it’s time to go, wait five minutes. You never know who might make an appearance.

All kidding aside, Worldcon is primarily about people–meeting new people, and reconnecting with colleagues you already know. That’s why it’s essential to hang around after hours, and if you’re an introvert like me, to step out of your comfort zone for a while.

Do you have a unique Worldcon observation? If so, let me know in the comments!

~Marina

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List Your Way to a Better (Writing) You

My least favorite part of the process is…? Copyediting. Spelling has never been my strongpoint. I particularly have problems with homophones and compound words. Trying to catch all those little flubs is no fun at all.

But copyediting is important. It’s what elevates a manuscript from armature to pro. It makes the story clean and accessible.

So, today I made two lists–one for each of my problem areas. Neither is complete, and I assume that years from now I’ll still be adding to them. The most difficult thing about making the lists was realizing that there are homophones and compound words out there that I’ve used incorrectly because I had no idea a correct version existed. What do you mean there are two spellings of compliment (complement)? Supersensitive is a word (synonym of hypersensitive)?

Making these lists has reinforced for me the importance of continuous learning. I will always have weaknesses, which means I will always be able to improve. I can get better. I can level up.

I highly suggest doing the same for yourself. Maybe your weakness isn’t homophones, but incorrect word usage, or comma placement. Maybe it isn’t prose related–maybe you’ve had trouble with time management. Whatever it is, make yourself some kind of guide, something that shows you the correct or most effective way to overcome your weakness. Even if it’s just a start, it can be a great tool to add to your growing box of tricks.

Always strive to improve. Never give up. Never surrender.

What are your tips and tricks for improving problem areas? Let me know!

~Marina

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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 3

Here is a links to Part 2 (which contians a link to Part 1).

So, on Wednesday I typed up the following and posted it to WordPress.  Or, at least, I thought I did.  I was surprised to log in today (in order to moderate a comment) and find that there was no Part 3.  Either WordPress glitched on me, or somehow I navigated away from the page before actually hitting publish.  Luckily I save all of my lengthy posts in word docs.   I apologize for not catching the mistake sooner!

So, Sunday was Gala day.  We had a nice breakfast at the hotel in the morning, and then all the ladies were rushed off for hair and makeup (the guys got a couple of hours of down time, I believe.  Which is a fair trade off, since they did have to suffer through tux fittings earlier in the week).

Our beautification was done by cosmetology students, which had its pros and cons.  As we artists and writers were new to our perspective industries and had been learning all week, I liked the idea of furthering education in yet another field.  However, having students instead of pros do the work had its issues.  The woman who did my hair was very nice, but insisted on curling it.  I tried to explain that it would not work (I slept in curlers for my wedding and my hair was perfectly straight six hours after taking them out), but she went for it anyway.  As a result, when I finally made it on stage that night (I was the last writer to give my thank-yous), my hair simply looked like I’d failed to comb it.  And I’d made the mistake of telling my makeup artists that I usually wear smokey-purple eye shadow.  All she heard was purple, apparently, because man, my eyelids were puuuuurpppple.

Other ladies had much more luck–and others, much worse.  But, overall, despite our hits and misses, we all looked quite fantastic once we slipped into our gowns and jewelry.

My husband, father, brother, and step-mom had all flown in for the awards.  It was fantastic to see them all, if it was only for a few minutes.  I’ve been to several awards events with my husband, and at all of them the awards recipients were given specific times to take pictures with their guests.  Not so at the WotF gala.  We winners were rushed from one thing to the next, pictures here, interviews there, but never with our significant others.  The only time I got to spend with my husband was a few minutes on the red carpet out front, and at dinner (I would recommend future winners take dinner time to break out the cameras).  I got to see the rest of my family even less, as they were understandably not invited to the dinner.

The event itself was magnificent.  Beautiful sets, fantastic guest speakers, and wonderful dancers.  A special vignette was preformed for a few of the stories, and I was so glad mine was chosen.  (ETA: one positive point to the mis-post is that I can now share with you the gala clip that includes the dance done for my story, Master Belladino’s Mask.  My speach is in there too, but you can ignore that.)

Everyone’s speeches went well–even when they didn’t go as planned.  Alex Wilson (author of Vestigial Girl) ended up thanking two wives (though he insists he really only has the one).  I was introduced by none other than Larry Niven, who was quite shy and very nice.

After the ceremony we were all whisked away to the signing (this is when most award events afford the recipients some time for pictures with family).  We were seated in a circle emulating book order, which had me between Brian Trent (whose work opens the anthology), and Andrea Stewart (whose story, Dreameater, comes right before mine at the end).

It was a whirlwind event, with everyone in attendance coming by to get their copies of the anthology and calendars signed.

David Wolverton’s son, who had been in a coma for the entire workshop week, woke up for the first time that night, right before the gala started.   It was perfectly serendipitous.

After the signing I got to see my family for a few minutes, to thank them briefly and give hugs before we were once again rushed back to the hotel for an after party–which Joni Labaqui graciously hosted.  Though I don’t remember the exact time, it was pretty late at this point.  Mike Resnick hung out with us for a while, and though I had to tear myself a way relatively ‘early,’ I know many of the winners stayed up until 4am or so.

And that, my friends, was the gala.

There will indeed be a Part 4, as though the awards event was on Sunday, the workshop week wasn’t officially over until Tuesday.

~Marina

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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 2

Here’s the link to Part 1 if you missed it.

And jumping right into part 2:

Once we turned in our twenty-four hour stories, we got to have some fun (not that whipping out a story, isn’t fun).  We formally met our illustrators and saw their work for the first time.

Down stairs in the ASI building, prints of the story illustrations had been nicely framed and set up on easels in a semi-circle.  The illustrators stood off to the side so that we writers wouldn’t have any indication of who had done what.  Then we had to guess which illustration belonged to our story.  This was nerve wracking for the lot of us– the writers were worried that we wouldn’t be able to recognize which illustration was ours (and that we would thus insult the illustrator), while the illustrators were worried their work might be too different from the writers vision (and that we in turn would be insulted).

I was immediately drawn to the illustration done by Tiffany England.  I made a beeline for it as we came in through the doors.  I thought, This is mine.  I’m pretty sure it’s minePlease, can it be mine?  But I hadn’t even looked at any of the other illustrations yet, so I had to pry myself away and make the rounds.  All of the illustrations were beautiful (Among the notable included the piece done for Marilyn Guttrige’s story, The Ghost Wife of Arlington), but yep, the first one I had been drawn to was the illustration for my story.

After, we writers returned to our seats for some lectures by judges and past winners alike.  It was great to learn about different people’s processes (I think Kevin J. Anderson’s method of writing-by-tape-recorder is the most unique) and publishing experiences.

The next day (day five) we took a field trip to Bang Printing’s facilities to learn about how books get made, to see Writers of the Future Vol. 29 being printed, and to get our first copies.  Christopher Reynaga (author of The Grande Complication) came home with a special find: an un-cut copy with the pages still long and uneven.   The tour was an amazing experience, not just because we got to see the book in all its many stages, but because we did it as a group–authors and illustrators together.  My favorite workshop-week picture was taken here, as a group of us marveled at an un-cut copy of the book (It can be seen here).

After our tour at the printers, we writers went back to do our critique session (while the artists got to play it cool at Disney studios, I might add).  The crits were followed by more guest speakers, including the editor-in-chief of Locus mag (Eric Cline, author of Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya, had a spirited discussion with her about the pros and cons of self publishing).

That night we had a big group dinner with all of the attending judges and winners, writers and illustrators alike.

Saturday (day six) then consisted of even more wisdom from the pros.  The professional interactions at the workshop, I’d venture to guess, are something newer writers would be hard pressed to get anywhere else.  Sure, you might run into many of the judges at conventions and hear from them on panels, but at WotF they’re there for you, not you and the thousands of other con-goers, just you and your fellow winners.  You could get in-depth education by taking a workshop (many of the judges provide workshops), but that wouldn’t give you such a wide range of people to hear from.

On Saturday we also went to the Ebel theater to do a dry run of the awards ceremony (we all took turns getting on stage and saying whatever came to mind so that the sound crew could make the adjustments needed).  After that we had a brief session with John Goodwin in which he discussed speeches and showed us some examples from previous years, just so that we’d all be comfortable and prepared.  Then we jotted down our thank-you speeches and spent some time practicing (of course, very few of the real speeches ended up much like the practice ones–except for Brian Trent’s (author of War Hero), which included a list of at least 20 names spewed forth in one breath).

The gala really deserves its own post, so I guess I’ll reserve that tale for next week.

Again, if you’ve got any questions, I’m here to answer them!

~Marina

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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 1

Ok, I’m nearly back on schedule.

The Writers of the Future workshop week was wonderfully educational.  We had two amazing primary teachers, Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers, and a plethora of secondary speakers who all gave their take on different aspects of writing fiction professionally.

When I arrived I was picked up at the airport at the same time as Stephen Sottong (Author of Planetary Scouts), who along with Tina Gower (Author of Twelve Seconds and our Gold Award winner!), was my quarter-mate.  Tina ended up being my roommate for the week, which was fantastic.  After long evenings in the hotel lobby talking to night-owl judges, we’d often go back to the room and stay up a few hours more talking.

The group stayed at the Loews hotel, and walked a few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard every day to the Author Services building.  The writing workshop was taught on the fourth floor, while the illustrator’s was taught on the first in front of the stage for the L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theater (where live radio plays of Hubbard’s works are preformed.  We got to see one on the Monday before we left, and it was very well done).

The ASI fourth floor is beautiful, and the area we were taught in is basically one big library (the majority of which is devoted to Hubbard’s works, but there is one wing devoted to the works of WotF winners).  There, Tim, Dave and company instructed us on the ways of the professional.  We received both lessons in craft and in business.

The most amusing thing about the workshop was the constant intrusion of the photographers (who were very nice).  Those pretty pictures you see on the WotF website and newsletter?  They didn’t get that well composed by accident (most of them, anyway).  We were constantly having our table tops rearranged, papers hidden, and drinks removed.  This constituted a bonus lesson in photography.

The most stressful thing about the workshop was by far the twenty-four hour story.  We were given an object, a trip to the library, and a stranger (ok, we had to find the stranger, none were given to us) to inspire a story, then we were expected to produce a completed story(as in, written to the end, not necessarily submission-ready) in twenty-four hours (that’s twenty-four hours writing time.  The inspiration points happened over the previous forty-eight hours or so, so we did have time to think and digest before having to produce words).

On our first workshop day we received our objects.  I was given a box of who-knows-how-old raisins out of Tim’s grab bag.  A few of the other objects included a floppy disk, a magnifying glass, and a hotel room key.

For me, the stressful part came not when we were given the go-ahead to start typing, but when we had to go talk to a stranger.  As a confirmed introvert, striking up a conversation with a random person is not my thing.  But I did it.  Thankfully my stranger was a very nice sunglasses salesman from Turkey (Alisa Alering [Author of Everything You Have Seen] also spoke to a sunglasses salesmen from Turkey–oddly enough, they were not the same person).  A few other people (ahem, Tina) had much more awkward encounters.

The actual writing part went smoothly for me.  I think this is because I’ve had some practice writing stories in a day.  We started writing at 4:00pm and were expected to have our story printed and turned in by 4:00pm the following day.  I was able to write ‘the end’ on a 4,000ish-word draft at around 12:30 or 1:00am, while others were up most of the night.  The next day I edited at my leisure, making sure to strengthen themes and descriptions– other people did not have the same opportunity to rework.

Again, I don’t think writing the story went well for me because of any extra craft skills I possess.  I think it had 100% to do with having written that way multiple times before.   I was able to plan and pace myself accordingly.  If there is one piece of advice I’d give to future workshop attendees, it’s to practice this method ahead of time.

After we turned in our stories, Dave and Tim chose three for us to critique as a group.  For some people, I think this might have been the most stressful part of the twenty-four hour challenge.  A few seemed to dread the thought of their story being pulled from the pile.  Tim and Dave could of course chose whichever stories they wanted by whatever method they wanted, and they joked about throwing the manuscripts down some stairs and picking the ones that flew the farthest.  Apparently mine was quite aerodynamic (a fine quality in a story), as it was picked along with Tina’s and Chrome Oxide’s (Author of Cop for a Day).

I got some very insightful feedback, and have since reworked the story a bit more.  I submitted it for the first time on Tuesday.  If you get a chance to participate in this workshop, do your best to make sure the story you write isn’t a throw away.  Don’t complete the challenge just because you have to–aim to get at least the beginnings of something submitable out of it.  Every story you write is practice and the Big Game all at the same time.  So, it’s ok if you try something and it doesn’t work for you (like writing a story in one sitting), but always do your damndest.

I will return next week with Part 2 of my recap.  There might end up being a Part 3, we’ll just have to see.

If you’ve got any questions about the workshop or twenty-four hour story in particular, feel free to ask!

~Marina

P.S.  I’ve sold another story!  Details soon.

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Being SMART With Your Goals

Ok, I might be a little late here.  A goal-oriented post usually belongs at the beginning of January, not at the end.  But…

I want to discuss setting real goals vs. setting non-goals.  You’d be amazed (or, perhaps not) at how many writers I’ve seen this month declare non-goals for 2013.  Non-goals don’t help anyone, least of all the person who sets them.

Non-goals are more easily defined as dreams–something you wish would happen, but don’t actually have any control over.

A real goal is entirely self contained and under your control.

Example of a non-goal: Qualify for SFWA.

Example of a real goal: Write ten short stories and submit them to SFWA qualifying venues.

See the difference?  Some people don’t.  At least, not right away.

There’s a well known model for goal setting that has circulated widely in the business world.  Which, naturally, means that writers are the last to hear about it  (I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but if you want to SELL something you’re in a BUSINESS, so we artsy types can all stop acting like ‘business’ is the eight-letter ‘b’ word).

This model is called SMART.  It’s an acronym that stands for Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-bound (actual words may vary depending on who you’re talking to, but the system remains the same).

Specific.  This one’s easy.  It’s the What, Where, Why and Who portion.  What are the requirements and restrictions? Where do I have to go/send/be in order to accomplish this?  Why is it important that this goal be accomplished?  Who is involved in making this goal happen (hint: if the goal requires someone in addition to yourself they have to be working towards the exact same goal.  Most editors are not working towards the same goal as you are, neither are agents or publishers.  They do not count as goal partners)?

Measureable.  This means you must have a concrete way of assessing your progress towards the goal and the goal’s completion.   You are looking for quantitative, not qualitative criteria.  How questions prominently figure in here.  For example:  I must write X number of stories and submit them.  Not: I must write a bunch of good stories and submit them.

Actionable.  This means the goal can be implemented and attained through your direct action only.  Which means it must be within your power to attain.  It is not a goal so lofty that you cannot reach it.  Nor is it only attainable if outside forces or circumstances happen to aid you.

Relevant.  Is there a point to this goal?  Will your career suffer should you fail?  Will it be aided should you accomplish it?  If the answer is no, it’s not really a relevant or worthwhile goal.  Is the goal of stamping and addressing twenty envelopes in a row relevant to your career as a writer?  The action might be necessary at some point, but it should not be a focal point.

Time-bound.  This one is especially important, I think, to writers.  It’s all about When.  How many people do you know who say, “I’m going to write a novel one day”?  I’m guessing a lot.  Most likely those people will never write that novel (they might never even start it, let alone complete it), because they have not deemed it important enough to put a time frame on.  A worthwhile goal must be constrained by time.  I will write ten stories someday will most likely leave you feeling unaccomplished come 2014 when you’ve failed to meet that non-goal.  Whereas if you say, I will write ten stories by June first, you have given yourself a time limit, an area of temporal space in which to work, and most importantly, complete your task.

So, it might be time to reevaluate your most recent goals.  You’ve lived with them near a month by now, how far along are you?  How close are you to completion?  When will you finish?  What is there still to complete?  If you have no way of concretely answering such questions, you might want to scrap your non-goals and set some real ones.

Non-goals only leave you with heartache when they are left incomplete.  We all want to have real goals that pull our dreams down to Earth and help make them our reality.  Otherwise, what’s the point of setting them?

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Was this post helpful?  Did you reexamine your goals?  Were your goals solid the first time around, or did you need to change a few things?  I’d love to know!  Leave me a comment.

~Marina

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Dragons, Anyone?: Lectures from Brandon Sanderson

Ok, this post has little to do with dragons.  But, I am here to introduce you to “Write About Dragons”–a blog dedicated to posting videos of Brandon Sanderson’s Introduction to Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy class at BYU (its main focus is novel writing, but shorts do come up.  Eric James Stone is a guest in lecture 5 and speaks pretty exclusively about short stories).

As the title implies, this is a beginner’s course, so for those of us who’ve been at this a while it just makes a nice refresher.  I find that re-learning old information in new ways helps to solidify it in my mind.

He does utilize a good portion of the classes to talk about the business side of writing.  For those of you who don’t know, that’s practically unheard of in university creative writing courses.

Without further ado: http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/

ALSO, I’d like to take this opportunity to announce a minor hiatus.  I won’t be updating the blog for about two to three weeks (unless something spectacular happens and I just can’t keep from posting).  Just have some life things to take care of.  Nothing bad–just hectic!

Let me know if you find the lectures useful,

~Marina

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It’s WotF Workshop Week!

Hello all,

If you’re interested in keeping up with what the winners are experiencing, I suggest visiting the W&IotF Herald.

There you’ll get day-by-day updates and introductions to the new authors and illustrators.

Feel free to fantasize about attending the workshop yourself.  😉

~Marina

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