Archive for September, 2012

National Days

Today, as I write this blog post, it is September 25th. According to…I don’t know who, just people who are asserting it on the internet, today is National Comic Book Day. Which is odd, because I would think that Free Comic Book day would be a better choice for that, but the internet claims otherwise. And who am I to argue with the internet? I don’t read many comic books. Watchmen (but not the Before stuff), Locke and Key, Fall of Cthulhu, maybe the occasional one-shot with a premise that interests me. But I fully support comic books, and comic book days, and recognizing that comic books are awesome. In part because I love comic book movies, and without the books, the movies wouldn’t come out.

So there’s that. But there’s something more important being honored today. No, not National One-Hit Wonder Day. Today is National Voter Registration Day, and unlike National Comic Book Day, this actually has a website. And this is absolutely and critically important. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican thing, this is an American thing. There is a presidential election approaching, thirty-three senatorial elections, and four hundred thirty-five house of representatives elections happening this year. No matter where you are, if you are over 18 you get to participate in at least two of those, and likely all three. Not to mention down ticket races and local issues that will be part of that November 6th ballot.

But only if you are registered to vote.

Voting registration deadlines are rapidly approaching. The earliest deadlines are next Saturday, October 6th. By the 10th it will be too late to register in 21 states. The full list of registration deadlines can be found here.

That’s my little call for civic awesomeness, go register, then remember to go out and vote. I’m not going to say who for. Educate yourself, come to your own decisions, search your feelings, you know it’s true. Wait, wrong cliche. But this is my further call for a little synergy.

Today is not Free Comic Book Day. That happens next on May 4th (see, more Star Wars). However, if today is going to be both National Comic Book Day and National Voter Registration Day, why not Free Comic Book For Registered Voters Day? Alright, yeah, that’s clearly unfair to kids under 18. Know what? In this instance, I don’t care. It could also be argued that we shouldn’t have to bribe people into registering to vote, and questions could come up about whether apolitical people might register just for the comic book. To the former, I agree. To the latter…if it pushed anyone to voting who might not before, I think that’s a net positive to the nation.

So register.

If you’re registered, go find someone else who isn’t, and get them to register.

And if all your friends are registered…go enjoy some comic books. Job well done.

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Those Who Don’t Study History…

…are doomed to repeat it. At least, such is the classic trope. We are warned to remember the mistakes of the past so we do not make them again in the future. Which is all well and good when it comes to a broad societal level. However, as a writer recently caught up in relearning world history, may I instead say that those who study history are blessed to repeat it.

My education into world history (which currently involves the 180-someodd part The History of Rome podcast and the University of Houston Youtube course on the Crusades) has taught me things I didn’t know, reminded me of things I’d forgotten, and filled me in on details of events I thought I understood. Above all else, it’s given me story concepts. These largely fall into two broad categories, but I’m certain others will arrive.

Prester John as included on 1588 Portuguese map of Africa.

Reliving history. I first learned about Prester John during the Crash Course World History episode on 15th Century maritime exploration. For those not aware of the story, he is a mythic Christian king cut off from Christendom (by which people typically meant European Catholicism) but still keeping the faith. One day he would rejoin with the devout and help kick the asses of any non-believers in the way. At times his kingdom was meant to be in India, at times in Africa, always just beyond where Europeans were comfortable with the geography. At one point in history, Prester John even rose up and led his armies out of the far east to tackle the nascent Muslim threat spreading through the Arab world and knocking on Europe’s door.

Only…yeah, it wasn’t so much Prester John as it was Genghis Khan. Easy mistake to make, I’m sure.

Prester John shows up, or rather fails to show up, for several centuries, especially during the Crusades. The story naturally brings to mind a plotline I came across both in Earthman, Go Home and Delusion World in my Ace Double readings. It’s the story of humanity spreading so quickly among the stars that planets get lost or forgotten in the process. Take this trope, sprinkle in some Prester John, and now there’s a space opera spinning around in my head.

Rewriting history. Anyone who is looking to write alternate history must first be comfortable with the real history. Largely because not everything will change. But this isn’t even about that aspect of alternate history. This is learning about points in history that I now want to change. Especially in connection with the Nickajack world, asking questions about what is different about this earth not just in the 1860s, but in the 1760s or even 1060s. Yeah…maybe I’m thinking about writing a Steampunk story set during the Crusades. I’m still trying to figure out what the story even is there, but you can bet Baldwin of Boulogne, aka Baldwin I will show up.

So get out there, learn a little history. The stories of the past are fantastic fodder for genre fiction, and are sometimes just fun to learn.

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Get Read by Harper Voyager!

For anyone who hasn’t seen the news, Harper’s science fiction and fantasy imprint Voyager is doing something they haven’t done in over a decade: open up for unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. There’s a length FAQ up at Harper Voyager’s webpage, and when everything opens up on October 1, this link should get you to the submission site (until then, it’s redirecting to the FAQ).

Sadly, I don’t have anything ready for this open call, a shame as Voyager is one of my dream imprints. They’re also looking primarily for eBook properties, though “[t]here is the possibility that submissions will be published in print as well.” Is that a foolish reason to turn down this open call if the manuscript was more complete? Absolutely. Am I a print romantic? Yes, I am.

Still, this sounds like a fantastic opportunity to put your manuscript into the hands of the Voyager editors, to get read by the science fiction arm of one of the Big Six publishers.

I do note one smart thing Voyager has done here, they are opening this up for the first two weeks of October. What makes the date so essential? It’s about as far as possible from Nanowrimo. I hesitate to think what the difference in submission qualities will be opening up in early October rather than early December. Nanowrimo, I love you, but you know damn well people would be submitting their recently “completed” Nano novels to this open call. Whether this was an intentional move by Voyager or not, I don’t know.

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One Week of Fatherhood

Two thoughts after one week.

Thought the first: Baby has a lot of hiccups. This is apparently very common among babies, and not a problem unless the hiccups bring up stomach contents, at which point it’s a baby version of the condition I suffered through a few years back. In researching this, however, I came across a discussion of baby hiccups, and what doesn’t work to cure them. Long and short, like human hiccups there are few known causes or cures, but plenty of folk remedies. Here were the “cures” that the site specifically pointed out don’t work:

Don’t try to cure hiccups by startling your baby, pressing on her eyeballs, pushing on her fontanel, or pulling her tongue, which are common folk remedies in some cultures.

The fontanel, for those keeping score at home, is also known as the soft spot, a place where the skull hasn’t yet fully fused. I was surprised that some parents may need to be told, hey, maybe don’t poke the soft spot.

Thought the second: Today is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It’s impossible not to look at things in terms of my now one week old daughter.  She was born not just after the attacks, but after the 10th anniversary of the attacks. This is an event that so defined lives of multiple generations that will only ever be a history lesson for her. I was trying to put that in some personal perspective, so I checked out the year-in-history pages on Wikipedia for 11 years before both my wife and I were born.

For my wife, the 11 years ago event was Apollo 13. For myself, it was the assassinations of RFK and MLK Jr. It’s stunning to think that she will be as removed from 9/11 as we are from those events. The world keeps going, and the present very quickly becomes the past.

This blog will probably return to normal next week.

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State of the Writer: September 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack

Um, so I normally start by talking about Nickajack and its progress. And normally I make these state of the writer posts on the first of the month. I’m a little late because I’ve spent the last few days in the maternity ward. I’m now a daddy to a beautiful little girl. That’s really occupying my entire mind right now. Mother and baby are both well and sleeping.

State of the Writer’s Bees. Bee-like.

State of the Writer’s Beer. Ready to be bottled when I get one consecutive hour of time.

That’s it for today.

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