Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rights and Wrongs, by Brian K. Lowe

Sometimes when you speculate about the near future, events will overtake your story and render it irrelevant. So if you're going to write a story about the near future, write it fast.

"Rights and Wrongs," on the other hand, took five years. It startedrights-and-wrongs 9000 feet high in the New Mexico mountains, at the 2008 Taos Toolbox workshop, where Walter Jon Williams gave me some of the most valuable advice I've ever gotten: "Write what you care about."

What did I care about? I cared about being a writer. Why else was I spending two weeks at a ski lodge so high in the air it took two days before I could walk to my car in the parking lot? But stories about writers are a dime a dozen, so what else did I care about?

In 2008, the War on Terror was everywhere. Enemy combatants were being locked up for years without charges. Rumor was that the government might try to do the same with American citizens, shelving habeas corpus for the duration. And once the government can imprison you for anything, leaving you to rot without charges, democracy is dead.

Of course, it didn't happen, but that was my thinking when I sat down the next day and penned the first line of what you eventually read (or will read). When I was done, I had a story about an attorney for a shape-changing alien who might be a terrorist who had been given a sham trial and was about to be dragged off to be shot and/or rights-and-wrongsdissected. In desperation, he switches bodies with his lawyer and tries to escape. But the lawyer manages to alert the guards to the switch, and the alien is killed attempting to escape. The lawyer comes out okay, but feels bad about the whole thing.

   The story bombed. Sure it did--it was depressing with a capital D. But even then, it received just enough positive comments for me to try revamping it. I re-wrote the escape scene. Still depressing, I changed the ending to a courtroom drama with a 2000-word explanation by an anthropologist about how the alien wasn't responsible for his own actions because he was driven solely by biology. Very science fiction. Very dull. But the esteemed editor of this magazine, showing the kind of faith that moves mountains, thought he saw something in the story. All I had to do was re-write a small part--as in, the entire second half.

It took two years of re-visiting the story every few months, beating my head against a wall, before I finally realized that to re-write the second half, I had to re-write the first half, too. I started almost from scratch, filling in some characters, re-engineering the plot, struggling to find a way to present what I cared about without making judgments and without being boring. And I did.

       But the important thing isn't how I came to write this story. It's that this near-future story took me five years to write, and unfortunately, it's still relevant.

--Brian K. Lowe

Monday, April 14, 2014

Camila Fernandes wins the Second Hydra Competition

With three female finalists and over one hundred and fifty entries, the second edition improves upon the success of the first...

Once again, the judges of the Hydra Competition received stories published by Brazilian authors during the last two calendar years (2011 and 2012) and chose three finalists to send to author Orson Scott Card, who defined the winner. This time around, the chosen tale was “The Other Bank of the River” by Camila Fernandes, announced last weekend during the Fantastic Literature Odyssey III, an annual convention held in Porto Alegre. The story will be published in both text and audio by Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show.

The winning story was first published in Camila’s single-author collection Reino das Névoas (“Misty Kingdom”) by Brazilian publisher Tarja. Camila is a writer, editor, and illustrator. She has published stories in many Brazilian anthologies, but “The Other Bank of the River” will be her first publication in English.

In second place came “Sun of the Heart” by Roberta Spindler, first published in the Solarpunk anthology by Editora Draco. Roberta is a publicist and audiovisual editor. She has written since her teen years, and along with many published short stories, co-wrote the novel  Contos de Meigan (“Stories of Meigan”).

The third place story, “Mary G.” by Nikelen Witter, was first published in the Autores Fantásticos (“Fantastic Authors”) anthology by Editora Argonautas. Nikelen Witter is a writer and history professor. She has published many short stories and one YA novel, Territórios Invisíveis (“Invisible Territories”).

IGMS editor Edmund R. Schubert writes: “I was greatly looking forward to this year’s contest—many thanks to Christopher Kastensmidt for translating all three finalists so I could read them as well (Orson is fluent in Portuguese but I am not)—and the quality and variety of ideas was a treat. It’s a privilege for IGMS to be involved in this partnership, to showcase the best of speculative Brazilian short stories, and we all send our heartiest congratulations to the winner, Camila Fernandes, as well as the other finalists, Roberta Spindler, and Nikelen Witter.”

Tiago Castro, competition organizer writes: “Brazilian speculative literature is making great strides in quality, diversity, and discovering new authors. This second edition brought us a pleasant surprise, with three female finalists. I’m glad to have been able to participate and organize this important prize for Brazilian fantastic literature.”

Christopher Kastensmidt, contest founder and translator of this year’s stories, says: “I’d like to thank InterGalactic Medicine Show, the participating authors, the judges, and this year’s organizer: Tiago Castro. Brazilian speculative literature is rarely seen outside the country’s borders, so every chance we have to make that literature available to readers of other cultures is a huge victory for our community.”

The Hydra Competition is a partnership between Brazilian website Universo Insônia, Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, seeking to expose Brazilian fantastic literature to the English-speaking world.  This edition also counted on the participation of Brazilian judges Claudia Fusco (Nerdices - Superinteressante) and Daniel Borba (Além das Estrelas).

About Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
Founded by multiple-award winning author Orson Scott Card, and edited for the past eight years by Edmund R. Schubert, IGMS is an award-winning bimonthly online magazine publishing illustrated science fiction and fantasy short stories, audio stories, interviews, reviews, and more. Authors range from established pros like Peter Beagle and David Farland to first-time authors making their professional debut.  IGMS can be found at www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com.

About The Elephant and Macaw Banner
The Elephant and Macaw Banner is a fantasy series set in sixteenth-century Brazil.  The stories tell the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara, an unlikely pair of heroes who meet in Salvador.  News, artwork, and in-depth explanations of historical and cultural references from the series can be found at the website www.eamb.org.

About Universo Insônia
The site Universo Insônia (Insomnia Universe) publishes articles, news, and reviews on fantastic literature, cinema, comics, TV series, cartoons, and fantasy pop culture in general.  The site’s principal objective is publicizing and supporting professionals in the area of Brazilian fantasy culture.  The site also contains content about traditional and international productions.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Sound of Death, by Gareth D Jones

The Sound of Death started life as a 600 word story in response to a the-sound-of-deathflash fiction challenge – basically just the opening scene of this alien murder mystery. Right from the start I wanted the cause of death and the scene of the crime to be as non-human as possible. As I started expanding the story I realised this principle had to apply to the whole society, their social interactions and motivations. It was soon clear that everything I had learned from watching several seasons of CSI was also useless. I needed to invent entirely new forensic procedures and investigative methodology.

I found Inspector Ek-Lo-Don to be the most interesting character I have written, not only because of who and what he is, but because I was forced to give far more thought to him than I usually would to a human character. The story only briefly scratches the surface of his society – which is just as well because when I was writing it I wasn’t the-sound-of-deathentirely sure what might be below that surface. Since completing The Sound of Death I have been back and analysed the story and put together detailed notes on every aspect of Ek-Lo-Don’s world as revealed so far. It’s all too easy when you’re creating a new world to get carried away and lose track of what you’ve already established.

I’m currently writing a second, longer, Ek-Lo-Don story that explores many more aspects of his world, and a third story is biding its time to be written too. Hopefully you’ll find it as intriguing as I have.

--Gareth D. Jones