My One and Only Filk

As you’ve probably heard by now, Anne McCaffrey pased away on Monday. She was one of the first “adult” authors I was introduced to as a teenager (by a friend who decided it was time I graduated from the Star Trek tie-ins to “real” books). Specifically, she told me to buy a copy of Crystal Singer, which I read and truly adored. In fact, I loved it so much that when I was 14 or 15 I actually wrote a song inspired by the book. Yes, that’s right, I wrote a filk. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind never, ever to perform it in public. But, in honor of the woman who started it all, I’m throwing caution to the wind, and I’m making a .pdf of the song available. How better to say “I love you” than to give the world ammunition to use against me for years to come?

This should go without saying, but the song uses copyrighted characters without the author’s permission, and is intended for the enjoyment of fans and may not be used in anything even vaguely resembling a commercial manner without the permission of both me and (most importantly) the Anne McCaffrey estate. That said, if you do record it, I’d love to hear what you did with it, and if you’re ever filking at a con I happen to be at, please let me know so I can come share the blame with you as you get heckled for performing it.

I’d like to think I’ve matured a lot both as a poet and as a composer since the mid ’80s, but the world will never know, since I can’t imagine I’ll ever write another filk for comparison.

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for being one of the voices that led me into my lifelong love of my genre and medium of choice.

Submission Tennis

Recently, I encouraged my crit group to set itself a write 1 sub 1-type challenge. We’re each month selecting a vague prompt, and encouraging everyone to write a short story based on that prompt, and then all the stories get submitted to pro-rate publications while we work on the next prompt. (We’ve even got a little added encouragement, in that we all vote on our favorite story, and the winner selects the next prompt.) But I was amazed at the number of excellent authors we’ve got in the group who, when it came time to actually submit the story, informed me that they had no clue where to begin. So this post is for all of you who are ready to start playing the game I call “submission tennis” but similarly aren’t sure how to go about it.

Continue reading

It’s Nebula Nomination Season

It’s that time of year again, when we SFWA members get to nominate for the Nebula, the Bradbury, and the Norton Awards.  I must admit, I looked at the blank ballot and realized that there were only 4-5 things I could think of published/released so far in 2011 that really got me excited enough to say, “This should get an award!”  So, I’m asking all of you, what did I miss?  What novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, dramatic presentations, and YA books from this year should I rush off to check out?

And, no, I’m not allowed to nominate my own work, even if my ego would actually permit me to do so…

Situational Dialogue

Lately I’ve been coming across a lot of dialogue that’s been bothering me. I tend to be fairly forgiving of various styles of writing dialogue, accepting anything from naturalistic onomatopoeic stammers to overly formalized poetic prose. But one thing that smacks to me of lazy writing is when the dialogue seems to have been written in a vacuum, with no apparent relationship with what’s going on in the scene.

Continue reading

Good Writing / Bad Writing

This is one of those perennial issues that writers writers face while striving to improve their craft. What exactly is good writing? What exactly is bad writing?

Inevitably, most people’s instinctive reaction is “Good writing is writing that I like. Bad writing is writing that I do not like.” This usually takes the form of “Stephanie Meyer is a lousy writer, even though millions of readers gleefully devour whatever she writes. This other writer is who you should emulate, even though her books cure insomnia in most people.”

I tend to be of the opinion that this sort of subjectivity isn’t particularly useful.

The marketers would tend to define “good” vs. “bad” based solely on sales. Stephanie Meyer is, by this definition, one of the greatest living writers. That other much-admired but poor-selling author would be a lousy writer. While this approach is useful for shareholder reports, it’s very difficult to predict sales (especially for a new author), and so this isn’t something that’s particularly teachable.

So what’s a writer to do?

Continue reading