Archive for the ‘Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers’ Category

philconGreat weekend! I spend most of it at PhilCon — the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference. Actually held in Cherry Hill, N.J. But I guess PhilCon is too august a name to change lightly. This event has been going on in one form or another since 1936.

In the near future, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about different elements of it in greater detail. Geez, I got enough material there for a year’s worth of blog entries. And I got the contact info for a lot of people I intend to be interviewing here — after reviewing their works, in a lot of cases. So stay tuned.

Anyway, I was very impressed. Up to now, I haven’t really been big on conventions. As I’ve mentioned here many, many times, I love science fiction, horror and fantasy. And I certainly don’t want to put down the means by which anyone chooses to enjoy them. Hey, it’s a big tent. Glad everyone’s here.

Still, I’m just not into the obsessive parsing of specific TV shows and movies that seems to characterize a lot of fandom. And I had this image in my mind that the convention scene has a lot of that.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. PhilCon seemed to have a very pronounced emphasis on the literary side of science fiction, which I appreciated.

Hell, I walked through the door of the hotel and momentarily wondered if I was in the right place because the lobby wasn’t packed with people in outlandish costumes. The I looked to my right and saw Gardner Dozois — legendary writer and editor — hanging out at one of the hotel restaurant tables. The guy’s been one of my heroes since I was a kid. After suppressing a “SQUEEEE!” worthy of a 14-year-old girl who’s just spotted One Direction, I wandered over, told him I was a big fan, and asked if he could point me toward the convention.  Mr. Dozois, who proved to be every bit as cool as I could have hoped, did so.

So my convention experience started out good, and pretty much stayed there the entire weekend. I think I might end up attending more conventions.

Like I said, I plan to blog about it more. But I’m kind of tired and about to crash, so I’ll get to that later. Time to dream pleasant dreams stoked by the endorphin rush I’m still riding.

ZZZZZZZZ! What’s that, Mr. Dozois? You say you want to edit an anthology of my short stories with introductions by Joe R. Lansdale and Neil Gaiman? Why … I’m flattered. ZZZZZZZZZ!

 

Advertisements

Hubble1This piece originally appeared in the quarterly newsletter for the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which I edit. I thought it would be of benefit to the science fiction writers in our group. But I think horror writers could find plenty of material here. Bottom line — the existence of alien lifeforms in the universe is pretty much a statistical certainty. And they’re probably a lot more like something out of H.P. Lovecraft’s imagination that Gene Roddenberry’s. *Shudder* By the way, the eye-popping photos that accompany this are from the Hubble Telescope.

 

Unfathomable Distances, Unfriendly Locals

By Tom Joyce

Editor’s note: Ray Villard is news director for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope. He’s also the former associate editor of “Astronomy” magazine, an editorial contributor to Discovery Channel, and the author of numerous articles for magazines, encyclopedias and Internet blogs, and scripts for several syndicated science programs on public radio.

Ray Villard is a science fiction fan himself, so he understands why writers for page and screen sometimes do

what they do. Maybe they just need to tell an entertaining story. And it’s not like 1960s-era Star Trek had a multimillion dollar CGI budget at its disposal for rendering alien lifeforms.

Still, he can’t help but get irritated sometimes at science fiction in which the writers seem to have no familiarity whatsoever with the scientific phenomenon they’re ostensibly writing about. (more…)

Keith StrunkI haven’t forgotten about this blog. Honest. Here’s the deal. Through a chain of circumstances I still don’t fully understand, I ended up on a judging panel for the Hugo Awards. As a lifelong science fiction fan, I’m pretty thrilled. The Hugos are among the most prestigious international awards for science fiction. They’re a bit controversial this year. Since I’m on the judging panel, I better not say anything about the controversy. Just Google it. Trust me, there’s a shitload of reading about it to be found on the Internet.

Speaking of a shitload of reading, that’s the main reason I haven’t posted in a while. I came into this kind of late in the process, and am now reading all of the Hugo nominees to catch up. Aside from my job, just about everything else in my life has gone on the back burner. My workout schedule. Basic hygiene. This blog.

More stuff will be posted soon. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful interview with Keith Strunk: actor, producer, writer, Renaissance man. It ran in the most recent issue of the quarterly newsletter for the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which I edit, and it concerns book trailers.

It’s geared toward writers. But if you’re involved in anything that could benefit from some online promotion — which describes pretty much every field of human endeavor these days — you should get something out of it. Enjoy.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and your involvement in the production of book trailers?

A: I’m the product of the professional training program in acting at Rutgers University. My son was born the day the thesis for my MFA was due and I found that I was an actor that had to find paying work quickly! I had a friend doing production work on commercials in New York and he got me on set as a production assistant and my parallel career in production had begun. I’ve done a great deal of work as a director, editor, and scriptwriter in the years since. My partner Laura has had a similar evolution career-wise with the addition of being a graphic artist as well. All of this combined with my own experience as a writer and author has led us to producing book trailers.

 

Q: What are book trailers meant to accomplish, and how important are they?

A: A book trailer should create interest that moves a viewer to action. In this case, to buy the book. It can excite, seduce, entice, enthrall, and even incite a viewer with just enough of the story to make them want more. At the end of the book trailer, your viewer should be saying, “I’ve got to know what happens in that book!”

If you look at the trailer as an integral part of the overall marketing plan for your book, it’s very important. It’s an opportunity to imprint a potential reader using images, music, sound, and words both printed and spoken. If done well, it all happens in a minute or less and reinforces the themes that drive all of your marketing materials to create a cohesive message about your book. The important thing here is that a book trailer is one component of your larger marketing strategy and not a strategy in of itself.

 

Q: What characteristics should a good book trailer have?

A: It should engage the viewer right out of the gate, compel them to watch it to the end, and leave them wanting more. In the case of book trailers, Shakespeare’s observation that “brevity is the soul of wit” couldn’t be more apt (that he chooses to have Polonius, who is the least witty and most verbose character in Hamlet say the line is grist for another discussion).

Simply put, you should work to keep a book trailer’s running time, including credits and cover quotes, to no more than one minute. Don’t succumb to the urge to stretch it to two minutes because you have to get components into the trailer that are “too important to leave out.” The exercise of staying within the one minute mark will yield a far better trailer than the more artistically indulgent three minute opus that has “all of the important stuff” in it. By working to keep the trailer at one minute, even if your trailer ends up running a bit over a minute, there’s a very good chance that it will be a tightly structured, effective video.

Never lose track that the objective of a book trailer is to sell books. It’s a marketing piece. That said, there are marketing pieces, some notable TV commercials for example, that have an artistic flair and in fact become a bit of art unto themselves. Even in these cases, the art form is subservient to the marketing objective to sell. And while it may not be art, a good trailer evokes a compelling emotional response in the viewer.

Simple components well executed are far better than poorly done attempts at more complex techniques. The exception is if you’re going for a camp or cheesy style (think Ed Wood flying saucers on strings) although, it’s actually harder to make this work than it looks. The best homework you can do before setting out to do your book trailer is to watch a lot of book trailers so you start to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work so well.

These are three examples of book trailers that use simple components to create effective book trailers. Images, movement, music, animation, text, and voice over are used in some part in these trailers. The text for Kathryn Craft and Donna Galanti’s trailers were written specifically for the trailer while Tori Eldridge chose to use the text directly from her short story. Watch each trailer with an eye towards understanding how individual components in each trailer make them effective.

“Joshua and the Lightning Road” by Donna Galanti

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzfYMNnfJWs

“Call Me Dumpling” by Tori Eldridge

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-QaiunrPDk

“The Far End of Happy” by Kathryn Craft

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7PAcQnaMb0

 

Q: How does a writer go about getting a book trailer produced, and about how much should the writer expect to pay?

A: Watch as many book trailers as you can. Note the ones that appeal to you in style and production values and find out the company that produced them. Network with other writers to find out who they recommend. You’ll find that there are a number of authors that have skills in video production or performance that have produced or contributed to the production of their own trailers. Obviously, this is a way to cut costs if you have skills in these areas.

It’s difficult to pin down the cost of producing a trailer as there are so many different factors that impact it. A simple trailer with music, images, and scrolling text will be far less expensive to produce than one that uses voice over, complex effects, or live action. Find out from the production company how the process for producing your trailer will work and what you will get for the money you spend.

It’s very important to understand what you can afford and adjust the concept of your trailer to fit your budget. Without a solid budget in place, you run the risk of adding components in the creative heat of the moment that will drive your costs up very quickly. In short, the budget drives the concept. Letting it work the other way around can be a costly mistake that will run in the thousands of dollars.

 

Q: Are there any special considerations for writers of science fiction, horror, fantasy or other genres?

A: Genres like science fiction, horror, and fantasy with otherworldly settings, characters, and situations have to be particularly aware of the parameters of a lower budget trailer and find creative ways to bring their worlds to life. Good costuming, makeup, special effects, and animation requires a great deal of skill to execute effectively in a video. That skill comes with a cost that has to be factored into your budget if your concept demands those components. If you can’t afford them, then change your concept and find other creative ways to get your message out in a trailer that is perhaps simpler in concept but well produced and effective.

 

Q: Any advice for ways to incorporate the book trailer into your overall marketing strategy?

A: Be sure to insert the link for your trailer everywhere your book is seen online. We are naturally drawn to videos and if presented with a link to watch a “movie,” we’ll almost always click it. And if it’s compelling and effective, we’ll share it.

Another thought is to coordinate your efforts with your publisher if you’re traditionally published. They most probably have a long list of distribution points for your trailer and if you’ve allowed them to be a part of the process of creating your trailer, they’ll be inclined to push it out there to be seen.

On the indie publishing side, I think networking with other writers to find distribution points is imperative. For example, there are three trailer linked in this interview which is a result of a conversation I had with Tom Joyce at the Liars Club Writer’s Coffeehouse.

 

Keith Strunk is an actor, author, and partner in Interlude Group LLC with Laura Swanson and a member of the Philly Liars Club.

AddisonNote: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the fifth part of the piece, along with my original introduction.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.

I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

Linda Addison is the award-winning author of four collections of poetry and prose and the first African-American recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award®. She has published over 290 poems, stories and articles and is a member of Circles in the Hair, Horror Writers Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Science Fiction Poetry Association. See her site: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com, for more information.

My first publication was in 1994. At that time I considered changing my name to L.D. Addison so it wasn’t obvious that I was a woman. I decided not to use an alias. Today there are more women writing speculative fiction than twenty years ago.
I’ve always seen myself as an author first, then any other labels are acceptable: woman writer, African-American writer, African-American woman writer. Through my eyes I see myself writing the stories and poems that come to me. It just so happens my imagination always went outside the realm of reality-based writing. I’m blessed to represent women writing weird stuff, always will be.

Rena MasonNote: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the third part of the piece, along with my original introduction. I’ll be running contributions from the other writers who participated in the days ahead.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.

I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

Rena Mason is the Bram Stoker Award® winning author of “The Evolutionist” and “East End Girls.” A former O.R. nurse, an avid SCUBA diver, world traveler, and longtime fan of horror, sci-fi, science, history, historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers, she writes to mash up those genres with her experiences in stories that revolve around everyday life. For more information on this author visit her website: renamasonwrites.com

As Robert Heinlein didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a sci-fi author, not all female speculative fiction authors are also writing some form of romance, paranormal or otherwise. With more organizations and companies promoting women, such as Women in Horror Month highlighting women in all aspects of horror, Nightmare Magazine’s “Women Destroy Horror” issue, Eli Roth’s The Crypt app highlighting women in horror, and the Horror Writers Association offering scholarships for women horror writers, along with more women stepping up to support one another in representing the genre rather than using a more popular or more accepted label for their works, women’s roles in the genre can only improve.

Note: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the second part of the piece, along with my original introduction. I’ll be running contributions from the other writers who participated in the days ahead.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.
I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

ELLEN DATLOW

Ellen Datlow hard at work in front of her booksEllen Datlow has been editing sf/f/h short fiction for over thirty years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and currently acquires and edits stories for Tor.com. She has edited more than sixty anthologies, including the annual “The Best Horror of the Year,” “Lovecraft’s Monsters,” “Fearful Symmetries,” “Nightmare Carnival,” “The Cutting Room,” and “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” (the latter two with Terri Windling).
Forthcoming are “The Doll Collection” and “The Monstrous.”
She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre”; has been honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award for 2014, which is presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field.

 

I’ve been editing short science fiction, fantasy, and horror since 1980. When I was promoted from Associate Fiction Editor to Fiction Editor of OMNI Magazine, there was some blowback against me for not emerging from fandom (which was overwhelmingly male and from which most of the sf editors up to that point came). There was some silly talk by a few male writers who criticized the entry of female sf editors into positions of power. These women — again, most of whom did not come out of fandom — were assumed to have had no experience in the genre, although we were all longtime readers of sf/f and we all worked our way up from the bottom.
I’ve been involved more with fantasy and horror than science fiction for a number of years so I’m not as familiar with who is writing what in science fiction these days. But my perception is that fewer writers are writing science fiction at all. Saying that, there are certainly many excellent female writers of science fiction and if a male editor chooses an entire sf anthology with stories only by men it means they just aren’t looking beyond their old boys network comfort zone.

Note: The following material ran in a recent issue of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers quarterly newsletter, which I edit. Here’s the first part of the piece, along with my original introduction. I’ll be running contributions from the other writers who participated in the days ahead.

Several things inspired me to put this project together. But mainly, it’s because I still frequently encounter the tiresome “nerdy boys club” stereotype regarding speculative fiction writers and readers. The widespread perception that our branch of literature is the domain of emotionally and socially stunted man-children who don’t want icky girls in their club unless they happen to be wearing skimpy cosplay outfits at conventions.
I think it’s important that we speculative fiction writers do everything in our power to help dispel that stereotype, and make it clear that women are a major, vital and respected part of our community. So I reached out to a number of prominent woman science fiction, fantasy and horror authors and editors, and invited them to share their perspectives.
Tom Joyce

MARY SANGIOVANNI

SangiovanniMary SanGiovanni is the author of 10 horror and thriller books, one of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, as well as numerous short stories. She has a Masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, Pittsburgh and teaches English classes at her local college. She is currently a member of The Authors Guild, The International Thriller Writers, and Penn Writers.

I think writers of my generation are in a unique position to have been able to observe first-hand how the industry has changed regarding the prominence of women in the horror field. In movies, we have seen women go from shrieking, fleeing victims to capable and quick-thinking heroines on screen; we have seen more women writing, directing, producing, and filming quality horror. We have seen a broader range of topics explored in horror, taking into account the psychology of fear from both male and female perspectives. And of course, in publishing, there are increasing numbers of women writers offering lasting and canonic works to the body of classic horror literature. These women, in the tradition of great horror writers before them, are stretching and breaking boundaries in the exploration of fear; they are finding new and terrifying ways to look at the world around them. Further, they are writing their work in their own way, not necessarily prone to be imitative of the historically male-dominated approach to horror. I believe it’s an over-simplification to state that works are intrinsically written in a masculine or feminine point of view; I think so much more goes into the crafting of a finely textured, deeply layered story than just a psychology or perspective based on sex or gender. However, I’d venture to say that women and men are often raised to fear different things, and further, to react and respond differently to those fears. This creates a variety of possible ways to present subject matter in a horror story that can be accessed by either men or women. The awareness of this, especially in modern horror fiction, has led to the creation of sophisticated works by both men and women which truly engage a wider audience. Horror is not about the mask that is worn, but the face beneath that mask; the root of fear an audience can understand and identify with is what drives a horror story, not the monster in which that fear is embodied, be it a boogeyman associated with the nightmares of man, or those of women. I believe that women have incorporated this notion into their work in order to overcome the stereotype that women’s horror is “soft” or “not scary.” Their work serves to prove that their own unique perspective of things can be absolutely scary, whether that is in spite of or because that perspective has been generated in a female mind.
My generation has largely been influenced by male horror writers (Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Dean Koontz, etc.) because men dominated the field for decades. I think it’s gratifying to see many new women horror writers listing both men AND women as influences in their own writing. I think that is as validating as anything else, because we, as writers, start out as fans of the genre. We simply want to contribute to the body of literature that inspired and shaped so much of our thoughts and feelings. It’s a powerful thing to know that readers and fans of the genre are reading more widely, taking chances on what in the past would have been dismissed, perhaps, as “fluff,” and finding in women writers’ works some truly frightening and memorable stories. It solidifies the idea that women are, in fact, taking part in continuing the literary tradition that they have so very much enjoyed.
We’ve come a long way from naked nubiles being carried off by buff and scaly monsters or swarmed by lascivious cultists. These stories have their place in the history of horror, as do any stories that speak specifically to a kind of horrific event, but it’s nice to see a broadening of ideas that can be interpreted as “horror” in our field. There is no shortage of emotion or action, deviant or otherwise, for writers to delve into.
I think it’s important to note, when discussing the topic of women horror writers, that true equality comes when writers are judged based solely on the merit of their work — when the time comes that horror writers are not identified first by gender and then by genre, but simply as writers in their field. I think the horror genre benefits from a rich diversity of voices and perspectives, not a narrowing of them. And I am proud and pleased to see that this seems to be the direction in which the horror genre is heading.