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Deep Space Industries announcement


I'm finally helping to turn science fiction into science fact...
I'm one of the founders of a new space company, DeepSpace Industries, and today is the day of our announcement (we'r </span>official).

Check out our press release: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10346181.htm

MORE IMPORTANTLY, you can watch a webcast of the
announcement live at 10 AM PST (1 PM EST) at
http://www.spacevidcast.com/

Our web site, www.DeepSpaceIndustries.com,
goes live at 10 AM PST, 1 PM EST.

A year's worth of updates


I've badly neglected my LJ account - I was shocked to see it's been nearly a year since my last post.

Thrillerfest 2009 was a great conference, and in only a month I'll be attending Thrillerfest 2010, also in NYC. In 2009 I pitched my novel The Last Tomorrow to 18 agents, 12 of whom requested partials, and seven of those rejected, five no response yet. I'll be pitching it again this year, in addition to my new one, Ripped.

I also neglected to post my Dragon*Con 2009 trip report. It, too, was a great conference, and I'll try to post a timely trip report this September for 2010.

In general, most of my energies have been devoted to working on Ripped, at the expense of other activities including conferences and workshops. I am excited by the story, which is complex enough for a number of novels, as it explores future technologies, personal challenges, life after death, greed, prejudice, and the approaching technological singularity, not to mention the meaning of being human. I've worked hard to write it using the principles described by Donald Maass in his book Writing the Breakout Novel.

My novelette APOPHIS 2029 received an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest. 

In May, I delivered a presentation at the 2010 International Space Development Conference entitled Considerations for Asteroid Capture into Earth Orbit which was inspired by that story. The presentation was well received, and I've posted it on my other blog, http://RamblingsOnTheFutureOfHumanity.blogspot.com. 

Thrillerfest


I've finally completed my techno-thriller, The Last Tomorrow, just in time.
I leave for Thrillerfest in NYC in one short week. Part of the thrill will be Agentfest: speed dating for agents.
42 literary agents in one room, a bell rings every three minutes - that's how long you have to make your pitch
and get to know the agent. 

Short Story Contest Entries


My short story PORTALNAUT received an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest.

I didn't win, but at least 2 out of 3 of my submissions have received Honorable Mentions.

For this quarter, I submitted another story, THE FIRST AND LAST TIME MACHINE.

I still have heard nothing regarding my submission (APOPHIS 2029) to the Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest, and the contest deadline was May 31, Of course I'm impatient - I hope to win! There is no news on the contest status, when results might be announced, or even how many entries were received. Of course, until the winners are announced, no news is good news.

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My first DRAGON*CON



I attended my first DRAGON*CON in Atlanta, 29-Aug-2008 through 01-Sep-2008.

This event is huge. I only made it to 3 of the hotels (the Hyatt Regency, the Marriot, and the Hilton).

I arrived the day before it started to pick up my badge (and the 128-page pocket program), 30 minutes before the badge line opened. I'd estimate there were about 400 people in line in front of me. An hour and a half later, badge and program in hand, I noticed the line had grown to about 1,000 people. Dragon*Con attracts perhaps 30,000 rabid SF/F fans of all ages.

Dragon*Con offered 40+ tracks of programming. I primarily attended the Writers Track (31 hours of sessions for writers), but I also managed to take in a few Space track and Science track sessions, plus a couple of sessions from the Main track. Sessions were scheduled non-stop starting at 10 A.M. and running through 11 P.M. One session started at 10:00 P.M. Sunday and lasted 5.5 hours; I only attended the first hour!

Keywords for the event: Huge, Impressive, Insane.

Many people seemed to be there solely for the costumes, which included Impressive and Insane efforts. Thursday, perhaps 1 out of 50 were in costume. Friday, the first official Dragon*Con day, it rose to 1 out of 10. Saturday (which includes a huge parade with a number of downtown Atlanta streets blocked off), perhaps 1 in 4. Saturday night, 1 in 2, although there were fewer attendees then (perhaps 10,000). I must admit that my numbers may be skewed; I wasn't always certain if the person was in costume or simply always dressed like that. Sunday, the ratio was still 1 in 4 or so, until late Sunday night when I attended the Mad Scientist's Ball.

I did not recognize many, likely most costumes. I think I've led a sheltered life. The most common costume component for women was a corset (heaving bosoms abounded); for men, it may have been a kilt. There was an impressive number of weapons on display; I'm amazed that many of these made it past the police. I had no problem with the huge, futuristic Gatling guns bolted onto the arms of some of the mercenaries, but a lot of swords and battle axes looked deadly. Many of the costumes were worn by coordinated groups (Ghostbusters, Fantastic Four, stormtroopers, Hammer's Slammers, X-men, others) and any of these dropped into a practiced pose if you aimed a camera or cell phone at them. I learned that my cell phone camera is very poor.

The Mad Scientist's Ball: The Singing Tesla Coils (presented by ArcAttack) were incredibly impressive. Check out the video at http://www.arcattack.com/ and dozens of related videos on utube. However, realize that the videos are not one tenth as impressive as seeing four-foot tesla coils making stereo music with six-foot lightning displays, in stereo, in a standing-room-only crowd of 250 fans screaming in appreciation.

Whew. By the way, maybe 75% of that crowd was in costume, although I did see at least one person (besides myself) in "dress casual." Yes, I felt distinctly out-of-place. But I loved it.

I attended these especially notable sessions (as solely judged by how many notes I took):
  • How to Write a Story in One Hour
  • To Be SF, or Not To Be SF
    • If a book can be either techno-thriller or SF, it'll sell more books as the techno-thriller.
  • The Secret to Selling Your Fiction
    • Write short stories first
    • Enter contests
    • Don't write the sequel until the first book sells - write a different stand-alone book.
    • If it would make a great movie, write the screenplay first, then novelize it.
  • What Editors Want From You
    • Panelists included Claire Eddy and Liz Gorinsky from TOR, Jennifer Heddle from Pocket, others
    • Story must engage reader within 2 to 5 pages. For some editors, you get more like 2 to 5 sentences.
    • TOR still accepts over-the-transom submissions, but they get 1000-2000 submissions per month, and they publish 400 books per year, some of which are re-issues. 99% of submissions are rejected.
    • Claire Eddy reads a few random sentences, and expects every such sentence to advance the plot, or develop a character, or serve a similar valuable purpose.
    • Never, ever, quote your story in the cover letter.
  • Interpreting What Editors Say They Want From You
    • Panelists included Mike Resnick (Baen's Universe), Toni Weisskopf (Baen), Paul Stevens (TOR), others
    • Paul Stevens wants no more than a 3 or 4 page synopsis; Toni Weisskopf wants a 4 to 10 page synopsis.
  • Goal, Motivation, & Conflict (by Debra Dixon)
    • Give your protagonist a choice between sucky and suckier (and choices have consequences).
    • Characters should have differences in ethics, backgrounds, goals, agendas.
    • Commercial fiction is about hope for change.
    • Conflict tests your characters, enables them to grow, and prepares them to overcome the antagonist in the finale.
    • Your pitch should convey what your protagonist wants, why she wants it, and the hurdles she must overcome.
  • What Every Writer Should Know
    • More novels get published than short stories!
    • Start submitting at the top (quality of credits counts for a lot)
  • Kiss Him, or Kill Him?
    • There were 6 panelists, of which I found Laurell K. Hamilton the most entertaining and enlightening.
    • Don't let your heroines be men in women's bodies
    • LKH said, "A pitch meeting is not about reality; you're selling your book." And, "My grammar sucks."
    • And, "Sex is different on paper. Less foreplay, more communication."
  • Now, That's Funny
  • Developing Exciting Secondary Characters
I renewed my acquaintance with a number of people, including Toni Weisskopf, John Scalzi, Mike Resnick, and Liz Gorinsky.
 
Dragon*Con was a very worthwhile experience; I've already purchased my ticket for next year.

My first Worldcon



Denvention 3 (August 6-10) was my first World Science Fiction Convention.

 
Overall impressions:
1)       Wow.
2)       Likely somewhere around 4500 attendees, including hundreds of writers, dozens of agents & editors, perhaps all of the publishers.
3)       Far too much to see and do. More than 25 concurrent sessions six times a day, plus evening sessions scheduled to start as late as 11:30, PLUS PARTIES.
4)       For a typical time slot, I had to choose among 6 sessions I’d really like, of which 2 were very important to my writing career.
5)       I focused on sessions involving agent and editor panels, largely sitting up front so that they might recognize my face and name tag the next time we meet (or when I submit to them).
6)       Signing up for kaffeeklatches (coffee with an editor or writer) starts at 9:00 each day, and the popular ones sell out quickly. Only 8 (plus 2 alternates) per hour per celebrity. Tried to sign up with Stanley Schmidt, but he was full. I decided to get up early for the next day. I found out that even 8:40 was too late to get your first choices: I wanted to sign up for coffee with Ellen Datlow, but by the time I got in line at 8:40 am there were 40 people in front of me. Her slot filled first. I did get coffee with Larry Niven; he sold out second.
7)       To fully experience a Worldcon, you must:
a.       be better at remembering names and faces than I’ve ever been,
b.      be young enough to not recognize the passage of time (and not require sleep),
c.       consume much larger quantities of caffeine than my cardiologist approves of, and
d.      know some insiders to gain introductions and access to private parties and functions. Sadly, I lacked these things. You can walk up to people and introduce yourself, but you must know what they look like! Most of the agents and some of the editors were not on any panels.
 

Most daytime functions were at the Colorado Convention Center (and the dealer room was some distance away from the meeting rooms). Some events (and most evening ones) were held at the Hyatt or the Sheraton. There were 7 official Denvention hotels, but most had no events. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt, about 3 blocks away, with perhaps 150 other attendees.
 

I almost took Sandra’s advice about hanging out at the bar of the party hotel. Well, I did mean to, but I assumed that the Hyatt, adjacent to the CCC, was the party hotel. I hung out the Hyatt’s lobby bar a bit, including eating most lunches. Friday PM I discovered that the Sheraton (3 blocks away) was the official party hotel. No wonder I couldn’t find the party floor at the Hyatt!
 

They did not publish the schedule until a week before the con, other than the major events. My first wrong assumption was that the con started with the opening ceremony at 5:30 pm Wednesday. WRONG! It started at 11:30 AM that morning, so I missed the first 1.5 sessions, including one on how to write a good query letter.
 

I attended these notable sessions (plus several less so):
1)       What happened to novels under 300 pages?
2)       What makes a writer?
3)       Small Press Publishing (4 small press editors). My overall impression: only as a last resort.
4)       Short Fiction: On it’s way out or a way to break into the market? This panel included editors Ellen Datlow (Omni) and Sheila Williams (Asimov’s).
5)       The Agent Behind The Curtain. Agents Eleanor Wood, Joshua Bilmes, Kristin Nelson, Lucienne Diver, Michael Kabongo. I met and talked to all of them.
6)       What Makes SF Work: Characters, Society, or Technology? Larry Niven was one of the panelists.
7)       Choosing an eBook format. I picked this one as a chance to meet panelist Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TOR)
8)       Breaking into SF: The Big Guns panelists included Ellen Datlow (OMNI, SciFiction, numerous anthologies), James Frenkel (TOR), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TOR), Sheila Williams (Asimov’s), Stanley Schmidt (ANALOG), and Toni Weisskopf (BAEN). I talked to all of them. Ellen Datlow arrived 15 minutes early, recognized me (from the previous day) and sat with me in the front row and chatted for 5 minutes until the other panelists arrived. Thanks, Ellen, I enjoyed it.
9)       SF Magazine Publication & Market Share panelists Bradford Lyau, Charles Brown (LOCUS), Scott Edelman (SciFiction), Sheila Williams (ASIMOV’S), Stanley Schmidt (ANALOG)
10)   Are Writer’s Workshops Right For You? Past attendees of several workshops were there.
11)   Sideways Awards. Helped Sheila Williams (ASIMOV’s) find the room: it was hidden in the Sheraton. Nominee Jo Walton recognized me from my blog posts on TOR.com. I talked to a few winners and nominees,
12)   What SF Editors are Looking For. David Summers (anthologies, Tales of the Talisman), Ginjer Buchanon (ACE), Standley Schmidt (ANALOG). Met and talked to Ginjer.
13)   Would You Care For A Little SF In That? Blurring the Genre Lines. Agent Lucienne Diver, Russell Davis (SFWA President), and several writers. Heard some very interesting stories.
14)   Editing and Being Edited.  Deanna Hoak, Eleanor Wood, Jo Walton.
15)   Hugo Awards Ceremony (just in case that I need to know what to do, someday!)
 

In addition to coffee with Larry Niven, I did a kaffeeklatsch with Jeff Carlson, a winner last year in the Writers of the Future Contest (Frozen Sky), and who wants to market his novels (Plague Year and Plague War) as techno-thrillers instead of as science fiction. Jeff figures he gets 3 times the sales volume when his books are closer to Steve Berry’s in the bookstore. I also met Liz Gorinsky (TOR), Lou Anders (PYR), Jim Minz (BAEN), David Rozinsky (Flying Pen Press), Sheila Gilbert (DAW), and Diana Gill (EOS).
 
I renewed my acquaintances with Larry Niven, John Scalzi (and his wife), Deanna Hoak, and several non-notables I’ve met at other conventions such as OASIS. I handed out dozens of my business cards, and was surprised that few of the agents and editors had cards to pass out. ALL of the agents and editors did NOT want to hear pitches during the Worldcon, but they did want to meet and talk to people like me.
 
I have a dozen pages of notes I took, plus lots of literature I picked up.
 

Overall, a very worthwhile convention.
 
Steve

Sent PORTLNAUT to the WOTF contest


This makes my third story submitted to Writers of the Future. My first submission, TECHNESIA, received an honorable mention.

I have hopes for this one, but I do realize it's a numbers game. The story first goes to a single judge who's primary goal is to reject stories, to cull them down to a manageable number.  And here is where it's the luck of the draw. Does the single person first judging your story like the style, genre, and story? Perhaps they like fantasy instead of science fiction. Perhaps they like soft (character or society driven) SF instead of hard (technology based) SF. Perhaps they prefer their hard SF to be dark and ominous, instead of optimistic and visionary.

I realize that even if I submit a great story, I might only have a one in four chance of getting past that first judge. Here's hoping!
 

This quarter's Writers Of The Future story


Today I finished (I think) the story I plan to submit to the Writers of the Future contest for this quarter.
 
Portalnaut is about 9,000 words. It is about exploiting a wormhole for transport between Earth orbit and Jupiter orbit. Luckily, physics allows for an 8.9 hour orbit around each of those planets that has the same gravitational potential and (at some point in every 8.9 hour orbit) matching velocity vectors. Note that there are no other planets in the solar system where conservation of momentum and energy can be observed in a wormhole jump from the Earth.

I plan one last "out loud" read before submitting it (by June 30). 

Heinlein Centenial Short Story Contest


Today I finished my contest entry, a 10,000 word story called APOPHIS 2029. It deals with a mission sent to deflect Apophis from a future Earth impact.

As a Heinlein style story, it is pro-space, has a strong female role, implied sex, and deals with the triumph of individuals over a bureaucracy.