New entry May 06
Critters is 25!
This November, Critters is 25 years old! Wow! Thanks so much to all of you, who've made it such a resounding success!
Books from Critters!
Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.
The Sigil TrilogyIf you're looking for an amazing, WOW! science fiction story, check out THE SIGIL TRILOGY. This is — literally — one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read.
Space Travel for SF Writers
Hot off the presses from ReAnimus Press! Space Travel - A Science Fiction Writer's Guide— An indispensible tool for all SF writers that explains the science you need to help you make your fiction plausible. (Also via Amazon)
I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.
Free Web Sites
Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.
ReAnimus Acquires Advent!
ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!
THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock
Announcing ReAnimus Press
If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]
The Thirteenth Annual Writers of the Future Workshop and Banquet: A Personal Review by David L. Felts Surf, sun, writing, and professional Science Fiction and Fantasy authors and illustrators. I recently got back from the thirteenth annual Writers of the Future Workshop, held at the Radisson Resort in (mostly) sunny Cape Canaveral, and thought I'd share the experience. Before I begin, I want to address a perception -- not widespread, but out there -- that the Writers of the Future Contest is not the Real Deal. I'm not sure if this is because the contest is open only to new writers (and hence winning -- as one professional editor told me -- means only that yours was the best of a bunch of bad stories) or because of its association with Scientology. I've heard one professional writer express, "Even though I know people who've won, I'll never buy one of their anthologies because I don't want any money going to those people." The group I was in was a mixed bunch -- from a young author of twenty five who won on her first try with the third story she'd ever written, to an author in his late forties who'd entered 21 out of the last 23 quarters and had completed over 100 stories, many of them published in the semi-pro and small press. Like the many of the names in previous anthologies (Barnes, Hoffman, Rusch, Wolverton, Reed, etc., etc., etc.), you'll be seeing many of them again. The WOTF contest has a remarkable track record for discovering talent. Over 120 winners and finalists have been selected since the contest's inception. They've gone on to produce more than 200 novels and 1500 professional short stories, and not just in the speculative fiction field. This year's judges were Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford, Algis Budrys, Doug Beason, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Andre Norton, Frederick Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Robert Silverburg, Jack Williamson, and Dave Wolverton. There are some big names here, and their participation alone should be enough to give the contest legitimacy in anyone's eyes. If your story wins, it wasn't the best of a bad bunch, it was a good story. I invite you to take a look at this year's collection. You won't be disappointed. As for the second point, yes, Author Services (who administers the contest) is part of the Hubbard conglomerate. But in the seven days I spent there, no one mentioned Scientology. The contest is not a membership drive. There are those out there who have a knee-jerk reaction to the name "L. Ron Hubbard." The contest is for writers, judged by writers, and run by writers. I'm thankful to the Hubbard folks for footing the bill. And no, I'm not a Scientologist. Nor was anyone else in the workshop. Nor were Algis Budrys or Dave Wolverton. I can't speak for all the other professional writers and illustrators, but so what if any of them were? Having a bias against a group because of their religion seems like a form of discrimination to me. Enough said. The Writers of the Future is the Real Deal. The contest is dedicated to discovering new talent. The stories are judged and selected by professional writers, many of them legends in the field. You have to write a good story to win. They get between 800-1,000 manuscripts per quarter, from which they pick three winners and one or two finalists. Many stories that fail to make the cut at Writers of the Future go on to get professionally published elsewhere. If you win, you can be proud of it, no matter what anyone might say. And now I'll get off the soapbox. I arrived on a Sunday, having driven down from North Carolina, one of eleven writers in the workshop (one of the winners was unable to attend and the published finalist arrived later in the week). We wasted no time in getting busy, assembling at 7:00 in one of the conference rooms to get the workshop rolling. Algis Budrys (writer and editor) and Dave Wolverton (a former WOTF Grand Prize winner and best selling author) headed the workshop. They introduced themselves and talked about what we'd be doing over the next week. It sounded daunting, but I was looking forward to it. After general introductions, we dispersed. We met again on Monday at 9:00 A.M, read some essays, one by Algis and others by L. Ron Hubbard, and talked about the structure of a story. We looked at what the public wants from a story and the basis for generating good, believable conflict. Classroom exercises focused on idea generation; being assigned a common object (like a glass or even the way something smelled) and coming up with story ideas based on it. After an early afternoon finish, we had plenty of time to enjoy the pool or take the short walk (about a mile) to the nearby beach. Tuesday was devoted to more idea generation, with the afternoon spent at the library for research. We had to come up with three more story ideas from our research. Wednesday, Algis and Dave examined our story ideas. We chose one and were assigned to write a full story on it overnight, to be turned in Thursday morning. Everyone was able to accomplish this, though a lot of midnight oil was burned. Thursday and part of Friday we had guest speakers: Kevin J. Anderson talked about how professionals made time to write. He cited time to write as the main complaint of the fledgling writer. Ultimately, he stressed, it's not finding time to write, but making time to write. Many of the professionals he knows produce in excess of 100,000 words a month. For someone who has trouble writing a 5,000-word story in a month, I found this intimidating. He said the he did too, at first, but that it, like anything else, becomes easier over time. Frederick Pohl spoke on sustaining a long career, highlighting such topics as what not to do, how to keep the ideas coming, and the benefit (or detriment) of having an agent. The verdict? You probably don't need an agent for your first book. Send it out and if you get a call, THEN get an agent. Tim Powers gave an energetic lecture on creating the unusual story. His pet phrase was "have a clown on silts with his head on fire wander through." Keep your reader off balance, but make sure everything that happens makes sense. Your emotions have to be real and the best way to do this is to learn how to put yourself in the character's position. If this were to happen to you, how would you feel? Figure it out, write it down, and make it real. Bill Widder, a public relations man, talked about promoting yourself in the highly competitive publishing market. These days, it seems that the publishing houses are skimping on marketing, especially for new and mid list writers. He knows many writers who have overcome this by learning how to promote themselves. Learn how to write a press release, and don't be shy about tooting your own horn. On Thursday, the session broke early again, with plans to meet at 6:00 to take the vans out to observe the shuttle launch. The launch was scheduled for 10:34 P.M. and despite some concerns over the weather, went off on time. A night launch is spectacular. The flame seemed bright as a small sun, illuminating the whole horizon. An amazing and motivating experience. I can't describe the way I felt as I watched the shuttle climb toward the stars. Pride, awe, excitement, sadness -- a mix of everything. Go and see one, you'll be glad you did. After the guest speakers Friday morning, we spent a few hours critiquing the stories we'd written. It was helpful to have an editor and an established author tell what they thought needed to be changed, or if the piece was even salvageable. A humbling, but enlightening experience. Friday afternoon was a panel at the Kennedy Space center on Science Fiction in education and that evening there was an informal dinner where the budding young writers and illustrators (who had arrived Thursday) got a chance to brush against some established pros. Saturday was our own until four in the evening, when we met for a formal dinner before the award ceremony. After dinner, we packed up and headed for the Kennedy Space Center again, where the ceremony was held. Norman Thagard was the key speaker, an electrical engineer and a four-time shuttle astronaut. The focus of his speech was the role of Science Fiction in his becoming a scientist. It's the dreams engendered by science fiction, he said, that lead many of us to the stars or other scientific accomplishments. Frank Frazetta was honored with a lifetime achievement award. The illustrators were recognized, and then the writers. The Grand Prize winners were announced -- Morgan Burke won with "A Prayer for the Insect Gods" and Eric Williams (who illustrated the story by yours truly) won for the illustrators. The anthology cover was unveiled, a painting selected from Frank Frazetta's works. After the ceremony, it was back to the Radisson for a reception that, to me, felt like a con party, except this time I was on the inside. Author Services organized a round robin where all the illustrators and writers signed 75 copies. I also had the opportunity to sign some books of fans who'd attended, having read about the reception in the local paper. It's kind of intimidating at first -- "Could you sign my book, Mr. Felts?" -- but I think I could get used to it. And that's it in a nutshell, although reading about it is hardly the way to experience it. I got to spend a week with a bunch of like-minded people and press some of the biggest names in the business for advice. I saw people who had, years ago, been where I was -- a young first-time published writer with a dream - - and were now successful authors. Perhaps the greatest gift I got was motivation. It can be done, and people do it. The only ones who don't make are the ones who give up. Don't quit, ever. The Writers of the Future contest is the Real Deal. Write your best stuff, send it off and see what happens. And if you're a winner or published finalist, go. You won't regret it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.