Tag Archives: community

I’m going to New Zealand!

I am very excited to announce that I am going to Reconnaissance, the 36th New Zealand National Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Convention as the FFANZ Laureate! It will be held over Easter 2015.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the FFANZ race, and my commiserations to “Hold Over funds”–you were a worthy opponent! Also, a big shout out to Cat Sparks and Norman Cates for being my nominators. You’re awesome!

I can’t to meet all the New Zealand fans and I plan on making sure that I am the best delegate I can be. :-)


Galactic Chat 61 – Kameron Hurley

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to another one of my favourite writers—Kameron Hurley. I discovered her writing through the Bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy), one of the most original works of sci fi in recent times. But, she is also one of the leading fan writers in the spec fic community, and continues to challenge and subvert many of the things we take for granted with her blogging and essays.

As usual, my inner fanboy was fighting for control the whole time, but Kameron still managed to deliver a fascinating interview, where she talks about everything from Dragonlance to blog tours, and other topics listed below.

Plus, you get to find out more about her amazing new series!

This week David chats with award winning author and blogger Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been nominated for the Nebula, Clarke and the BSFA, selected for the Tiptree honour list and this year won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Additionally, her essay “‘We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” also won the Hugo for Best Related Work.

Please enjoy their chat where they talk about the influences on her most famous trilogy (including a dodgy rental apartment with bugs), when authors should speak out on issues of poor or disadvantageous contracts and what’s next on Hurley’s agenda.

You can find Kameron at her website

Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Kameron Hurley
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Post-prod.: Sean Wright
Twitter: @galactichat
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

I’m running for FFANZ delegate!

You’re probably asking, what is a FFANZ delegate?

FFANZ is the Fan Fund for Australia/New Zealand, and is designed to send a fan delegate from NZ to Australia every second year, and an Australian to NZ in the alternate year.

Duties of the delegate include:

  • Travel to New Zealand to attend Reconnaissance, to be held in Rotorua, NZ over Easter, 3rd – 6th April, 2015.
  • Visit and get to know as many New Zealand Science Fiction fans as time will permit.
  • Become the Australian FFANZ administrator until a replacement administrator is found, normally this happens when the administrator role is handed over to the succeeding NZ-bound delegate (in 2017 if a race is run every year).
  • Raise funds and maintain an account to be used by the next Aus delegate(s) in 2016.
  • Promote connections between Australian and New Zealand fandom by a trip report or other means.

So, basically, it exists to build relationships between Australian and New Zealand fandom, and hopefully benefit both communities by sharing ideas and philosophies.

I have been involved with a number of convention committees, and I have volunteered to help out with the New Zealand Worldcon bid. I hope that I can share some of the things I have seen work here in Australia, and pick up ideas from what has worked in New Zealand to bring back for future cons I am involved in..

I am the only one running so it may seem like I don’t really need your vote, but there are still two really good reasons I do. One, the voting fee goes into the pot to keep the fan fund running – the more votes the better for FFANZ. And, two, I really don’t want to get beaten by “hold over funds”! lol

You can read about my platform, and the voting process, here. If you decide I deserve your vote it would be deeply appreciated. Voting closes on December the 15th.


The march to global domination continues!

Some more Aussie Snapshot news!

The collated list of interviews is up on SF Signal. Thanks to the team there for hosting us, and hopefully it will mean more international exposure for our snapshotees.

There is also a nice article on Yahoo, via the West Australian

And, last but not least, the ever industrious Tehani and Katharine have started archiving all the old snapshots on a dedicated site. Eventually the new interviews will go there, too. Check it out for a glimpse of the scope of the project, and of the awesomeness of the Aussie scene.


The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014

The Aussie Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!

SnaphotLogo2014In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?

To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:

Writing update with shiny sales and shiny trophies!

Yet again I have been very bad with keeping up to date on my blog. But, I do have lots of exciting stuff to talk about!

Firstly, I have started a new job! I am working for the same organisation, but I have been seconded to our Editorial Department and am now responsible for a fortnightly magazine. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I am loving it. So, I guess now I am a professional writer/editor. The last issue was the first I did completely alone and having survived that I think I am going to be all right – but it was a long fortnight. The downside is that I have been so consumed by learning the ropes that I have let some stuff slide and let some people down with other things. :-(

I am also very excited to announce the sale of my story, “Her face like lightning”, to Fablecroft’s “Insert Title Here”. You can find out more details here.

I am currently working on two major projects that I hope to be able to announce in a month or so, but they are taking up most of my writing time. If they work out, they will be a big deal but until contracts are signed I will be keeping it quiet.

In June I went along to Continuum X and had an amazing time. I am a bit biased, being on the committee and all, but it seemed to be a smashing success. I spent a fair bit of time running around trying to help with organisational matters, but I also managed to catch up with heaps of friends, and make some new ones. My panels went reasonably well, and I even managed to organise a reprint of one of my stories. Well done to everyone who contributed to making it an awesome convention!

And, in a very surprising turn of events, we won both our categories in the Ditmars! I honestly didn’t expect it, given the other nominees, so it was a wonderful surprise. In the Atheling, New Who Reviews tied with Galactic Suburbia. As Galactic Suburbia was the first Aussie podcast I started listening to, and has had a huge influence on my perception of the genre, this was a huge honour. It’s been a great deal of fun working with Tansy and Tehani, so a big thank you to them for all their hard work and letting me be part of it (and a shout out to our guests over the years  – Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings).

Then, in the Best Fan Publication, Galactic Chat won! Again, I have been fortunate to get to work with an incredible group of people, and Sean has worked extremely hard in his role as our fearless leader. We were very excited to see him win Best Fan Writer, as well – a very deserved result.

But, looking at the rest of the nominees in all the categories, it was an extremely strong list – and congratulations to all the winners, and nominees, for the wonderful work you are doing! You can see the full list here.

So, it has been an exciting few months! How is your year going?

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

Lunch on the last day - photo by Alan Baxter

Lunch on the last day – photo by Alan Baxter

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce - photo by Cat Sparks

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce – photo by Cat Sparks

Wednesday Writers: Laura E. Goodin

Hot on the heels of last week, I get to introduce another of my favourite people, Laura Goodin! I had met Laura online just before Swancon 2011, when we both came up with the same answer in a competition to win one of Richard Harland’s books. Laura graciously allowed me to have the book, giving me an early introduction to her generous spirit. This was only reinforced when she made a point of welcoming me to my first con and showing me around, and introducing me to a number of people, a kindness I have never forgotten.

I soon discovered that Laura’s spiritual gifts were matched by her artistic ones. Not only has she written a number of wonderful stories, but she has also written poetry and plays and libretti and the list goes on…makes you sick, doesn’t it? Well it would, but for one thing – Laura is as humble as she is talented. Not humble in the sense that it so often used these days to mean someone of little importance, but humble in feeling no need to exalt herself or her achievements (as numerous as they are!), rather desiring to celebrate the achievements and milestones of those around her.

That’s why I was so happy to hear that she had won this year’s Kris Hembury Encouragement Award at the Aurealis Awards. Reading the description:

“The award was created in 2009 by Fantastic Queensland to honour one of their founders, Kris Hembury, who sadly died that year. Kris was an unceasingly positive and encouraging influence on emerging writers and artists of speculative fiction. Each year since, as part of Aurealis, an emerging writer and/or artist is chosen. The person chosen is seen to embody the spirit of creativity, leadership, self-motivation and fellowship that Kris had in spades.”

I can’t think of a more deserving winner, or anyone more qualified to write a guest post about community and building others up. Enjoy!

Community (Not the Epic TV Series, Although You Should Totally Check That Out*)

Writers work alone. In garrets. With caffeine as their only companion, and maybe a cat. We all know this.

Thing is, it’s completely untrue, and not just because we all waste time on Facebook (admit it). In fact, I don’t think it’s ever been true, even before the Internet. Fundamentally, writers need readers. Until very recently, writers have also needed publishers, and by extension, editors, printers, truck drivers, booksellers, advertising and marketing people, paper millers, lumberjacks, oil refiners — and on and on. But even as we reduce our dependence on paper books and traditional publishing, it becomes more crucial, not less, that we pay attention to the people around us. And the good news is that the more we focus on building communities that are joyful, courteous, cooperative, and dedicated to a common purpose, the more fun writing gets.

The most common form of writing community is the writer’s group, either in person or online. Many writers find these communities highly useful in helping them hone their own writing, but the benefits really come when writers learn to critique. (One of the basic principles of Clarion-style workshops is that you learn at least as much about how to write well by relentlessly critiquing story after story as by getting your own story relentlessly critiqued — and most find they learn much more.) When you focus on helping the other people in the community be the best they can be, that’s when you really start to grow.

Conventions and festivals are another type of community in and of themselves. They are a wonderful bubble of time and space when you’re at Hogwarts, you’re in Starfleet, you’re at Harper Hall, you’re focused solely and intensely on writing. Everyone there is a comrade, an actual or potential friend, an ally in the fight. Cons become a thousand times more fun when you move up from just going to panels and wishing you were famous to actually talking to the writers whose work you love, and then to volunteering. Even if you’re not yet ready to participate on a panel, there is always something that needs doing, some newbie who needs welcoming, some awesome genre-fiction icon who could really use a cup of coffee and a place to sit quietly. If you’re committed to making the con the best it can be for your writing buddies and heroes, it will alchemically become the best it can be for you.

Artistic collaboration is yet another type of community. It can be as small as you and one other person writing a piece of flash fiction together, or it can be you and a dozen other people producing a play, concert, podcast, anthology, art exhibition, graphic novel, or film. One of the very best things about being an artist (which writers are, of course) is that you get to hang out with people who have superpowers. Revel in that! Take time and take the opportunity to stare, open-mouthed and grinning, as your friends do amazing things. Help them to do them better. And above all, make sure the work, not your little piece of the work, is the most important thing, and that alchemy will happen here, too.

You see the trend, of course. The secret to good communities that feed your soul and improve your art is focusing on the other people. I’ve read a lot of blog posts that urge you to advocate for your own work, promote yourself, develop a platform, yadda yadda. I guess that’s important to a point, but frankly, the people who are the most focused on that are usually the least fun to work with. And this is kind of self-defeating if you’re looking for readers, publishers, collaborators — all those communities that are always so crucial to what we do. Instead, I’m urging you to consider a different model: trust.

Stop worrying about whether your contribution will get lost. Stop evaluating every acquaintance for how much they might be able to help your career. Stop whining about other people winning too many awards. Stop choosing which panels you’ll attend or participate on based on whose attention you want to catch. Just…stop.

Instead, start looking for ways to give, and accept that you may never see any payback, or even any thanks. Accept that when the work, when other people’s success, is more important than their gratitude to you, your career will move ahead as if by magic, because the work will simply be better that way. Trust that people will see and value your work without your having to smack them about the face with it. If you put your work out there with a clear intent to make something or someone who isn’t you the best they can be, trust that you will progress, you will improve, and you will accomplish.

Remember what it was like to admire and enjoy people’s talents for their own sake, not for what those people might do for you. Remember it and reclaim it. Just about everyone — and the stars of the con scene are definitely in this group — can spot a crawler or a climber a mile away. Ever wonder why they’d rather talk to some gobsmacked newbie who’s working on their first piece of fanfic than you? Might it be because the newbie wanted to tell them how much joy she got out of their last novel, whereas you were waiting, tense and eager, to say something clever that would reveal how special you were, in the hopes that they would rest their gaze upon you and say solemnly, “Yer a wizard, Harry — send my agent your latest manuscript and tell them I sent you”?

Take on new projects because you want them to happen, not because they’ll advance your career. Be content to let go of some of your pet ideas about how a project should be, especially if someone you respect artistically thinks another way will be great. Trust that there are many, many ways a given project can be good, and let some of these other ways happen, with cheerfulness and good grace and genuine faith in your collaborators.

Have adventures doing something you’ve never done before. Write a play. Perform your writing as performance (not just as a reading) in front of an audience who paid to be there. Take a dance class, and then write a story that can form the basis for some wicked-cool choreography. Illustrate your next piece with photos of the character figurines that you’ve crocheted out of old shopping bags. Trust that these adventures can lead to glorious things, new skills, new collaborators, new people who love your work and who love working with you.




That’s what communities are for: not to give you a platform, but to give you the honor and joy of boosting other people up. And that will have magical results for you. I promise.

* Here’s their official web site

Laura E. Goodin’s stories have appeared in numerous publications (both print and on-line), including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, The Lifted Brow, Adbusters, Wet Ink, and Daily Science Fiction, and in several anthologies.  Her plays and libretti have been performed in Australia and the UK, and her poetry has been performed on three continents.  She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.  She lives on the South Coast of New South Wales with her composer husband and actor daughter, and she spends what little spare time she has trying to be as much like Xena, Warrior Princess, as possible.



Geek Tribalism and Sexism

In one of those terribly entertaining cases of foot-in-mouth that makes the internet both amusing and depressing, Tony Harris recently made some comments about female cosplayers and fake geeks that, quite rightly, caused the wrath of the web to descend upon him.

You can find two great articles here and here that either address the specific comments, or the wider issues that they spring from, and they sum it up far better than I ever could. But, there were a couple of thoughts that sprang to mind after reading the various conversations that have been sparked by this furore. I think there are actually two factors at play here.

Geek Tribalism

One of the problems is that many geeks take a perverse pride in being part of a minority, whether perceived or real. I’d suggest that there are a lot of people whose interests weren’t exactly considered cool at high school and peer group pressure and bullying created a sort of bunker mentality that endures long after school is done with. If you are getting victimised as a teenager and feel on the outer, it is only natural to form a group of your own where you can feel like you belong, and look down on those who aren’t part of group as meatheads or jocks or less intelligent so you can feel superior to the “cool crowd”. While it is natural, that doesn’t mean it is healthy, especially when you are still feeling the same way when you are in your forties.

It is hard for many geeks to accept that in many ways we have won the culture wars. Superhero movies or science fiction and fantasy based tv shows are no longer the domain of one social demographic, they are becoming increasingly acceptable in “mainstream” society, which means an influx of new fans. For some people this is threatening, when your identity is defined by being the most devoted or knowledgeable fan of a particular franchise there can be resentment of people you see as newbies coming along and suddenly claiming to be fans of “your” interest.

It’s no different than when people loved a band for years while they were below the radar getting frustrated when the band hits the charts and all of a sudden they have to share them with people they see as simply jumping on the bandwagon. I know people who will stop listening to a particular artist when they go “mainstream”, or see the new fans as “poseurs” and treat them with scorn – so it is certainly not limited to spec fic fandom! But, I think that feeling of being on the outer makes it worse, and create a more poisonous type of resentment.

I can think of two areas of my fandom where there has been a huge change in the makeup of the fanbase. The first is the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Since I got involved in the fan group of these books over a decade ago, their popularity has steadily grown and the recent HBO adaptation has meant that the books are suddenly part of mainstream conversation and extremely well known.

The second is Doctor Who. Since the relaunch, and especially over the past few years, Doctor Who is perceived very differently. When I was growing up it was a bit of a laughing stock, definitely not something you were quick to share with others. Now it seems too have become rather cool, I see lots of t shirts out and about and it is even going to feature at the Proms!

As a long term fan you can look at these things and get upset about people “trespassing” on to your sphere of interest, whether it speaking contemptuously of “floobs” (people who have only seen HBO’s series and not read ASOAIF) or disparaging those who hopped on the New Who bandwagon and how they don’t get the heritage of Doctor Who, or you can be excited that something you love is getting the recognition it deserves,

As I said to Neil Gaiman when we were chatting at a party (sorry, couldn’t resist haha), I was really excited by how well attended all the Doctor Who panels I was on at Chicon were, and how there were so many tween and teens there saying that they were happy to wear their Doctor Who tshirt to school and that it didn’t make them a target of mockery. As I pointed, when I was at school that would have gotten me beaten up – and I am not exaggerating, though I am sure that is an extreme case.

I am thrilled that when people at work ask me what I did on a Sydney trip and I say that I hung out with friends from a George R.R. Martin fan group they know who George R.R. Martin is! I love seeing people on planes reading his books and being able to have a conversation about it – if they want one, of course lol

Where is the logic in being upset about being marginalised and mocked for so long, but then not welcoming the fact that all of a sudden there are suddenly lots more people who share your interests and loves, and having common ground to make more friends? As a fan I want as many people as possible to know about the things I am interested in, there is not a finite amount of enjoyment to go around that is diminished by every new person that comes along. Instead, it truly is the more the merrier, the more fans there are the more vibrant a community we can build.

Geek Sexism

While that tribalism is a bit sad and I don’t agree with it, it is understandable to a degree. But, as has been pointed out, there is an even darker side to this whole issue, and that is the double standards applied to males and females when it comes to true fans. I don’t really feel qualified to talk too much about this, and Foz and Tansy have both done a far better job than I could of addressing it, all I can talk is from my own experience. There is a great line in Tansy’s post where she says:

(Frankly in the case of many female superheroes, the concept behind the character can actually be a whole lot more empowering than the reality of the stories featuring that character.)

I am sure this is true, and I am not arguing against or even using it to prove my next point. But, it made me think of the fact that for me that it applies to the majority of comic book characters. I am a huge Superman fan, but I have read maybe three or four comic of the thousands of character arcs that have been created for him. I much prefer the prose books I have read, or Smallville, or the DCAU series. Could I tell you what happened in Action Comics #234, what the hell happened with Red and Blue? And, I think I am a hardcore Whovian but I am only about half way through New Who and I’ve never listened to any Big Finish productions.

Given all that, if you had to guess, how many times do you think I have had my credentials as a fan questioned, or my right to be on as many panels on the subjects as I have challenged? If you said zero, you would be spot on. It is hard not to think that my gender has a huge amount to do with that. And that is just not right – why should female fans have a bigger burden of proof placed on their shoulders?

I do think that a lot of this comes from the fact there is a percentage of male geeks see the opposite sex as the enemy. After a life time of slights and rejections, real or imagined, sometimes people veil hurt and vulnerability under a layer of contempt and misogyny. The way they treat women is a projection of the insecurity and self loathing they feel, after all, it is much easier to blame someone else than take ownership yourself. Rather than run risk of being rejected, they would rather be on the offensive, the only way they can feel safe is by trying to put themselves in a position of power by denigrating others.

Saying that, while you might see why they would act that way, it doesn’t make it acceptable. Like people who were bullied becoming bullies, I have never seen why you would not treat people the way you would wish to be treated yourself, if you’ve been marginalised why would you not want to be inclusive? And, treating the object of your desire in such a fashion seems rather counter-productive, it’s unlikely to make them want to spend time in your company! It’s amazing how effective treating someone like a human being, equally deserving of their own interests and opinions, is in building friendships. Funny that.

As for the treatment of female cosplayers, I think that Foz hits the nail on the head when she says:

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that a straight white male comics artist – that is, a professional member of a fraternity whose members frequently get froth-mouthed with rage at the VERY SUGGESTION that maybe, just MAYBE, consistently drawing female heroes in skintight, skimpy clothes, viscerally sexualised poses and impossible bodily contortions MIGHT JUST BE a little bit sexist and demeaning – is now saying women who dress as those selfsame characters are slutty? Like, do we not see the contradiction, here? How is it fine to rabidly defend the hypersexualised portrayal of comic book heroines as being no big deal, aesthetically justified, representative of their characters, traditional and all that jazz, but then start body- and slut-shaming actual, real live women who choose to cosplay those outfits? If the costumes themselves had no overt sexual component, or if such a component was present, but ultimately benign – as most comics apologists tend to argue – then the idea that actual women could dress that way specifically to prey on the sexual sensibilities of men who like those characters should be fundamentally ludicrous, regardless of the depth and breadth of their personal comics knowledge.

Seriously, angry comic guys: you cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that female comic heroines aren’t hypersexualised, and then claim that, merely by donning their costumes, real live women are sexualising themselves, and that their primary motive for doing so must therefore be to mess with you. No. THEY’RE DRESSING THE WAY YOU INSIST ON WOMEN DRESSING, AND THEN YOU’RE SHAMING THEM FOR IT.

As a male there are lots of characters I could choose to dress up as whose bodies are not accentuated by their costumes. But, if I chose to dress up as Superman, in skin tight lycra and my underwear wantonly exposed on the outside, am I trying to entrap the innocent women around me? If you think so, you obviously haven’t seen me in lycra! What I am doing is emulating a character I admire by faithfully reproducing their outfit. The difference is, I can do it without being called a slut.

That aside, so what if women do dress up in deliberately sexy costumes? What right does anyone have to tell them that makes them less than genuine fans? Personally, there are things about cosplay that do make me uncomfortable at times, some of it does seem over sexualised and there sometimes seems to be  an unhealthy exhibitionist/voyeur dynamic going on (in a minority of cases). But that’s not their problem, that’s probably mine. Just like other things that I personally can’t get into, like the SCA or filking or LARPing, I take a live and let live approach. If dressing up in costumes makes people happy and enables them to build a community and to enjoy whatever their fandom is, who am I to stand in their way? Life is unhappy enough without curtailing people’s happiness unnecessarily and forcing your tastes on them. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, people should be able to express their fandom the way they want without having to prove its worth to people who have elected themselves the arbiters of geekdom.

The reason why I love fandom is because my experiences of it have been of inclusivity and enthusiasm and tolerance. I want everyone to have that same experience regardless of gender or orientation or race or whatever. People like Tony Harris don’t speak for me, but I think it important that those disagree with those attitudes speak up or nothing will change.

Wednesday Writers: Charles Tan

If you pay any attention to the spec fic scene, it is not hard to find people who work hard to promote their own work. After all, it makes sense right? You need to get your name out there! But, it doesn’t take long before you realise that the real strength of the spec fic community lies in those who spend as much time, if not more, promoting the work of other people and making sure that the acheivements of others are publicised and recognised, and that a word of encouragement is never far away. If I had to point to someone who embodies that idea, then Charles Tan would be a pretty good start. Because he is so quick to praise or promote others, it is easy to overlook his own significant acheivements but there is a reason for the universally high regard in which he is held, and it is great to welcome him here today.

“What are you reading?”

Junot Diaz visited the Philippines last year, and he mentioned that sometimes, writers can congregate, and never bring up the subject of what they’re currently reading (he, of course, said it more eloquently than I did).  And I think it’s an important point to bring up.

Why do we write? Because we’re readers. I think it’s important to remember that, more so when we’re swamped with deadlines and work.

And let’s not be snobbish about it. We have permission to read what we want; we could be rereading a favorite book; it could be a nonfiction title that’s unrelated to the research of the story we’re currently working on; it could even be the much-maligned Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey.

Because on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have writers who do not read. In my personal experience, I have come across aspiring short story writers who do not read short stories. To their credit, they will mention novels and comics that they’ve read. I just question that if they love those mediums so much, why did they consider writing short fiction in the first place? Because novels, comics, and short stories each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and while there is an overlap in the skills necessary to write them, there are also nuances in one form that’s not present in the other.

It sounds like such a basic concept, yet it’s one of the most overlooked fundamentals. The Creative Writing program of the university I attended, for example, lacked reading classes and was focused on writing workshops. Which mostly meant that your growth as a writer depended on what you read during your personal time. I can understand the logic of the administrators and students: we can read anytime, but we won’t always have opportunities for writing workshops (assuming you value them). Hence reading becomes undervalued, not just because it’s free, but because of the perceived opportunity costs.

I won’t lie: in the past few months, my reading has dropped. I can cite several excuses: work fatigue, the looming to-be-read-pile for the amateur book reviewer, short story deadlines, an anthology to edit and market, podcasts to edit, eBooks to design, etc. But at the end of the day, those are just excuses, just like the excuses we might cite for not actually writing. So it becomes important to set aside time to read, to remember the reason why we became writers in the first place, and to learn from what we read.

You know who reads a lot of short stories? Editors and slush readers. They set aside time to read. And sometimes, a lot of what they read is horrible. Yet they persevere, and set an uncompromising schedule. Now not every editor or slush reader is also a writer; nor does it mean that those that do overlap make for great writers. But slush readers/writers mention how their writing has significantly improved after reading a lot of slush; they notice what makes a story work and how it can falter or succeed. There is, of course, the cognitive dissonance between knowing what to write and actually doing it, but at least they’re one step closer to realizing that ideal.

And at the end of the day, if you ask me for writing advice, perhaps the one, universal truism (since everyone’s process is unique and different) that I can offer is to read, and that’s true whether you’re a new writer or a veteran. To quote one of my favorite short story writers, Lisa L. Hannett:


Read a lot.

Read more.

Read even more.

And, most importantly, read critically.

Read like writers.”

From a practical point of view, the only thing that I’d add to that is to read—and understand—your contract. We’re readers after all, and it’s important to exercise that skill, especially when our rights are concerned. And while there might be legal jargon that we might miss out, there’s also a lot that we can glean by reading and not simply signing on the dotted line.

So, let me ask you: what are you reading?

I’m nearly done with After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Crackpot Palace by Jeffrey Ford.

Charles Tan is the editor of Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology. His fiction has appeared in publications like The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and the Philippine Speculative Fiction series. He designs eBooks for Twelth Planet Press and blogs at Bibliophile Stalker and SF Signal.