Better Worlds @ The Verge

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I can finally talk about this. The Verge is launching a fiction package that we’re calling Better Worlds. It’s something that we’ve been working on most of the fall, so it’s nice to see it out in the world… soon.

Then I jumped over from io9 to The Verge, I mentioned early on that fiction was something that I wanted to tackle. It was a back-burner priority until our new Culture editor, Laura Hudson came onboard, and was immediately interested in tackling. We settled on the idea that we really wanted to see stories that weren’t dark and dystopian, but which were a bit more inspirational and optimistic. The project also grew (you can see the entire team who worked on it over on the announcement page): there’ll be ten stories in all, five with animated adaptations, and five with audio adaptations. The stories will begin to spool out in January and will run through February.

I’m also particularly excited of the roster that we have lined up:

  • A Theory of Flight by Justina Ireland

  • Move the World by Carla Speed McNeil

  • A Model Dog by John Scalzi

  • Online Reunion by Leigh Alexander

  • St. Juju by Rivers solomon

  • Monsters in Their Season by Cadwell Turnbull

  • Overlay by Elizabeth Bonesteel

  • Skin City by Kelly Robson

  • A Sun will Alway Sing by Karin Lowachee

  • The Burn by Peter Tieryas

These are all some fantastic authors, and the stories that they’ve submitted are amazing, not to mention the art and animation that accompanies them.

You can read Laura’s introductory letter here, which outlines the project as a whole, and when each of the stories will drop.

Also, here’s a trailer.

I'm starting up a newsletter

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve corresponded with two authors, Eliot Peper and Peter Tieryas, and at this year’s New York Comic Con, we ended up meeting up for dinner. It was great to see both of them in person for the first time, and we spoke about a wide range of things, from science fiction to the internet, to online communities.

One of the things that came up was a mailing list that Eliot maintains. You should subscribe to it: each month, he sends out a bunch of book recommendations “that explore the intersection of technology and culture.” We got to talking about some of the problems with social media, and how online newsletters seemed to be making a comeback in recent years.

There’s been a bunch of newsletters that I’ve started following. I’ve been reading Hot Pod by Nick Quah, a podcast industry newsletter. My colleague Casey Newton runs a daily column called The Interface over on The Verge, which is all about social media and democracy, which is pretty interesting, and Liz Lopatto runs a weekly one called This Week in Elon, all about Elon Musk, which is entertaining. Eliot touted the newsletter format as something a bit more personal for readers: not quite as sporadic as a Twitter feed, but not as open as a blog post.

Given my quibbles with social media, it feels like a good place to jot down ideas. My rough plan is to write about a couple of my general beats — science fiction, storytelling, and the future of reading in general, probably along the lines of yesterday’s post about Frank Herbert’s longevity, along with some random links to other stories / posts / articles that I’ve liked. I haven’t hammered out details just yet, but I figure it’ll be roughly monthly, with the occasional extra, or maybe a short story if I get my act together and actually stick to writing fiction on a regular basis. My goal is that it’ll be thoughtful, and a step back from the overt self-promotion that my Facebook and Twitter pages feel like sometimes.

Anyway, it’ll be an experiment. If you’re willing to play along, sign up here.

Presentation: Army TRADOC's Mad Scientist conference: Learning in 2050

Next week, I'll be in Washington D.C. to present at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Mad Scientist Initiative Conference, Learning in 2050. TRADOC is the command that oversees the training of the entire army, operating a dozens of schools and facilities. One of their initiatives is Mad Scientist, which looks to explore the future through "collaborative partnerships and continuous dialogue with academia, industry and government." One of those partnerships is with some science fiction writers: they've solicited soldiers to write fiction, and basically use that project to get people to think about what's to come in the decades ahead. The people who are just joining the military now will eventually inherit command of the branch. Science fiction isn't a great way to predict the future, but it's a good way to get into the right mindset, so they've asked me to come talk about military science fiction. 

The event is taking place at Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies. I don't believe that it'll be open to the general public, but it will be livestreamed, according to the project's Twitter feed

I've been interested in military SF for a while now — I grew up on Star Wars, Starship Troopers, and Ender's Game, and it's something that I've increasingly been working in and thinking about. It's a durable genre, but it's also one that I've been seeing as being incredibly useful, for all of the reasons that TRADOC set up the Mad Scientist Initiative: it's a way to get people to think about what's coming up, whether that's fantastical technologies or wartime scenarios. Defense Secretary James Mattis has spoken often about the importance of reading, with one notable e-mail going viral every now and again in which he outlines its importance: "

"Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."

Military SF is the same way, I think, and there's a body of work that's being developed in the field that explores the battlegrounds of the near future, aimed at getting people to think about the bigger picture. One notable book is Ghost Fleet, authored by P.W. Singer and August Cole, which they wrote by incorporating all of the technology and geopolitics that experts are developing or watching. They noted that the book could have been written up as a future war white paper, something they described as "printed Ambien." By dumping all that information into a novel, with characters and plot, they found people better related to the information the might have just skimmed. 

The conference will take place on the 8th and 9th. I'll likely be jotting down notes on Twitter, and I'll try and find the livestream link when that's live. 

War Stories: On Sale!

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I don't know how long it'll be on sale, but Amazon has marked down War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, edited by myself and Jaym Gates to $3.82 for the Kindle edition! That's a bit off the regular listed price of $5, and quite a bit cheaper than the print edition. 

If you haven't read it yet, it's a good time to pick it up, and read stories from Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Yoon Ha Lee, James Sutter, Maurice Broadus, Jake Kerr, Janine Spendlove, TC McCarthy, and a bunch of others. 

I'm very proud of this little book, and of all the stories in it. Jaym and I wanted to push against the typical tropes of Military SF, and I think we succeeded. There's things like power armor, AI, and space battles, but all with the backdrop of how warfare affects people. 

So if you're looking for a good book, it's a good opportunity to check it out! 

Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Conflict

This is a thing that I'm a part of: Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict. The book is edited by my War Stories editing partner Jaym Gates, as well as Max Brooks (yes, that Max Brooks), ML Cavanaugh, and John Amble. It also has a foreword by Gen (RET) Stanley McChrystal (yes, that Stanley McChrystal). The book s hitting stores in May, and you can pre-order it from the University of Nebraska Press or Amazon.

The book came about out of a funny way. While I was freelancing, I pitched a series of articles to StarWars.com, a series of military history-style reports about the various notable battles in the Star Wars films, cartoons, and books. The original essay went through a couple of editing rounds, but it ultimately wasn't a good fit, and I intended to post it here. But I ended up sending it over to August Cole, of the Atlantic Institute and co-author of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, with the idea that it might be a good fit with his own site. Somewhere along the line, the idea turned into a book, and it became Strategy Strikes Back.

Along the way, it picked up some interesting authors and essays, including my essay about the Battle of Hoth and the tactical reasons for why the Empire not only lost the battle, but missed a critical point to eliminate the Rebellion because of its mistakes. There's also essays about Clones and Stormtroopers being too distant from the societies that they serve, the destruction of Alderaan, the Jedi and professional militaries, and more. There's also another Norwich MMH alum, BJ Armstrong, in the mix.

I've just finished looking over page proofs of the book, and now, it's just going to be a little bit of time before it hits stores.

PSA: Facebook Page

For a while now, I've been feeling guilty about the number of links I've been foisting on friends on Facebook - it's increased as I've taken on more freelance work. To alleviate this, I've set up a personal page, which will feature all of the things that I've been writing, and other SF/Writing type links that I find interesting. You can like the page here.

I've had an uptick in people in the SF community sending me friend requests, and while I like networking, I've been increasingly feeling like my profile is something I'm going to lock down a bit more and keep it more for friends and family that I actually know. The page will be for everyone, though!

Mech: Age of Steel Kickstarter Now Live

Untitled.png So, this is a project that I've been involved with: Mech: Age of Steel! It's a science fiction anthology all about, well, giant mecha. I've got a short story that I'm writing included in the table of contents. The book's Kickstarter just launched, and you can take a look here.

I'm pretty excited about this anthology as a whole - there's some great authors in the Table of Contents. I'm also excited about my own story, which is something that I've been working on for a while now. 'Battlefield Recovery' is about a technician who is dropped onto the battlefield to recover a damaged mech, and finds that it's more complicated than originally thought.

So, go pledge! I want this book in my hands!

Now Managing Events For Montpelier's Bear Pond Books

Growing up a bookworm in Central Vermont, there weren't a lot of places to go to buy books. However, I could reliably find something to read in Montpelier, which boasted the now gone Yankee Paperback Exchange, Rivendell Books, and Bear Pond Books.

Bear Pond Books is the epitome of what an indie bookstore should be like: well curated selection of books, complete with creaky wooden floors. I've long been a fan of the place, and I'm happy to say that I'm now working there: I've accepted a position as their Events and Marketing Coordinator. I'll be playing with the website, and I'll be planning and scheduling all of their IRL events.

I'm really excited about this: not only is it a bookstore that I've shopped at for as long as I've been buying books, I get to do things that I've been doing with Geek Mountain State: bring authors to talk about their work. In all likelihood, the Vermont SF Writer's Series will find a home base here, at least part of the time, and I've already begun planning the first of what will be some exciting events in the next couple of months.

I've worked in a bookstore before: I spent a couple of years at Walden Books in the Berlin Mall, which was quite a bit of fun, and I've been wanting to get back into the bookselling business once again.

So, stay tuned.

Freelancing

609cf35a-4f29-470b-b8fe-fd5844e3acb5On December 23rd, I left my job at Norwich University. It's one of those things that's been a long time coming. As I began to do more work with places like io9 and Barnes and Noble, I came to a conclusion: I can do one of those two jobs well, but not both. So, I opted for the one that brought me more satisfaction. I'm now completely freelance, and I'm excited by the possibilities (let's check in on that in a couple of months), and the time that it'll afford me to research and explore some interesting things.

I haven't left Norwich completely - there's a saying: Norwich Forever! and ever and ever. - I'm now teaching for their undergraduate program. My first class, ENG250B, Crime and Literature, begins today.

In addition to that, I've got an impressive stack of books that I've been wanting to read and review (which I can now do), a bunch of science fiction / fantasy / science / history topics that I want to dig into, and a couple of enterprise projects that I'll be doing. Then, there's a couple of TV recaps that I'm doing, as well as my regular Kirkus column.

What excites me more, however, is what I can now say 'YES' to. There's a couple of places that I've spoken with about writing, but have never really had the time to do anything with. Plus, my cat is happy that I'm home. He's already climbed into my lap to take a nap.

Leaving The Day Job

So, this is something that happened in the last couple of weeks: I'm leaving my job at Norwich University. I've reached a point where I realized I was happier doing work writing and reviewing, and that I'd gone about as far as I could go with Norwich at this time. So, in December, I'll be heading out for good. I'll admit: it's a little nerve-wracking. I've been working at the school since 2007 - eight years. I've been there even longer when I count the years that I spent there as an undergraduate.

One of the things that I'm looking forward to is spending more time with Bram. There's a lot that I've wanted to do, but just haven't been able to do. Now, I'm hoping that there'll be more adventures for the two of us.

I'm also excited. I've got a ton of projects that I've been wanting to get to for weeks or months, and just haven't been able to do much on them. This'll give me more time to devote to those things, and explore some new ones. Stay tuned: if some of these things work out, there'll be some cool things coming!

News, Reviews and Querying

So, here's a bit of news: I'm now the Weekend Editor of io9! I've been writing off and on for the site for a number of years, but this will be a bit different: I'll be running the show on Saturdays and Sundays, featuring a wide range of fun science fiction, fantasy, news and science stuff. I've been on the job for the past two weekends, and I've been loving it so far! I'm still going to be writing for places such as Barnes and Noble and Kirkus Reviews. Because of this, I'm making some changes in how I consider books for review. I still don't review unsolicited stuff here, but I do consider it for places like B&N, io9 and other places. If you want me to look at a book, e-mail me at andrew[dot]liptak[at]io9[dot]com. If it interests me, I'll be in touch.

War Stories: 40% Off

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Public service announcement: Apex Publications has discounted War Stories: New Military Science Fiction in light of Veteran's Day today. You can pick up the book for 40% off the cover price (print and eBook) directly from their website. The sale will run today through midnight tomorrow. If you've been looking to pick up a copy, now's a good opportunity to do so!

In other news, the book has been picking up some very good reviews, which I'm happy about.

The Atlantic Council (via their Art of Future War project) called War Stories "a superb anthology with the kind of diverse insights and compelling narratives that make it a very practical book for national security professionals as much as it is a highly enjoyable read for die-hard military sci-fi fans. " You can read the rest of the review here, as well as a short interview with Jaym and myself!

SF Book Reviews noted "War Stories is a collection of excellent works and undoubtedly an impressive tome for the bookshelf," and you can read the rest of the review here.

So, feel free to pick it up!

Agented!

I'm happy to say that I am now represented by Kelli Christiansen of Bibliobibuli Professional Editorial Services, who recently made the jump from the editorial side of the publishing industry to representing clients. I met her last year while she was representing a publisher, and while that didn't pan out, she remained interested and excited about the project that proposed early on. She'll continue to work with myself and my wife on it in the near future. She has an excellent background in the types of books that I'd like to be researching and writing, and it felt like an immediate fit.

We've got a couple of proposals in the fire right now, both non-fiction, which will hopefully come to something in the reasonably near future.

In the meantime, time to write!

 

Book Sale: History of SF to Jurassic London

File:Astound5006.jpgI'm very happy to announce that I've sold the rights to a book on SF History to British publisher Jurassic London! Since April 2012, I've been writing a column on the subject for Kirkus Reviews, which has been a fantastic experience thus far. Since starting with them, my end goal has always been to collect the columns together into a larger work, and Jared has been a vocal and enthusiastic proponent for it. (Seriously, he calls it required reading!)

I'm pretty thrilled to have this land here. I'm a big fan of the books that Jurassic London has put out, especially their short fiction anthologies: The Lowest Heaven was a fantastic read, and I'm eagerly getting ready to read their latest, Book of the Dead.

This book isn't going to be a collection of the columns, but they are going to form a bit of the backbone. My aim here is to look at the history of the genre and its relationship with the readers and authors, but also the relationship between society and technology. In my work with Kirkus, I've been trying to emphasize some of the important, but lesser known authors and editors working within the genre, and I'm hoping that it'll be a nice addition to some of the other popular works on SF history.

This is going to be Jurassic London's first foray into original non-fiction, and while we don't have a title for this book yet, we are aiming for an early 2015 release. Read their release here.

War Stories Anthology

The War Stories Anthology Kickstarter launches in an hour from now. Thank you to everyone who's gotten excited about this project, spread the word, submitted stories and generally put up with us blabbing about it for so long. After a year of planning, it's finally coming together!

I'll be posting up a link to the Kickstarter once it's live. The project is now live!  If you like Military Science Fiction, or just science fiction in general, please consider taking a look, and sharing word of this with people you know. We have a ton of excellent authors lined up with stories for this book, and it doesn't happen without support of friends, family, fans and the crowd as a whole.

Both my co-editor (Jaym Gates) and I feel that Military SF is an important conduit for readers: there's a real lack of understanding between the military and civilian worlds, and we hope that science fiction will be a good way to bridge the gap, and provide some understanding for the real complicated nature of warfare and its impact on the rest of the world.

Short Story Sale: Fragmented, to Galaxy's Edge Magazine

I'm pleased to say that I've just made my first pro fiction sale! My story 'Fragmented' will appear in the new magazine Galaxy's Edge, which has featured authors such as Nancy Kress, Robert J. Sawyer, Kij Johnson, Jack McDevitt, James Patrick Kelly, Mercedes Lackey, Ken Liu, and quite a few others.

Fragmented has garnered the usual round of rejections, and I'm happy that this one is my first. Anyone who attended the Geek Mountain State / Renegade Writer's Collective Reading in September heard me read it, and that reading was a crucial element in getting the story properly edited and into the right shape. It's short: around 2700 words, and is about a soldier deployed on a devastating campaign.

Galaxy's Edge Magazine is published on a bi-monthly schedule. Stories from the current issue are displayed online, while print and digital copies can be purchased from various online retailers. I'll post links and a bit of background on the story when it's available - I don't know when that is just yet.

In the meantime, back to work. Hopefully, this will be a repeatable experiment.

Historical Science Fiction

Contracts have been signed, the post has been scheduled, and I can announce this now: I've been brought on board Kirkus Reviews as a columnist, where John DeNardo of SF Signal has been writing for the last couple of months. I'm pretty excited about this, because it's an opportunity where I can blend two of my long-standing interests together: History, and Science Fiction.

Starting in June, I'll be heading up a bi-weekly column that will examine (in small bites) the history of the science fiction genre by looking at the authors, books, trends and notable events that impacted the speculative fiction genre.

Science Fiction history is something that I've picked away at little by little over the years, and I can trace my interests back to a book that I bought in the fall of 2002: Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerard Jones, which expertly traces the history of the comic book industry from before its inception, all the way to the 1980s. Since then, I've picked up books over the years, various biographies of some of the greats, scholarly books on the history of the genre, light reading, and things that typically revolve around the inner workings of Science Fiction and Fantasy. To be able to start putting it together, a couple of times a month, is something that I've long wanted to do, but never really had the outlet to do so.

Studying the history of anything is important. The present day is a product of the past, and everything that has come before has left its fingerprints in everything that we do. To view anything in a vacuum is to strip it of meaning, and I hope that I'll be able to put together a resource that will inform and enlighten.

The first post will be up May 3rd, focusing on Mary Shelley and Geneva. Stay tuned!

This Blog Protests SOPA

I'm unable to black out this site, but in following with a number of other websites around the web today, please considering contacting your Representatives and Senators in Congress about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its counterpart, PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act)

Here's the text for SOPA. Here's the text for PIPA.

The main arguments behind the two bills are that they are overly broad, written without the proper knowledge and input from technical experts, and that as a result, they would hamper much of the innovation from the web.

I make my living with the internet: in my day job with an online graduate school, and in my off hours, with sites such as io9, Tor.com, Blastr, Lightspeed Magazine and others. My job exists because of innovation with the internet, and I rather like it.

I take no issue with the idea that copyright holders have a stake in this fight: their property should be protected. However, burning the forest down to stop someone lighting matches doesn't make the holders winners: it makes everybody lose out.

Contact Congress.

Editorial Assistant

There's been a bit of news today surrounding Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines earlier today: originally owned by Prime Books, they've both been sold to current editor John Joseph Adams, who'll continue to manage them from here on out.  Along with that bit of news, I've been promoted to Editorial Assistant, which I'm terribly excited about.

Earlier this year, I joined Lightspeed as a slush reader, reading submissions as they come in. It's been an eye-opening and educational experience, so far. I've read several hundred short science fiction stories over the course of the year, and have learned quite a bit about what makes a good story and what makes a story great. I'm looking forward to the next adventure with the magazine. If you haven't read it yet, you should make the jump.