Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Two Demotivational Pieces by Cliff Burns

Tired of bubbly encouragement and endless motivational talks on writing? Try these demotivational pieces by author Cliff Burns (who is not one to suffer fools gladly).

Cliff Burns' cautionary advice to young, developing writers


Cliff Burns on the perils of semi-autobiographical fiction

Cliff Burns has been a professional author for over thirty years. He has eleven books and many published short stories to his credit, including numerous anthology appearances. He lives with his wife, artist and educator Sherron Burns, in western Canada. Cliff's blog, Beautiful Desolation is often a provocative read....

Monday, March 20, 2017

James Alan Gardner on Writing

I greatly admire the writing of Canadian SF author, James Alan Gardner. One of my favorites remains Expendable, the first novel in the League of Peoples series, which is sort of a Star-Trek-like novel written from the point of view of the guys in the red shirts who know that they are, well, expendable. Commitment Hour, the second novel in the series, is one of the most interesting SF novels about gender. So I was pleased to have a colleague point out that Gardner has an online seminar on writing available at http://www.jamesalangardner.com/prose/prose.htm. The Preamble alone is useful for its advice on taking writing advice.

He also has "The Skill List Project" which "lists all of the skills that are actually involved in being a professional SF writer, plus advice on improving those skills" at http://www.jamesalangardner.com/ (scroll down the page to the list links).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Karl Johanson on The Future

From Karl Johanson's presentation at Tsukino Con (Victoria, Feb 17, 2017) "What's Going to Happen in the Future" is of possible interest to our SF fiction writers, and to anyone else who plans to live there. Karl Johanson is the editor of Neo-Opsis Magazine

Part 1: The Decline of Future Shock

Part 2: The Great Fizzle Before the Singularity

Part 3: A Problem with Neural Implants

Part 4: Can We Stop Genetically Modified Organisms?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stuart McLean Memorial — by Den Valdron

Guest Post by Den Valdron

There was a restaurant on a bridge.

I suppose I should back it up a little. When my marriage broke, I was living in The Pas. It was hard then, coming back every day to an empty house. I used to leave the lights on when I left for work in the morning, just so that it wouldn't be dark when I came home.

Eventually, after a long while, I met a woman in Winnipeg, and we started to date. It was long distance. There was a seven hour drive to get to Winnipeg. I travelled when I could, and on those long lonely rides, I would listen to the radio. That's the lonely period in my life when I made friends with the Vinyl Café, when I got to know Dave and Morley and Sam, when I listened to stories about Wong's Scottish Meat Pies, and their genial Italian neighbor, and all the rest.

I found that there were Vinyl Café books. So one day, for breakfast, I took my sweetheart out for breakfast on the Restaurant on the Bridge.

That itself was the sort of thing that Stuart would have loved. The Restaurant was a local Icon slash Boondoggle. It had been the brainchild of Winnipeg's first openly gay Mayor. Part of a city core redevelopment project, some effort to make the city special and interesting. Now, if you're thinking, 'Restaurant on a bridge, that might not be a good idea.' Well, you'd be right. A restaurant isn't an ordinary construction, you had to run special water lines, and sewage lines, and grease traps out there, and suspend them in the air, to endure 40 below Winnipeg winters. You obviously couldn't park on the bridge, so everyone coming there actually had quite a walk. Space was at a premium, the kitchen was way too small for a proper restaurant.

In the end, once they built it, nobody wanted it... Restauranteurs, I mean. Eventually, the only party that was willing to take a chance was the Salisbury House. Itself a local institution. Salisbury House, so the story goes, were started in the 1930's, by the former employees of a bankrupt circus who needed to make a living. They served sandwiches, burgers and fries, simple ordinary breakfasts to simple ordinary folk. It was successful, within a few decades, there were Salisbury houses all over Winnipeg. It was part of the character of the city, a defining attribute. Eventually, Burton Cummings, one half of the Guess Who, and a famed musician in his own right would buy into it, a Winnipegger himself, coming home.

The city wasn't thrilled with the Salisbury House on the bridge. They wanted something more upscale, more haute. But the humble sandwich shop was the only one that would touch it, so they got it.

Which is how I came to go there with my sweetheart, for a Sunday morning breakfast of pancakes and sausage. And which is how I came to pull out the Vinyl Café, and in my best imitation of Stuart's stentorian tones, read to her the story of Sam and his friends and a chemistry set.

That became our tradition. Breakfast at the Sals on the Bridge, watching the river stretch out before us, reading aloud the adventures of Dave and Morley and their neighborhood. The staff got to know us, the waitresses would sometimes hang close, listening in. We gave Vinyl Café CD's to our parents, we attended the shows. We even found an old metal children's chemistry set box to keep our collection of books in.

Then one say, the staff told us this was their last day. They were closing. We found other places to have breakfast. Other books to read out loud to each other.

It was at a chicken chef, reading the Vinyl Café out loud that I finally broke down and cried like a baby after my father's long battle with cancer ended.

Stuart, and Dave and Morley were there through some pretty dark times, and some good times. Stuart shared in my healing, and my grief, in loss and love. I'll remember Stuart for lazy mornings, and milkshakes and pancakes, reading out loud, his voice in my head, watching a lazy brown river. Whatever was going on, they were a touchstone.

Den Valdron is the author of The Mermaid's Tale, from Five Rivers, and The Greatest Unauthorized Doctor Who Films.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stuart McLean Memorial — by Robert Dawson

photo credit:CBC    

Dave turned off the television.

He thought for a long time.

"What do we do now, Morley?" he asked.

For once, Morley was at a loss for words.



Robert Dawson is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computing Science at St. Mary's University and the author of countless stories and poems.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2016 WWC Guest of Honour Speech

Dr. Robert Runté speaking at When Words Collide.

The When Words Collide writers' conference (held each August in Calgary) has a podcast page on which they release Guest of Honour speeches, panel discussions, and interviews. These are generally well worth a listen.

My Guest of Honour speech August 2016 was just released: "WWC 2016 GOH speech finds the curmudgeonly, retired professor Robert Runté questioning English teachers and praising fan fiction".

Friday, January 27, 2017

Editing in times of darkness

I find myself spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, trying to get my head around what is happening to the world. Like many high school graduates of my generation, I have read 1984 as part of my English courses, and talked about how that one book helped us all recognize the dangers of an Orwellian future in Social Studies. But, um. That particular inoculation seems to have worn off now, as I look around at a world where the major superpowers seemed to have suddenly switched alliances (Brexit, Trump praising closer ties to the kleptocracy of Russia, China talking about the joys of globalization!!) and the election of an American President who talks about alternative facts and who doesn't/hasn't read books and reduces language to 140 tweets. Even Orwell could not have imagined a world in which there were not only fewer words every year, but fewer characters in which to say things. Sad.

Some days it's just hard to look at the screen and face the headlines

So I was going to talk a bit about editing in times of darkness, when I came across (thanks to Amanda Fuller Richards) this post by Liz Jones that covers the same ground for me: https://eatsleepeditrepeat.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/editing-in-times-of-darkness/