Friday, September 01, 2017

Word on the Street (Lethbridge) coming Sept 23

Essential Edits will be engaged at Word on the Street Lethbridge in three ways:

  • We'll have a table in the display area where you'll be able to meet Essential Edits staff (Dr. Runté, Elizabeth McLachlan, and Lesley Little) and view some of the titles they've edited, find out about free online resources for all types of writers, sign up for a free consultation (first come, first served), and ask questions about writing, editing, and publishing.
  • Dr. Runté will be participating on the 12:00–1:00 PM panel, "Writing Nuts and Bolts: Editors and Publishers Talk about Submissions"
  • Dr. Runté will be participating in the Blue Pencil Café (along with authors Barb Greiger and Paul Butler, and poet Richard Stevenson) from 3:00–5:00PM.
There's lots going on, and it's all free.

Monday, August 14, 2017

When Words Collide 2017 Review

In spite of my intent to cut down on programming, this year, I signed up for way too much stuff, 11 events in all. I did two solo presentations, one of which had standing room only, the other less than 20 or so. The second one was scheduled to follow a presentation on the exact same topic by another speaker which was crammed, so either everybody got what they needed from the previous speaker, or I was scheduled against tougher competition. I enjoy presenting and being on panels, but that heavy commitment kept me from taking in other’s presentations. And that’s starting to be a problem because the other presentations are evolving from the standard repertoire to really significant topics.

The Evolution of WWC: Discussion Topics

I have always enjoyed WWC, but after 30 years of going to conventions I have pretty much heard everything everyone has to say about the usual topics. Indeed, I could probably give the spiel from just about any of the regular panels. Those are all good panels, and each new generation of attendees needs to hear that information, but if I can lip sync the talk, probably not necessary for me.

WWC was different initially because it’s multiple genre approach brought in an influx of new topics as speakers from, say mystery or romance or kid lit, who talked about issues and solutions in their genre that were just starting to emerge in ours, and vice versa. One of the best presentations I have ever attended was one by a script writer on blocking out a scene, and it instantly fixed a problem I was having with some of my own writing. But by year 7, I’ve gotten most of the information from those too; or the specific topic doesn’t apply to my writing, e.g., “how to write erotic scenes” not likely to come up in my satiric writing.

But there have been a number of completely new topics the last two years that took the writing conversation to a whole new level. Tim Reynolds, for example, organized one on depression, ostensibly about dealing with manuscript rejection but also dealing with the larger issues of writing with clinical depression. Laksa Media’s book launch last year brought up issues of neurodiversity among writers; this year’s launch addressed issues of writer’s coping with the burden of care for others. I believe Tim also organized the panel on mental illness. And I organized one on writing with dyslexia, dysgraphia or other learning disabilities. And all those conversations flowed out into the hallways, so that I found myself spending the weekend talking to writers about how they write with depression, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, mobility issues, a wide variety of learning disabilities, OCD (well, those were all editors), and anxiety disorders. As the circle of people in the conversation widened, it seemed like every writer had some issue that others had said would mean they couldn’t write. [Coincidentally, the Kickstarter campaign for “Disabled People Destroy SF” has been sending out essays by disabled writers every couple of days for the last month, and it is mind-blowing what handicaps these successful writers have had to overcome…] I had known some of these writers for over 30 years and had had no clue that they were dealing with any of these issues, a sign that such personal “weaknesses” were always seen as borderline shameful. I am so grateful the conversation has now brought these things into the foreground. The exchange of ideas and information on how to cope with various conditions was surprisingly useful, even for people who had already researched the heck out of the topic that effected them. Because writers are ingenious, and had each come up with some pretty nifty workarounds or strategies that others hadn’t thought of yet. I’d never heard of weighted blankets, for example, but six people in the group testified to how that one little trick had changed how they slept. Okay, now I’m recommending that to relevant relatives.

Maybe all that was just a coincidence, the topics just floating to the surface this month as part of the Zeitgeist, and I cannot really credit WWC with “planning” those hallway conversations. But I think it is fair to say that WWC provides a safe place for writers to talk openly about anything; at least a dozen out-of-towners remarked to me how friendly and open WWC is, how easy it was to meet people, how approachable the guests, and so on. Not saying another convention could have talked openly about disabilities, but, well…don’t recall any of this coming up in previous 30 years of con going.

The Evolution of WWC: Writing Advice

Another way WWC has evolved is that all those workshops and panels seem to be having an impact. The Live Action Slush panels have always been popular--so popular that they have proliferated into a network of genre-specific sessions, each drawing large audience. What is striking to those of us who have been doing these since the start is how much improved submitted manuscripts are. We almost never get any of the “common mistakes” that turned up the first two or three years. The problems we are seeing now are subtler, more specific to that manuscript, and just rarer. A significantly higher percentage of manuscripts submitted are succeeding to earn a “pass”, and even those that get “gonged” do so later in the reading and with much more muted criticism. There is no question that quality has improved.

Similarly, I can’t speak to others’ experience, but the manuscripts that came to me in the Blue Pencil Café were better than those in earlier years. One was borderline brilliant—were Five Rivers not currently closed to submissions (while we clear out the backlog) I would have bought it on the spot. Another was interesting because I didn’t care for it at first, but then I couldn’t find a single thing to fix. I realized I had been prejudiced against it by an opening that made me think of bad fantasy novels, but once I got past that negative stereotype and read what was actually there, it totally grew on me. With the write backcover blurb and cover (to avoid my wrong-headed reaction) the novel might do very well. Two others were suffering from a single flaw each, both easily fixed. (Well, conceptually easy—tough revision slogs for those authors, I would think.) Nobody likes to hear ‘back to the drawing board’, but the fact is a manuscript with a single flaw and much else good in it is infinitely better than the sort of multitude of beginner errors we used to see.

It’s tempting to suggest that the weaker authors have just been scared off from submitting their work to the panelists/workshop’s tender mercies, but I don’t think that’s it given that the proliferation of Live Action Slush panels and bluepencil cafés. Indeed, one of the bluepencil participants explicitly told me her’s was a manuscript I had thumbs-downed at a Live Action Slush the previous year, and what I was looking at was the manuscript revised on that basis. Well, okay then…this year’s version was a thumbs up! I suspect there is a lot of that going on.

In any event, WWC continues to be the best writers’ convention ever. Instead of repeating itself endlessly, the conversation goes deeper each year. There is still plenty of information for new writers (some of it from me), but much of the material is getting more and more sophisticated as befits the growing sophistication of its audience.

Robert Runté, Barb Galler-Smith, Robert Sawyer, and Constantine K, and a piece of Brian Hades, at the Edge table at When Words Collide, 2017.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

I finally finished my major project for the last six months: writing and revising my 32 page guide on writing strategies for theses and dissertations, and have posted it to the Essential Edits site.

I argue that one has to unlearn undergraduate writing skills to learn a completely new skill set to survive.

Research suggests attrition rates of between 50% to 65% for PhD candidates and thesis-route master's programs. Interestingly enough, most drop out of the program after completing all the course work and all the data collection and analysis for thesis/dissertation, which suggests that the problem is in the writing stage—though this is seldom recognized in the literature, and often not even by the students themselves! Reorienting graduate students to the different nature of sustained writing projects could assist many more students in completing their graduate degrees.

The guide is available free from EssentialEdits.ca/ThesisStrategies.pdf.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 Aurora Voter Package Available Until September

The Prix Aurora Award 2017 voter package (e-copies of most of the nominated novels, short stories, etc) is now available at http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/auror…/voter-package-download/. The package is free to members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association so they can read nominated work before voting.(Seems like a pretty sensible idea to me!)

Membership in CSFFA is $10/yr and open to any Canadian, and includes the right to nominate and vote for the Auroras.

My short story, "Age of Miracles", was nominated for a 2017 Aurora in the short story category, so is included in this year's voters' package. I'm really pleased because that means more people will likely have the opportunity to read the story, though the anthology it's from, Strangers Among Us is a good one (six aurora nominations in all!) and well worth buying.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

My schedule at When Words Collide 2017

I will be making a number of presentations at the When Words Collide festival at the Calgary Delta South August 11-13, 2017. At 750 attendees, WWC is already sold out for this year. It's always a great writers' convention, so I recommend it to anyone for next year.

Scheduled talks:

Friday 1 PM: Live Action Slush - Early Bird Edition (Panel) in Fireside room

Friday 4 PM: Common Manuscript Problems (Panel) in 1-Parkland

Friday 6 PM: Writers’ + Editors’ Speed Mingle (Interactive) in A-Waterton

Saturday 10 AM: Pantsers vs Plotters (panel) in 2-Bonavista

Saturday 11 AM: Managing Sustained Writing Projects (Presentation) in 9-Rundle

Saturday 1 PM:Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and the Experience of Writing (Panel) in B-Canmore

Saturday 2 PM: Five Rivers Publishing Presents (Book Launch/Social) in Fireside room

Sunday 10 AM: Live Action Slush – YA Edition (Panel)3-Willow Park

Sunday 11 AM: The Publishers Panel: Novels (Panel) in 2-Bonavista

Sunday 2 PM:Working with an Editor (Presentation) in Rundle

Sunday 3 PM: Blue Pencil (Workshop) Café 6-Heritage

If you have a membership and are coming, let me know and maybe we can get together in the evenings or between panels (when I have more than a five minute break).

Monday, July 03, 2017

9 Tales of Raffalon by Matthew Hughes

This is my favourite collection of Hughes short stories so far—which is saying something, because his collections have all been quite wonderful. Seven of these stories originally appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine (a significant guarantor of quality), one in a Gardner Dozios anthology (likewise, a good sign), and one is original to this volume—and frankly, a new Raffalon story is itself worth the price of admission.

The tales of Raffalon the Thief are not so much about thievery as they are about Raffalon extricating himself from one impossible predicament after another, often revolving around his involuntary involvement with various wizards. The stories in this volume fit together almost seamlessly, the characters or situations carrying over from one to the next, as we follow Raffalon's escapades to a surprisingly satisfying ending in "The Inn of the Seven Blessings". The individual stories are engaging mysteries, heists, or escapes set against Hughes' ongoing universe/magical system, and the characterization of Raffalon is delightfully twisted. Raffalon's ethical deficiencies seem entirely reasonable given the even worse characters against which he is pitted, and an age in which crime has been amusingly bureaucratized through the Guild of Purloiners and Purveyors.

It is, however, the dialog—and more especially, Raffalon's interior reflections—that sets Hughes apart from all others. "Droll" doesn't begin to cover it, because it is not merely witty, but reflects a worldview just completely off kilter. It all makes complete sense in the eccentric universe of Hughes' distant future, but one is left wishing both that people actually talked like that, and profoundly thankful that no one actually thinks that way.

Hughes' brand of dark humour is completely unique. A comparison with Jack Vance is often evoked to describe Hughes' work, but entirely misses that Hughes is often, as here, wincingly funny. I cannot recommend 9 Tales of Raffalon highly enough, to both long time fans and those not yet familiar with this grand master of the genre.

Runté reviews of some other Mathew Hughes books:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Aurora Award Nomination


Dr. Runté poses with cover of Strangers Among Us anthology which garnered six Aurora Award nominations on the 2017 ballot.

The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has released the Aurora Award Ballot for 2017, and I am honoured to be included on the shortlist for one of my short stories, "The Age of Miracles".

"Age of Miracles" was published in the anthology Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law. The anthology's theme was speculative fiction addressed to issues of mental health, and my story looked at how someone with schizophrenia might navigate the world of the near future. (It plays on the idea that if we see someone on a corner talking when there is nobody else there, how do we know whether they are crazy or just talking on their cell phones?)

I'm pretty pumped that my story made the ballot, because humour is often a hard sell, especially when up against excellent serious stories, and the Strangers Among Us anthology alone had a number of outstanding stories, let alone the rest of the field this year.

The CSFFA makes available a voter package with the nominated stories/books/comics/artwork (or as many of those that publishers permit) for all CSFFA members, so voters can base their decisions on actually having read/seen the nominated works. Membership in CSFFA is only $10 a year, so the voter package is a great opportunity to see the best of Canadian SF&F, as nominated by CSFFA members. Additionally, again this year Kobo Canada has donated a Kobo for a prize draw for one lucky randomly chosen voter to encourage voter turnout. So $10 buys you the right to vote, the right to read some great Canadian SF, and a chance at a free ebook reader. Join here.

Here's the 2017 ballot:

The 2017 Aurora Award Ballot

This ballot is for works done in 2016 by Canadians. The Aurora Awards are nominated by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. The top five nominated works were selected. Additional works were included where there was a tie for fifth place.

Best Novel
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
Company Town by Madeline Ashby, Tor Books
The Courier by Gerald Brandt, DAW Books
The Nature of a Pirate by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
Stars like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols, Bundoran Press

Best Young Adult Novel
Day of the Demon by Randy McCharles, CreateSpace
Door into Faerie by Edward Willett, Coteau Books
Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun, Harlequin Teen
Icarus Down by James Bow, Scholastic Canada
Mik Murdoch: Crisis of Conscience by Michell Plested, Evil Alter Ego Press
The Wizard Killer - Season One by Adam Dreece, ADZO Publishing

Best Short Fiction
"Age of Miracles" by Robert Runté, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Frog Song" by Erika Holt, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Living in Oz" by Bev Geddes, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Marion's War" by Hayden Trenholm, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal el-Mohtar, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press
"When Phakack Came to Steal Papa’s Bones, A Ti-Jean Story" by Ace Jordyn, On Spec Magazine

Best Poem/Song
No award will be given out in this category in 2017 due to insufficient eligible nominees

Best Graphic Novel
Angel Catbird, Volume One by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillian, Dark Horse Books
Crash and Burn by Kate Larking and Finn Lucullan, Astres Press
Earthsong by Crystal Yates, Webcomic
It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic
Weregeek by Alina Pete, Webcomic

Best Related Work
Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction edited by Dominik Parisien, Exile Editions
Enigma Front: Burnt, managing editor Celeste A. Peters, Analemma Books
Lazarus Risen edited by Hayden Trenholm and Mike Rimar, Bundoran Press
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law, Laksa Media
Superhero Universe (Tesseracts Nineteen) edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum, EDGE

Best Visual Presentation
Arrival, director, Denis Villeneuve, Paramount Pictures
Orphan Black, Season 4, John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, Temple Street Productions
Killjoys, Season 2, Michelle Lovretta, Temple Street Productions
Dark Matter, Season 2, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, Prodigy Pictures
Murdoch Mysteries, Season 9, Peter Mitchell, Shaftesbury Films

Best Artist
Samantha M. Beiko, cover to Strangers Among Us anthology
James Beveridge, covers and poster art
Melissa Mary Duncan, body of work
Erik Mohr, covers for ChiZine Publications and Company Town for Tor Books
Dan O'Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press

Best Fan Writing and Publications
Amazing Stories Magazine, weekly column, Steve Fahnestalk
BCSFAzine #512 to #519, edited by Felicity Walker
The Nerd is the Word, articles by Dylan McEvoy
OBIR Magazine #4, edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Silver Stag Entertainment, edited by S.M. Carrière
Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille

Best Fan Organizational
Samantha Beiko and Chadwick Ginther, co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Winnipeg
R. Graeme Cameron, chair, VCON 41, Surrey, BC
Sandra Kasturi and Angela Keeley, co-chairs, 2016 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
Derek Künsken and Marie Bilodeau, executive, Can*Con 2016, Ottawa
Randy McCharles, chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, Marie Bilodeau, and Nicole Lavigne, co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Ottawa
Sandra Wickham, chair, Creative Ink Festival, Burnaby, BC

Best Fan Related Work
Ron S. Friedman, Villains and Conflicts presentation, When Words Collide, Calgary Comic Expo, and File 770
Kari Maaren, Concert, SFContario
Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM

Best of the Decade
This is a special category for this year’s awards for works published between January 2001 and December 2010. Note: Items in italics are for multi-volume works. Multi-volume stories were considered if they began prior to 2001 but ended before or close to 2011. We defined a multi-volume story as one with a continuous narrative. Finalists were chosen by an eight-person jury from across Canada. The winner will be chosen by our membership’s votes.

Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor Books
The Blue Ant Trilogy by William Gibson, Berkley
Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson, Tor Books
The Neanderthal Parallax, Robert J. Sawyer, Tor Books
The Onion Girl, Charles de Lint, Tor Books
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada


The Aurora Awards Administrator, Clifford Samuels, shows off the new design adpoted in 2016 for the Aurora Trophy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Leacock Medal

The longlist for the 2017 Leacock Medal (in alphabetical order by author surname) is:
  • John Armstrong for A Series of Dogs, New Star Books.
  • Mona Awad for 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, Penguin Canada.
  • Gary Barwin for Yiddish for Pirates, Random House Canada.
  • Judy Batalion for White Walls, New American Library/Random House Canada.
  • Lesley Crewe for Mary, Mary, Nimbus Publishing.
  • C. P. Hoff for A Town Called Forget, Five Rivers Publishing.
  • Marni Jackson for Don’t I Know You, Flatiron Books.
  • Amy Jones for We’re All in This Together, McClelland & Stewart.
  • Jack Knox for Hard Knox: Musings from the Edge of Canada, Heritage House Publishing.
  • Noah Richler for The Candidate: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Doubleday Canada.
  • Drew Hayden Taylor for Take Us to Your Chief And Other Stories, Douglas & McIntyre.

From the Stephen Leacock Associates Press Release:

This year’s longlist will be narrowed down to three Leacock Medal finalists, who will be announced in Orillia on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.

The final winner, who also receives a $15,000 prize supported by TD Bank Financial Group, is to be announced on Saturday, June 10, 2017, at a gala award dinner at Geneva Park Conference Centre, just outside Orillia, Ontario. The gala dinner is open to the public, and limited tickets are on sale exclusively through the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia.

In announcing the list, Taylor described the submissions this year as of exceptionally high quality. The judges and readers recommend all the longlisted books as entertaining Canadian works, worthy of consideration for this prestigious and unique literary humour award in Canada’s sesquicentennial year.

I'm thrilled to see C. P. Hoff's A Town Called Forget on the longlist.

The novel follows the adventures of a young girl, sent without explanation to live with the eccentric aunt she didn't even know she had. As she tries to solve the mystery of her banishment, she slowly comes to terms with her aunt's skewed view of the world, and the exceedingly odd townsfolk of Forget.

From the moment I saw the manuscript, I knew this novel was something special. I acquired the book for Five Rivers, Lorina did the substantive editing, and I followed up with a line/edit (and then there was a copy edit after).

This makes four books that have been shortlisted for national awards from Five Rivers Publishing. Fingers crossed for the win!

[Now, hoping Den Valdron's The Mermaid Tale gets shortlisted for the World Fantasy or Bram Stoker Awards]

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Longevity

Updating my CV with a couple of new papers, happened to notice date on my first-ever published academic paper was July, 1976...so I've been doing this now for over 40 years. I currently have a paper (with Mary Runté) accepted and scheduled to appear July 2017, so even if I'm hit by a bus this week, my academic career will have spanned at least 41 years. Hopefully, there won't be a bus, as I am aiming for 50 year career....

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.

 

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

When Words Collide 2016 GoH Speech


Dr. Robert Runté speaking at When Words Collide. [Photo:

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."