THOUGHTS ON BOOK REVIEWING
My first book review appeared in Analog just weeks ago. Hope nobody missed it! Amid the excitement of seeing my work in print, I’ve already turned in my next column for the July/August 2023 issue of this venerable science fiction magazine. I’m not ready yet to tell you what I picked to review, except to say that these works of fiction are all quite recent, with some not yet published. This means that I am reading 2023 works ahead of most everyone I know in the field. Doing so feels weird. Sure it’s kinda fun having a secret, but at the same time I cannot yet say, “wait until you crack open this one!” or “What did you think of the way Author X handled Y?” Alas, alas, at this point I can’t even let the writers themselves know my reactions to the product of all their hard work and hopes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this gig. I mean I get paid to read wonderful new stuff of my own choosing and then promulgate my opinions about it. And yet, there are two other constraints. First, there are deadlines for turning in a regular column. That means there are times when I sit down at my computer and would dearly love to commence crafting my own fiction but I must open up a partly-completed review, instead. It also means I must set aside books I won’t review because I haven’t finished reading the half dozen or so that are on my plate for my next column.
And yet, and yet, it’s a great gig!
IT’S HERE! IT’S HERE! MY FIRST!
Presenting…my very first Reference Librarian column in Analog! I had a great time reading a bunch of recent science fiction novels set on and around the Moon. Having sent some fictional astronauts to the Moon in my last Analog story, it’s fascinating to see what other contemporary authors can do with it as a setting. Check it out if your taste runs to alternate history, unusual lunar communities, a Moon book to read to young kids, or a nonfiction book on building and driving Moon buggies.
The books I review are:
- Hot Moon by Alan Smale
- Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
- Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus
- The Moon and the Other by John Kessel
- Molly of the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Into the Airless Wilds by Earl Swift
I hope you’ll read my thoughts, then let me know what Moon-based stories you have enjoyed recently.
WRITING ANALOG BOOK REVIEWS
Hey guess what, everyone? I’m now a book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction and Fact! If all goes according to plan, my first column is slated to appear in the March/April 2023 issue. Can you tell how excited I am? The plan at this point is for me to write every other column.
There’s nothing like the fun of picking out an intriguing new novel to read. Now, all the books on my To Be Read heap are clamoring more than ever to be the next one. Suddenly, things are different as I need to select ones that I think will interest Analog’s science fiction readers. It’s been great fun assembling a bunch of novels centered around a common theme. I threw in a non-fiction work, too, that fits the theme. Oh, and I’m already contemplating what the next group will be. The only downside I see is the impressive number of thoughtful, exciting, satisfying books I won’t have enough time or space to get to. Ah, but that’s the plight of all us inveterate readers, isn’t it?
Now here are a couple of questions, dear readers: Do you read book reviews? Why or why not?
RETURNING FROM CHICON 8 AND FINDING A HOME FOR MY WRITING
I’m back sleeping in my own bed after the whirlwind that was Chicon 8, the world science fiction convention in Chicago. Among many fascinating conversations swirling around me, was one that took place in a small gathering of writers and editors for a particular publication. Someone said our group felt like family, to which everyone immediately agreed.
The observation got me thinking how fortunate this little group is. In our field, it’s common for writers, and not only newbies, to feel adrift in the-changeable seas of the publishing industry, despite the fact that some periodicals and publishers have been around longer than most authors have been writing or have been alive. Editors, agents, publicists, and publishers move on to other positions and sometimes leave our field entirely. Moreover, writers soon learn not to count on any editor snapping up their latest story or book, even if earlier related works did nicely. It’s easy for authors to feel like we’ve been cast adrift.
Rather than grousing to each other and bemoaning our fates, it strikes me that the solution is twofold: 1. Write something new. 2. Search out a suitable market where a welcoming publisher may be receptive to more of your work.
For me, Analog Science Fiction and Fact feels like a home. I’ve been reading it as long as I can remember, not just the short fiction, but the multi-issue serials, the fact articles, reviews, editorials, etc. It’s been around for over ninety years. Importantly, it’s a comfort to know that my work has always been given serious consideration by the former editor and the current one. This doesn’t mean they’ll want to run everything I turn in. By no means! However, Analog is a market that will treat my work seriously. In our competitive field, this means a lot.
If I could grant one wish to all my writing friends and the many talented authors whom I don’t know but whose work I admire, it’s this: May you find a corner of our field that is a good home for the pieces dearest to your hearts.
WRITING HARD SCIENCE FICTION
Frequently, when authors hear that I write for Analog Science Fiction and Fact, they say they wouldn’t try to write hard science fiction. As much as they may love this sub-genre, they are put off by the degree of difficulty they perceive.
So how does an author go about writing SF that draws heavily on physics, chemistry, astronomy, or biology? I tried tackling this question with a group of hard science fiction writers on Go Indie Now, which you can watch. Our astute moderator, Joe Compton asked a bunch of insightful questions of Sean Hillman, Jan Kotouk, Bruno Martins Soares, and me.
We explored balancing the time you need to do the research vs. the time you have available for the writing. We also shared some thoughts on how the writer moves from initial premise to a mass of specialized knowledge to an intriguing story. Joe boiled what we do down to three handy rules:
- Know your thesis.
- Do your research.
- Don’t be afraid of what you are going to discover.
Come to think of it, that’s good advice for anything you set out to write.
READ THE ANALOG READERS’ AWARD FINALISTS FOR FREE
For a short time, the stories Analog readers voted the best of 2021 are yours to read right here. I’m so honored to have “The Last Frontier on this list with these fine stories.” I had a great time creating an alternate timeline featuring a woman in the Apollo space program. Hope you’ll give all these stories a read!
I AM AN ANALOG AWARD FINALIST, AGAIN!
By Rosemary Claire Smith on March 10, 2017 | Edit
ZOMG! Look! My novelette, “The Next Frontier,” is a finalist for the AnLab Readers’ Award! It was published in the July/August, 2021 issue of Analog. It also features a two-page interior illustration. For a short period of time, you can read it for free here. And who wouldn’t want to read alternate history about a woman astronaut in the Apollo space program?
I want to extend my gratitude to all those Analog readers who thought my story was worthy. I am deeply honored to be among such talented writers including my pals Lettie Prell and C. Stuart Hardwick. Also, my thanks go out to astute editor, Trevor Quachri for doing vital behind-the-scenes work to improve stories way more than many readers ever suspect and well as Managing Editor Emily Hockaday. Lastly, take a close look at that illustration done by Eldar Zakirov.
MY 2021 YEAR IN REVIEW
I’m pleased to announce that I had a couple of stories and several articles published in 2021:
- The Next Frontier: an alternate-history novelette about the 1960s space race in the July/August issue of Analog (link is to current issue, not previous one)
- The Holy Wars of Mathematics: A Secret History of the Calculus of Chicanery appeared in 99 Tiny Terrors. It’s my first published flash fiction (under 1000 words).
- Monumental Thinking was in the January/February 2021 issue of Analog, is my take on suitable replacements for statues being torn down these days. (Link is to current issue, not previous one)
- Astounding Analog Companion: Q & A in which I talk about writing alternate history
- My first SFWA blog post: Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works
My Virtual Appearances:
- World Fantasy Convention panel on dreams and nightmares in fantasy and horror
- Go Indie Now panel on alternate history
- Go Indie Now panel on writing short stories
Most Enjoyable New Novels I Read:
- Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Garcia Moreno
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
- Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
- The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Most Unexpected Pleasure:
- Being solicited for a hot new anthology to be assembled next year. I can’t tell you or they’d have to shoot me. (Wait…is this how that sentence is supposed to end?)
- June excursion to the Big Island of Hawaii in June. Have a look at some of my photos from it.
- August runner-up: time spent at a lake in the Adirondacks
Best Educational Opportunities:
- Virtual Humans to Mars conference: three days of inspiring, uplifting presentations by remarkably clever humans from all over the world. You can attend in 2022 and find out how these people from around the globe are making future trips to Mars a real thing!
- Close Runner-up: The Rambo Academy classes for writers at all skill levels featuring many different aspects of our craft. They even have gift certificates if you are stumped by what to give the writer in your life.
Best Pandemic Antidote:
- Occasional flower deliveries for creating beautiful arrangements via ReVased.com. Have a look at some of my creations here and on Instagram.
Most Fun New Series:
- Tie: WandaVison, For All Mankind (season 2)
Things to come in 2022: Watch this space for new announcements:
- Etruscan Afterlife is a short story appearing next year in The Reinvented Heart, edited by Cat Rambo and Jenn Brozek (preorder now!)
- Branching out into two new projects I can’t disclose yet!
- Moar dinosaurs!
What were some of your favorites in 2021?
Q & A ON WRITING ALTERNATE HISTORY OF WOMEN EXPLORING SPACE
On the day after Wally Funk successfully completed her flight on the Blue Origins rocket ship, what could be more appropriate than some thoughts about how the 1960s space program could have really included at least one woman astronaut? My Analog story, “The Next Frontier,” explores this possibility. For readers and writers, here’s how I took my initial idea all the way to the completed story, which I hope you will read, too!
WOMEN WRITING AND TALKING ALTERNATE HISTORY
Hey, you can watch my second appearance on Joe Compton’s Go Indie Now. Our panel of all women had a great time discussing what draws us to alternate historical events and how we go about turning these “what ifs” into stories. We look at how we weave together real events and historical figures with made up ones. Turns out, we’re all quite willing to discard some of what historians tell us when it gets in the way of a good story. Joe asked a bunch of insightful questions of Madeleine Holly-Rosing, A.F. Stewart, Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Jenn Thompson and me. Check us out!
In case you missed my alternate history of space exploration during the 1960s, it’s available in the July/August 2021 issue of Analog Science Fiction.