The Freelancing Dilemma, or Keeping it Real

For the past five years, I’ve been a full-time writer. 100% freelance. To get to that point I saved my pennies, learned to Do Without, adjusted my American Lifestyle expectations, and scaled down my plans – and never expect to retire, at least not willingly. All so that when someone says to me “what do you do?” I can tell them – “I’m a writer.” Full stop, no other explanation needed.

I can hear a lot of you out there breathing the air of envy. That’s the grail quest, right? To ditch all other jobs and focus on your writing? Yeah. Except… I can’t do it. And neither can a lot of other people. And maybe, y’know, we shouldn’t. Continue reading


Batman # 686: A Very Short Review

Everyone is familiar with the idea of alternate universes, right?  This is how comic book writers gradually get into trouble over the years.  Somebody invents a concept too cool to not use, like Superboy.  When there are too many stories, too many Superboy crossovers, it is easier to declare that all those stories take place in another reality, just like this one only furnished with a Superboy.  Do this enough and the entire universe becomes very, very complicated.  Tbat686his is when the editors usually try to simplify.  DC did this about a decade ago.  Naturally things began immediately to ramify again, and this past year or so they threw in the towel and allowed multiple universes to reappear again.

This issue of Batman is deliberately designed to signal the arrival of the Multi reality.  As you know (if you read previous Very Short posts) Batman is allegedly dead.  Nobody is excited about this because nobody believes it for a minute.  With a multiuniverse setup, even if he is dead in one of them, there are plenty of other Batmen to go around.  What to do then, to generate excitement?  Well, getting Neil Gaiman to script a story about it is surefire.  Neil is a fan favorite, a New York Times bestseller, and just won the Newbery Award. Continue reading


It’s 6:30 EST. Do You Know Where Your Authors Are?

The answer is, no I don’t know, but I do know that at 7:00 tonight (EST) they will be in the chatroom at Writer’s Chat:

Come join the authors and win a free print book. The following BVC authors’ books will be given out during the chat.

Brenda Clough, HOW LIKE A GOD, contemporary fantasy (hc)
Laura Anne Gilman, CURSE THE DARK, urban fantasy
Sue Lange, TRITCHEON HASH, science fiction
Nancy Jane Moore, CHANGELING, contemporary fantasy
Pati Nagle, THE BETRAYAL, fantasy (pb)
Sarah Zettel, KINGDOM OF CAGES, science fiction (hc)
Sarah Zettel, IN CAMELOT’S SHADOW, fantasy (pb)
See you there.
Sue Lange

Writing Star Trek Novels, or, Why don’t you get a morally acceptable job?

The Entropy EffectBack in the 1980s, I wrote a bunch of Star Trek novels. I thoroughly enjoyed writing them. Pretty much the only drawback was that some of my colleagues took exception to my polluting my precious bodily fluids with evil tie-in novels. You’d’ve thought they believed they had to save my soul, blathering about the improvement in my moral character that would result if instead I took an honest job as a waitress. (A job that to be done well requires character traits that I both admire and am well aware I don’t possess.)

The tie-in novels subsidized one heck of a lot of my original fiction.

I’d been a big fan of the original Star Trek when I was in college (class of 1970); I wrote a teleplay that (I was told) got all the way to Gene Roddenberry’s desk before he left the show and the series changed in the third season to something I didn’t recognize. (To this day I haven’t seen most of the third season episodes.)

My teleplay, The Entropy Effect, was rejected soon thereafter. Continue reading


For The Love Of A Con

For The Love Of A Con:

By the time you read this, I will be at Radcon 5A in Pasco, Washington.  In the weird and geeky math of the organizers that makes it the 18th year of Radcon.   I was going to write about the cultural significance of a con –  Science Fiction/Fantasy Convention – to the SF/F community for the Bookview Cafe Blog.

Then I was asked to present the John W Dalmas Award for service to the Radcon family during the opening ceremonies Friday night, February 13, 2009.  The speech I planned for the  ceremony includes much of what I wanted to say.

This photo is a bit confused, but it’s supposed to represent some of the fun and serious parts of a con, movies, books, parties, and strange creatures…


So here it is:  As a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy I find going to cons the most fun part of my job.  Radcon is one of the best. Continue reading


Feeding the Crows, by Jennifer Stevenson

Crows in January

Crows in January

This year the crows started coming around in larger numbers.  Chicago’s 2008-09 winter has been a bear, socking us with zero-neighborhood temperatures, then snow, then low temps, then snow, over and over and over.  Our “January thaw” never happened.

This means that the crows have a  harder time foraging, which translates into sixty to a hundred crows at my crow feeder per day.  Continue reading


Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

It’s Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday today. 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his master work, On the Origin of Species.Charles Darwin Recognizing that most of us have not read it, The New York Times this week provided selections from the book along with commentary.

Over those 150 years our knowledge of evolution and natural selection has grown exponentially. As the February Smithsonian Magazine reports, we now know — through geology — that the Earth is old enough to have permitted the evolution of life. And due to the work on DNA and the genome research, we know that all life on Earth is closely related.

In fact, scientific knowledge has exploded during those 150 years. We know so much more than Darwin did, though his work certainly prepared the ground for modern biology. As the Smithsonian article observes, “[T]he future has come down solidly on Darwin’s side — despite everything he didn’t know.”

Continue reading


EVERGREEN: On Becoming a Professional Amateur # 13: Kill Bad Verbs Before They Kill Your Story

Sample paragraph: I saw Hal coming toward me across the office commons, waving. “What did the boss say?” he screeched.

I shook my head and waved him away. “I don’t want to talk about it, Hal.”

“Oh, Ron,” he squealed. “Please tell me he didn’t fire you!”


Do the verbs screeched and squealed help build up the atmosphere of this scene or disrupt it?

Continue reading


A Real-Life Furby

The world’s smallest primate, the highly-endangered Tarsier, has been called a “real-life Furby.”  Actually, that comment was about the rarest Tarsier of all, the pygmy Tarsier, which was first sighted in Indonesia in 1921.

Tarsier This unusual, charming creature is obviously nocturnal — the clue is its enormous eyes, as large as possible to let in as much light as can be, so the Tarsier can see well during the night-time hours.  Tarsiers are most common in the Philippines, where there is a Tarsier Rescue organization. Unfortunately, like so many other charming, unusual wild animals, there is a thriving black market trade in Tarsiers, even though the animals are so delicate that they seldom live long in captivity.

Here is a great link to more in-depth information about Tarsiers. The Tarsier’s unusual morphology in teeth, bones and brain structure has caused it to be difficult for taxonomists to classify (well, they fight over just about anything, anyway). It is definitely a prosimian, and considered, for the time being, to be in its own unique infra-order. Many fossils of tarsiers have been found, and it is considered to be a very early order of primate — and it is not correct to say that it is the world’s smallest “monkey,” because it is not a monkey. Continue reading


The Amazing Spider-Man #583: A Very Short Review

Amazing Spider-Man #583There are no exciting new comics this week so I am going to step into the Time Bubble and go back several weeks [sfx: the day pages flying through the air to stick themselves back onto a desk calendar] to contemplate this issue, which came out the third week in January.  You probably have seen it but may not have noticed — that was the week when Barack Obama was on the cover of a lot of publications.

It is always great fun when presidents (it is nearly always the president, because young readers are unlikely to be able to visually identify any other politician) turn up in the comics, but it is rare.  So far as I know this is the very first time a Chief Executive has been so prominently featured on a cover, larger even that the title character.  This may be due to Obama’s public declaration, reiterated only the other day,  that his favorite comics characters are Spider-Man and Batman.    The story here is of mild interest — a villain with a weak grasp of the electoral process tries to take Obama’s place at the swearing-in.   In a nice touch, Obama himself successfully reveals the imposter, who then pulls the superpower card and has to be socked into submission by Spider-Man.  Slight but perfect.  I am sure that Marvel sold a jillion copies of this thing; they are already on offer at inflated prices on Ebay. Continue reading