Category: blogs

The Hugo Award-Winning SF Signal!

I’m still catching up on a few posts I’ve wanted to write since heading home from Chicon. I realize I haven’t yet got to say how thrilled I was when SF Signal won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. It was a highlight of the convention to see John DeNardo take the stage and accept the award.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate to be affiliated with SF Signal over the last several years. I sometimes feel like it has been entirely to my benefit. I remember noting sometime in 2008 that a blog post I had written had been picked up by SF Signal’s “Tidbits” and I was so excited by that, I think I talked about nothing else all day. I turn to SF Signal each morning to see what’s happening in the world of science fiction and I’m never disappointed.

And I probably owe a large part of my blog audience to SF Signal. More than a year ago, John got in touch with me to tell me that he liked the posts I wrote on science fiction, and asked if I’d like to write a column for them. That became the Wayward Time Traveler column, which I wrote for nearly a year and which I had a blast doing. It was a difficult, sad, decision to have to stop doing that column–with two kids and other obligations, it just became too much for me. But that column, and the other opportunities the John and the SF Signal folks gave me, lead to one of two big, sustained spikes in my audience here at this blog and so I am indebted to SF Signal not just for the opportunities they have given me, but also for the audience.

The best part of my affiliation with SF Signal, however, has been the friends I have made. This includes, of course, John DeNardo and Patrick Hester. It also includes people like Paul Weimer and Fred Kiesche and several others. Chatting with these folks online is like having a mini-convention. They are some of the biggest fans I know, but they are also among the nicest people I’ve met in science fiction.

What is remarkable about SF Signal is the scope of the genre that it embraces. Not just science fiction, but fantasy and horror. And not just written science fiction (my particular favorite), but movies, television, podcasts, art, music and gaming. Whatever your interest in the uber-genre, SF Signal has managed to cover it. Their tidbits keep you up-to-date. Their mind-melds provides a wide cross-section of viewpoints on countless topics. They have fantastic interviews. They point you to places you can find free fiction online. They highlight new writers and artists. They encourage burgeoning bloggers. They plug their contributors, but are remarkably humble about themselves. They reach out into every part of the science fiction/fantasy/horror genre and they are always a good fit.

I am just so thrilled that SF Signal won a Hugo Award and it was a pleasure to finally get to meet John and Patrick and others affiliated with SF Signal in person in Chicago.

RETRO POST: Online Presence for Writers

I am on an Internet Vacation this week. I promised one old post and one new post each day while I was on vacation. This is the third of my old posts. It was originally posted back on April 8, 2011. I brought this one back because I get asked from time-to-time how to start a blog and how to get people to read it. I’m not sure I know the right answers, but this summarizes a lot of what I did.

Earlier this week, the Arlington Writers Group held a discussion on online presence for writers. The basic questions were things like, do writers need a website? Should writers maintain a blog? What type of social networking should a writer be doing? There has been plenty of this type of thing discussed on the Internet, but since I compiled a whole bunch of notes in preparation for that meeting, I figured I’d share my experience here for those interested. Keep in mind that this is based on my experience. It works well for me and I have seen some positive results. Everyone feels differently about the value of an online presence.

For me, there are 3 components to an online presence for writers:

  1. A website
  2. A blog
  3. Social networking (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

Taken together, these three things are what agents and publishers like to call “platforms” and are what I think of as your “brand”. Each of these three things are discussed in more detail below.

Writer’s Websites

This is where a writer can establish the foundation of their brand. It starts with the domain. Early on, I bought as many domain combinations of my name as I thought useful, for instance:,,, etc. The reason for this is that as a writer, your name is an important part of your brand. People need to know who you are, and once they know who you are, being able to get to your online presence by typing in your name makes things easy.

There are just a few basic things that I think are important to make available on my website:

  • An “about” page containing some biographical information as it pertains to my writing life.
  • A bibliography of my writing
  • Contact information in case there are editors, publishers, agents, or others that want to get in touch with me

Beyond that, I also think it is useful to provide:

  • Links to free samples of my writing
  • A list of upcoming appearance at things like conventions

I maintain 3 different author bios: a short, one-liner that I can include in email or in the “About Me” section of various social networking profiles; a short paragraph that might appear with a column or story that I write; and a longer biography that appears on my About page. I try to keep these up-to-date, reviewing them at each significant writing event (e.g., when I publish a new story).  My current one-liner reads as follows:

Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer and blogger whose stories have appeared in Analog, Apex Magazine, and InterGalactic Medicine Show.

Here is the current short paragraph bio:

Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and software developer. His fiction has appeared in Analog, Apex Magazine, and InterGalactic Medicine sShow. He fell in love with science fiction at seven, around the same time he fell in love with science. He is especially fond of short fiction. When he is not writing stories, blogging, or creating software, he can be found making not-so-subtle attempts at turning his toddler into a science fiction fan. Jamie vacations frequently in the Golden Age of science fiction.

You can read the long bio here.

A website is more static than a blog and therefore can be less time-consuming to maintain, but I have noticed that it is more effective when it is up-to-date.  Some people may be reluctant to provide contact information but as a writer, I think it is important to make this available so that people can get in touch with me. In addition to providing links to how I can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, I provide an email address–one that is specific for requests that come in through the site and that is flagged such in my inbox. Since doing this, I have had people get in touch with me and it has led to things that have raised my visibility as a writer.

How much does a website cost? That depends. I obtained my domains for something like $10/year each. I paid for several years in advance and have them automatically renewed so that I don’t lose them. I also pay for a premium hosting service that allows me a lot of control–but this isn’t necessary for everyone. Remember, I am also a software developer and I do this kind of thing for a living so it is second nature to me. All told, I’d say that the domain names and website hosting costs me in the neighborhood of $150-200/year. But remember, too, that since this is used pretty much exclusively to maintain my online presence as a writer, I can these off as business expenses.

Read more

Lifehacker’s How I Work Series

I wanted to call attention to this great new series that Lifehacker is doing called How I Work. Each week, they find someone interesting to interview about how they work. There is a standard format to these, where you learn about the person and what they do, then what apps and tools they can’t live without, followed by best life hack, favorite to-do manager, etc. The first person in the series was Adam Savage and most recently, they featured Lifehacker founder, Gina Trapani.

This is such a great series because it is practical, down-to-earth tips and advice. This isn’t people telling you how you should do things. It’s people describing how they work and what tools, gadgets and life hacks work for them. I’ve already found two or three things in the first four features that have made a difference in my everyday work. If you haven’t already seen it, you should definitely check it out.

I’m part of this week’s SF Signal MIND MELD on Point of View

Over at the Hugo-nominated SF Signal, Paul Weimer has put together an impressive collection of author responses to questions about Point of View in fiction for this week’s Mind Meld. So many responses that the Mind Meld is broken into two parts. You can find Part 1 over here. My response, among others, can be found in Part 2.

All responses are interesting and thoughtful and if you are interested in the subject of point of view in storytelling, I urge you to head over and check out both posts.

Comment Spam Stats and Akismet, My Hero

I sometimes hear folks complain about how much comment spam they receive on their blogs. Some people get so much that they end up disabling comments entirely. I was thinking about comment spam this morning, mostly because I don’t have that problem, and decided to look at the spam this site has received over the last 12 months. I was surprised to find just how much spam I get, but also impressed by how Akismet–the comment spam blaster I use for this site–manages to catch most of it before I ever see it. Here is a chart showing the spam and “ham” (legitimate comments) over the last 12 months:


The site has received a total of 73,755 comments. Of those comments, an astounding 71,237 have been spam that Akismet has snared before they ever appeared. That leaves 2,518 legitimate comments. Akismet does hold the spam comments–about which I’ve written before–in a bin in which I can review them. And a couple of times a month, I’ll glance at them to see if I find any false positives. As you can see, over the course of the last 12 months, I’ve found 9 false positives–comments marked as spam that were legitimate comments. There have also been 37 comments that were spam that Akismet missed. And yet, considering the vast number of overall comments, the fact that Akismet missed only 37 is rather remarkable. It is 99.94% accurate and I can tell you first hand that this saves me an incredible amount of time, and keeps comments to the various posts focused and clear of spam.

I’m today’s Guest Author over at Janice Hardy’s “The Other Side of the Story”

Janice Hardy invited me to be a guest author over at her wonderful ongoing series, “The Other Side of the Story” and today, my post appears. I write about the struggle I some times have with all of the writing advice out there: getting out of my head. Click on over to The Other Side of the Story to check it out.

A big thank you to Janice Hardy for having me over, and thank you to Juliette Wade for putting in the good word.

I’m the featured author over at Eating Author’s this morning

If you head on over to Lawrence M. Schoen’s blog this morning, you’ll find that yours truly is the featured author on his Eating Author’s post this week. Head on over there to check it out.

(And meanwhile, I am having such a good time on vacation here in Maine that I haven’t had much time to post about it. But posts will be forthcoming. I promise.)


Bryan Thomas Schmidt: Space battle and action scenes in science fiction (a dialog)

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is on a blog tour for his newest novel, The Returning, a sequel to his debut novel The Worker Prince. On the blog tour for his first novel, Bryan stopped by to discuss how golden age science fiction influenced him. Since then, Bryan has not only written another novel, but he also edited the Space Battles anthology. This time around, Bryan and I discuss space battles in golden age science fiction, as well as action scenes in general through all of science fiction. It was a fun discussion and I was delighted that Bryan had the chance to stop by. You can read our discussion below.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt: So Jamie, good to talk pulps again. I always enjoy our conversations. You mentioned, after seeing Space Battles, the anthology I edited, that you had wondered about my take on space battles in the history of science fiction. And I must admit, as a kid who fell in love with sci-fi because of Star Wars and Star Trek (both original series, ahem) that space battles and science fiction have always been almost hand-in-hand in my mind. I love action. Even now, action movies are always my favorites. I like drama, I like comedy, and a good mix of those is great as long as there’s good action. So that’s what I try and write with the Davi Rhii books and the feel I most wanted to capture was that Golden Age feel as we’ve discussed in the past. So getting started, what’s your sense of the place space battles have science fiction for you? You’ve read a lot more pulp than I have, at least recently. What draws you to science fiction stories? Does action play a part?

Jamie Todd Rubin: Well, I can appreciate the fondness for movies like Star Wars, and shows (and movies) like Star Trek, but I must admit that I’m one of those rare breed of science fiction writers who is generally uninterested in media-SF. I like written stuff, and that is where most of my influence comes from. Star Wars probably took space battles to a level never achieved before 1977. But space battles have been a part of the literature from almost the beginning and in those early days of the Golden Age and just before, they were portrayed about as realistically as what we see inStar Wars. While lasers in space makes for an exciting story, it doesn’t seem to be an optimal weapon. Willy Ley pointed this out in a rather remarkable article in the August 1939 issue of Astounding called “Space War.” In that article, he made a very closely reasoned case for why bullets would still be superior weapons to lasers in a real space battle. Someone took this to heart, because I recall seeing just such a weapon used in the second-coming of Battlestar Galactica.

I tend to be more connected to space battle stories when it is the battle that is secondary to the story itself. There is a rather remarkable space battle in the fourth Foundation story, “The Big and the Little.” Foundation stories are often criticized for being mostly dialog and that is true, but people seem to forget the battle that takes place at the end, and the clever tactics used to surprise the enemy fleet. I tend to be turned off by the galaxy-wide, planet hurling battles you get from someone like E. E. “Doc” Smith in his Lensman stories. I prefer the smaller, somewhat more realistic battles you get from someone like Malcolm Jameson in his “Bullard” stories of the 1940s; or the kind you find in Joe Haldeman’s stories of the 1970s.

But you edited an entire anthology of space battles, Bryan. What worked for you? What is it about a space battle story that makes it a good story?

BTS: Well, the Foundation stories were very much more intellectual action than physical action. The ideas explored and examined are amazing and it’s done with great depth, but yes, they are not “action” stories in the typical sense, and that’s okay. John C. Wright’s “Count To A Trillion” last year was very much like that and, to some degree, so are Michael Flynn’s TOR series Spiral Arm. So I don’t think action is the sole element of space opera. Certainly political and personal scheming and lots of twists and turns in plotting are common elements as well as larger-than-life characters and a sense of good v. evil and epic scope. But in many ways, it’s the action pace that makes the stories so popular because it’s really good escapism. We all have an inner hero who dreams of saving the day, I think. And we can live vicariously through those stories and have those laser battles and starship dogfights in our mind that won’t likely happen in our real lives and that, in many ways, are more exciting and interesting than our everyday lives. I think that’s a big part of the appeal. So if you have a fast pace, fun gadgets and ships, an interesting, imaginative setting that evokes the creativity of readers, and add interesting characters, especially with fun banter, fans tend to enjoy that. All elements which Star TrekStar WarsBSG etc. had and which many of the Space Battles stories employed. I also used it in my Davi Rhii books.

And I think the realistic nature in regards to space battles is one area where readers and even writers tend to fudge and it’s acceptable to do so. Mess up things like gravity, planetary set up, solar systems, geology, etc., and you’re much more likely to get criticized but everyone enjoys blasters and starfighter duels. It’s the same way that FTL, although scientifically impossible as far as we can see, is still used as a trope widely.

Read more

I’m part of today’s Mind-Meld over at SF Signal

Today’s Mind Meld at SF Signal asks, “What are the most interesting books in your to-read pile?” You can find my answer there, as well as answers from Patrick Hester, Charles Tan, Paul Weimer, Derek Johnson, Larry Ketchersid, Jessica Strider, Matt Cadin, John H. Stevens, and Fred Kiesche (whose list, in length, puts the rest of us to shame).

A programming note

On Thursday, I reorganized some of the pages on the site. WordPress, once a page is renamed, does it’s best job to find a match for the page when someone searches the old site. Thus, people attempting to get to the Vacation in the Golden Age main page, were instead getting to the article I wrote about my Vacation early last year.

As of this morning, I have corrected this by adding in a redirect plug-in. This will allow you to continue to use the old link for things like the Vacation index, and still be taken to the new location. Chances are pretty good you haven’t even noticed this, but I wanted to mention it in case anyone had.

Other changes included moving things like my About, Bibliography and Contact pages. Redirects will be added for those as well.

Improved “Web of Trust” rating for this site

Every once in a while, someone will comment that various browser plug-ins report this site as unsafe. The reason for this is that some of those plug-ins use the Web of Trust website to determine the safety of various sites. Web of Trust is a crowd-sourced site in which people can report positive and negative experiences with a site. When I first started hearing reports that my site was flagged as unsafe, I looked into the matter, and sure enough, some folks had reported the site was unsafe because of a random reference in a listing elsewhere. There was not much I could do about this at the time, other than make my regular readers aware of it. I wrote about this back in November 2011.

I am pleased to say that in the months since, the Web of Trust rating of this site has greatly improved, and much of the credit goes to readers who have reported the site as “safe” and given “thumbs down” to those who’ve commented otherwise. When I looked at the Web of Trust rating for this site today, here is what I saw:

wot ratings.PNG

In 3 of the 4 ratings, the site ranks “good.” I have no idea what “vendor reliability” means, or why it should be lagging behind there, but the truth is, I’m not all that interested. I’ve gotten the word out and folks have taken action and the rating has improved which is good only for those folks who use software that make use of the data Web of Trust provides. I’m glad the ratings have improved because I’ll get fewer questions about it and folks should be less confused about it going forward.