One of my goals in 2011 was to “attend at least one [science fiction] convention as a participant.”
I started attending science fiction conventions in 2007 after the sale of my first story to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. The first convention I attended was RavenCon in April 2007 and it set the bar rather high. I got to meet the editor of IGSM, Edmund Schubert, as well as meet and have dinner with Robert J. Sawyer.
Since then, I’ve attended close to a dozen conventions, all of them on the east coast or mid-Atlantic somewhere. But until 2011, I’d never attended as a participant. I am pleased to say that changed this year. I attended 2 conventions as a participant in 2011. The first was Readercon in July. It was there that I sat on my first two panels, on as a panelist, the other as the moderator (and the person who selected the topic for that matter). It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit I think I make a better panelist than moderator. Maybe I just need more practice at the latter.
Then, in October, I was a participant at Capclave, and I was on 2 more panels, again, one as a participant and one as a moderator.
Let me just confess up front: reading more short fiction in 2011 cut into the novel reading time. If you look at the list of books I’ve read since 1996, you’ll note that in this year, much of my reading consisted of issues of Astounding. In the past, I never added magazine reading to the “books” list, but I chose to do so this year because I was reading the magazines cover-to-cover and therefore treating them like collections of short stories. From that list, you can see that most of what I read this year were those Astounding issues, leaving little time for much else.
But some time remained.
This year, for instance, I started reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. It took only 2 episodes of the HBO series to get me interested in the book. After reading the book, I wrote about how George R. R. Martin made me a fan of epic fantasy. I read two more books in the series before taking a break.
However, if we are sticking to just novels that were published in 2011, then two really stand out:
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I was looking forward to this book when it was first announced and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading it, but I absolutely loved it. It was not only a well-done time travel story, but it was just plain good fiction.
- Firebird by Jack McDevitt. I think I’ve said before that Jack is one of my favorite writers today and his Alex Benedict novels are guilty pleasures for me. I love the universe he has created in the far future. I love Alex and Chase. Most of all, I love the mysteries they attempt to solve. This one was pure fun.
I know there were lots and lots of great novels published this year and I barely read any of them. But at this point, my focus in both my writing and my reading is with short fiction. And the truth is, so is my heart. I suspect it will continue this way next year as well.
Tomorrow: my review of science fiction conventions I attended in 2011.
I have said that we are in a golden age for short science fiction and fantasy. There is so much good short fiction out there it is difficult to keep up with it all. I had no specific goals for short fiction reading at the beginning of 2011. Reading short science fiction is probably my favorite type of reading. And yet I never seem to be able to find the time to read enough of it to keep up with all of the good stuff out there.
This year was a little different. Because of my Vacation in the Golden Age, I ended up reading a lot of short fiction. In fact, to date, I’ve read 192 stories in the years spanning 1939-1941 in Astounding. This has proven valuable in more ways than I could have imagined:
- It has allowed me to fill in vast gaps in my reading from a period of time that I enjoy. I get the good and the bad, but it is all valuable.
- It has taught me how to read short stories with a more critical eye. In my Vacation posts, I try to remark in some detail on each story and that means thinking about the story as I read it, how it relates to other stories and the genre as a whole.
- It has helped me as writer in numerous ways: from teaching me what works well in a story, to what doesn’t work, as well as what tropes have been overused from the dawn of modern science fiction (and therefore, what to avoid, or approach in a new light.)
If my fiction-writing in 2011 was something of a disappointment, my blogging turned out to be something of a surprise. In my goals for 2011, I made mention of only one item relating to blogging:
Triple the traffic to my website by providing more relevant content, more frequently. This means more content about science fiction and writing. It means getting some external recognition of the stuff that I post, either through science fiction news sites or Twitter retweets, or word of mouth. I’m not looking to become John Scalzi’s Whatever, but if I can go from an average of 35 hits/day to an average of 100 hits/day, I think that will be a good sign of success in this endeavor.
In December 2010, I averaged about 35 hits/day to this blog. (For the entire year in 2010, my average was 15/day.) I figured that tripling those hits to get to 100 hits/day would be good growth for the year. But I did far better than I imagined.
As of this moment, my blog averages 258 hits/day taken over the course of all of 2011. If you look at just the month of December, that number is closer to 1,000 hits/day. Instead of tripling my hits, now have something like 7 times the hits I had back in December of 2010. These numbers don’t include RSS feeds. I haven’t even started to look at this year’s Feedburner data. How did I manage this?
I didn’t do so well meeting my writing goals for 2011. I now have some idea of why that may be, but I’ll discuss that in due course. First, let me review my fiction-writing goals from 2011 and see how I measured up in reality.
My writing goals for this year included some elements that weren’t directly related to the writing of fiction. I’m going to exclude those from this review and include them where they might otherwise belong. For instance, I had goals related to my writing career, like attending a convention as a participant. But since that isn’t related to fiction-writing, I’ll include that in the conventioneering post.
1. Make 3 short fiction sales to professional markets
Well, I made 2 short fiction sales this year, but none of them were to professional markets as defined by SFWA. Both were to 40K Books in Italy and while they did a professional job of putting out the first story, their payment model is not one that makes them a professional market by SFWA standards. That aside, I’m still thrilled that I made those sales. The first of the stories, “If By Reason of Strength…” appeared at the end of September. The second story, “In the Cloud” has yet to be published.