I have a lot of fun going to science fiction conventions. People who have been my heroes and who I’ve enjoyed reading for a very long time have become my friends. There is a camaraderie that is difficult to explain to others outside the genre. So I look forward to going to these. My goals for conventions in 2012 are pretty straight-forward.
1. Attend a couple more conventions as a participant
Last year I attended Readercon and Capclave as a participant as opposed to just a regular attendee. It was a lot of fun and I hope to do it again in 2012. So far, it looks like I’ll be a participant in Readercon. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again for Capclave as well.
2. Attend my first WorldCon
I’ve already purchased my membership so it’s just a matter of working out the scheduling logistics (not as easy as you might think with 2 kids). But at this point, I expect to be at ChiCon. I’ve requested to be on panels at WorldCon but I don’t know if that will happen.
3. Attend the Nebula Weekend
It was so much fun last year, I plan to be there again in 2012. And it’s even closer to my house in 2012 which makes it all the more easier to get to!
Because of my focus on short fiction, novel reading has taken a backseat the last few years, and I imagine that will continue for the next few years. Novels are more of a time investment and with everything else going on, something has to take a backseat. That said, here are a few goals for my novel-reading in 2012:
1. Get current on George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire
In 2011, I read the first 3 books in the series and enjoyed them all immensely. I’d like to catch up with the last two in 2012. Finding the time to do that might be tricky, but given what I’ve read in the first three, I think it would be worth the effort.
2. Re-read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
Michael Burstein’s recent post convinced me to do this. It took me 3 tries to get through Stranger the first time and after I finished it, I decidedly didn’t like it. But my experience has broadened and my attitudes have changed in the dozen or more years that have passed since I read it. I think it is time to give it another try.
3. Start Stephen King’s Gunslinger series
Enough people have said enough good things about it that I think it’s worth taking the time to read at least the first book in the series.
4. Read some Mike Resnick
I’ve never read a Mike Resnick novel. It’s about time I corrected that. I know that he and Jack McDevitt have a collaborative novel coming out in 2012, but that doesn’t count. I want to read a good, representative Resnick novel. And I’m open to suggestions on this one.
I’ve written about how I love short science fiction. Back in September I gave myself a goal of reading a piece of short fiction a day. In other words, 365 stories a year (or in 2012, 366, since it is a leap year). I’ve done pretty well since September and so my short fiction reading goals for fairly simple for 2012:
1. Read 1 story each day
Well, on average anyway. There are days when I am too busy to squeeze in the short story reading. But there are other days when I’ll read 2 or 3 stories. If it all evens out, I’d like to have read about 350 stories by this time next year.
2. Try to learn something about the craft from each story
Currently, I make a short 1-sentence note about each story I read to remind me of the plot. When you read hundreds of stories a year, it is sometimes hard to remember them all. This has helped a lot. In 2012, I’d like to add a second sentence about how the story taught me something about the craft of short story writing. I imagine this won’t always be possible, but it is something to aim for.
Right now I read stories in all sorts of magazines. But my reading patterns–how I choose the stories that I read–often fall into something like this: (a) it’s by an author I love; (b) it’s about something I enjoy; (c) lots of word-of-mouth about the story or author; (d) it’s by someone I know personally.
In 2012, I’d like to try and spread out a little more, read stories by people I’ve never heard of, stories that are maybe out of my normal comfort zone. For instance, I generally don’t read the fantasy stories in F&SF but it might be something worth trying–it’s outside my comfort zone. Ditto with steampunk stories. I’m not talking about moving away from what I enjoy reading, but instead, doing a better job as sampling a wider array of stories and authors.
Keep in mind that in some respect I already do this: in my Vacation in the Golden Age, I read issues of Astounding cover-to-cover and often encounter stories that I might not have chosen to read, but I read them because they are part of my Vacation, part of the history of the Golden Age and I see value there.
I had a surprisingly good year on the blogging front. Not only did I exceed my goal of tripling the visits to my blog, but my blogging lead to other interesting gigs, including a column at SF Signal, and two story sales to 40K Books. I’m not sure it would be realistic to think that I could triple my visits again in 2012. So my focus this year is less on increasing my readership and more on providing interesting and entertaining content to the readers I already have.
1. Post at least 24 new Episodes of my Vacation in the Golden Age
In 2011, I posted 29 Episodes. So why only 24 in 2012? Well, when I started my Vacation, I was doing one issue a week. That turned out to be too much for me to handle so I switched to a biweekly scheduled which amounts to 26 Episodes/year. However, life has a way of interfering sometimes, witness my recent bout with an ear infection that prevented me from getting much done for a few weeks. So I’m aiming for 24 Episodes to allow myself a couple of places to take a break if I feel I need them (e.g., I’m sick or on vacation or super-busy with work or family).
24 Episodes is a nice round number because it is two complete years of Astounding. (Actually, 25 would be better because it would mean finishing 2012 with the December 1943 issue. But I’ll stick with 24.) I would be nice to get more readers and get the word more widely spread about this project, but that kind of thing is mostly out of my control. Reading the issues and then writing about them is a lot of fun for me. I’d do it even if no one read the posts.
I’ve learned a few things about setting goals for writing over the last few years. One is that they need to be realistic. The other is that they need to be entirely within your control. The last few years I realize that I’ve set not only unrealistic goals for my writing, but also goals that require some kind of outside intervention to come to fruition. For instance, I had a goal last year of selling 4 stories to professional markets. Writing 4 stories is an achievable goal that is completely in my control. Selling them is another matter because it requires something outside my control: an editor willing to buy them.
Given these lessons, I have a few fairly simple goals for fiction-writing in 2011:
1. Write 500 words of new fiction every day.
Why 500 words? I learned during my experiences with NaNoWriMo that I have the ability to write a little over 2,000 words in 2 hours. But with two kids and a full-time job, it is getting more and more difficult to carve 2 hours out of every day for writing.
That said, I can write 500 words in roughly half an hour and half an hour isn’t a large chunk of time. Of course, if I slow down and try and be more deliberate, it might take a little longer to get out those 500 words, but not much. In other words, it is much easier for me to find 30 minutes in the day than it is an hour or two hours. It is also easier on my family. It think it is a good compromise. After all, 500 new words of fiction every day amounts to 183,000 words of new fiction in 2012 which is far more than I’ve ever done before. The trick is making it a habit, working it into my routine, and protecting that 30 minutes.
This is also an easily measurable goal. At any point in time, I can tell if I am meeting my goal or not.