Why YA Publishing is a Mess Right Now

Yikes. This is kind of a bad-news/good-news post, in the context of Mesh. Since Mesh is considered a ‘high-MG/low-YA’ novel, I’m keenly interested in what’s happening with the publishing market. That’s why I was concerned when I heard a lot of tweets saying ‘YA publishing is a mess.’ Like, what?

I did some digging, but nothing seemed to make sense. Nothing in the news, no major blog posts. I started asking authors on Reddit and Twitter and got a breakdown which I’m sharing with you here. First, read the explanation, and then we’ll talk about what this means for Mesh.

Interestingly enough, I asked this question on /r/pubtips and the answer was good enough for /r/goodlongposts:

I think this might have happened anyway, especially given we don’t actually know precisely why they closed. YA has had declining sales for a while; it’s an over-saturated category. With Jimmy, it’s possible James Patterson would have decided to shutter the “original” part of the imprint regardless. With Imprint, Macmillan recently got a new President, and he’s clearly making moves. COVID may have simply… hastened some decisions.

COVID has impacted publishing more than I think people realize. TV too. Yes, from our perspective “hey we’re doing these things more than ever!” but a lot of regular cash flow streams dried up because COVID changed buying habits and many businesses simply weren’t equipped/prepared for certain steady “norms” to bottom out so drastically. I work in TV as my day job and yes we’re still chugging along (yay I have a job!) but advertiser dollars are down across the board, and many many many many customers are cord cutting b/c of, well, suddenly falling into extreme poverty. Also production completely shut down so most media companies are literally… running out of content. It’s gonna be BLEAK very soon when everyone realizes no new shows ha. Continue reading

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art

I love the transition of concept art to film – here’s a beautiful example: art from Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis.’ If you haven’t seen it, get off your butt this instant. From 1927, Metropolis is still considered one of the most interesting, impactful science fiction movies ever made.

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art   

Sci-Friday #86 – Metropolis Concept Art   

   

Seeing a hundred year-old version of dystopia, and in some ways seeing it played out in modern life, gives you a lot to think about. William Gibson is famous for saying: “All fiction, whether straight or genre, whether literature or Literature, is a personal reinterpretation of its writers’ existence during the time the fiction was written.” I’d be interested to know what Lang and other cast members were trying to interpret from their time.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend! 😀

 

Grinding Scifi Short Stories

Grinding Scifi Short StoriesRan into this helpful site while discussing short story publishing. The Submission Grinder is a website dedicated to the process of submitting scifi and fantasy short stories. Why? Because you get rejected a lot! Every SF/F writer has about a million rejection slips on their desk these days.

This revelation has given me new energy to go back to the drawing board and give some short stories another chance at publication. Visit my Short Story Board to find out where my stories are being submitted to.

In the meantime, I hope you find Submission Grinder to be helpful. I pass along all the free tools I find – let’s get better together!

Visit The Submission Grinder

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

I ran across this article on Sunday and it reminded me that I haven’t talked to you about the moral of Mesh. Yes, Virginia, there’s a moral. In fact, there’s a hidden cautionary scifi tale within Mesh.

Within the story, I talk about kids inventing a world-changing technology. By the end of the book, you’ll be scared by the implications of that technology. That’s my intent. Why should technology scare you? Let’s talk about that. First, let’s discuss the article itself and then we’ll talk about how Mesh connects.

Is Technology Making Things Better? That’s a good question. For geeks, we focus on what could be, not why it should be. We’re wired that way. Civilization follows behind, happy to reap the rewards of our curiosity. As a result, humanity has run a rabid, manic marathon of discover for two centuries now. Are we better off because of these new inventions and possibilities?

“We face a growing array of problems that involve technology directly or indirectly,” as Dr. John K. Davis of California State University, Fullerton states. “[T]he core problem is that we’re becoming more powerful but not more wise. The growing gap between our technological power and our wisdom is the ultimate cause of all these problems. We are clever enough to create problems we aren’t wise enough to avoid. ”

Dr. Davis is focusing on something I knew would be important to talk about when I started writing scifi four years ago: the Why of technology, and not just the What. I disdain scifi that’s little more than a sophisticated toy catalog. If you’re going to have laser swords and starships, I want to know why you have them. I want to know what this technology can do to push the human condition forward. Continue reading

Sci-Friday #85 – Behind the Scenes of Star Trek: TOS

You’re going to enjoy this Sci-Friday – it’s a look back, behind the scenes, at Star Trek: TOS. How did this happen? Memory Alpha has the story: “William “Bill(y)” R. Blackburn, was an uncredited background performer on Star Trek: The Original Series for all of the show’s three seasons, excepting the two pilot episodes. In that time, he played a wide variety of roles, usually as a navigator or a helmsman, all believed to be a character named Hadley. In total, he appeared in 61 episodes of the series.”

Because Billy Blackburn was in so many episodes, and he always carried his Super-8 camera with him, we get a rare glimpse of what it was like to work on the early days of this groundbreaking scifi show:

Blackburn has a lot of insights about the cast, and life on set. Kick back and relax. It’s time to beam up, retro style.

Have a great weekend!

Conversations With Your Inner Critic – The Angry Little Man

Conversations With Your Inner Critic - The Angry Little Man

If you write, there’s one person you’re going to make friends with along with everyone else: Your inner critic.  The angry little man in your head that hates on everything you do. You know who I’m talking about. I’ve been trying to make peace with that guy my entire life.

Now your inner critic comes in many flavors. Maybe they sound like your mom, your dad, or a teacher. My inner critic is an Angry Little Man, and he sounds like the Teeny Little Super Guy from Sesame Street. In fact, he’s such a persistent part of my life that I made him a character in Mesh. Let Roman learn to deal with him!

Inner critics are brilliant at validating all your fears and insecurities. They are artists at cancelling out any type of positivity, exploiting every weakness. Inner critics are masters at making everything you think, say, or do sound as negative as possible.

The reason I’m talking about the Angry Little Man is this: We all have one. It’s okay to have him there. A lot of people live with an inner critic, and managing him is a life skill unto itself.

Continue reading

Stars in a Jar: Jackson Oswalt – Fusion Kid

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion Kid

Last night, I saw another story that fit right into the Mesh universe. Jackson Oswalt created nuclear fusion in his home lab, and he’s just a kid. Let’s talk about his awesome accomplishment, and then we’ll talk about how this fits in the Mesh universe.

The details: Last week, Guinness certified Jackson Oswalt of Memphis as the youngest person ever to successfully create nuclear fusion. “[J]ust hours before his 13th birthday in 2018, fused together two deuterium atoms using a fusor that he had built and operated in the playroom of his family home in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Jackson’s achievement was verified by Fusor.net, The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, on 2 February 2018 and confirmed by fusion researcher Richard Hull, who maintains a list of amateur scientists who have achieved fusion at home.”

So, we have fusion power now? No. As this article points out: ‘Sadly, fusors are not likely to see commercial use to solve the world’s clean energy needs. A typical fusor cannot produce the neutron flux that a fusion reactor would be able to, and the energy input far outweighs the potential energy output with technology as it stands.’

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion KidThat takes nothing from Jackson’s achievement. According to Guinness, ‘Jackson was inspired to build his own fusor after reading about teenager Taylor Wilson, who had also created his own fusor. As he writes on Fusor.net, “One day I had a sudden epiphany. I realized that I could be the absolute best at whatever videogame, but in the end it still wouldn’t mean much.”

I got excited by that. Mesh is inspired by Taylor Wilson, too! I’ve been talking about kids like Taylor Wilson and Jackson Oswalt for three years now. My novel takes place at a special technical high school filled with kids like Jackson Oswalt. Miramar is based on other real-life schools that immerse kids in different technical disciplines.

In Mesh, those kids are Stars in a Jar. They’re in high school but they get to build whatever they want. If they invent something cool, they graduate Miramar with six-figure jobs waiting for them. They build software apps in VR using artificial intelligence. Imagine what a kid like Jackson could do with an AI at his disposal.

Kids like Jackson are special. With the right support and focus, they can change the world. Sadly, they’re also vulnerable to collapse – that’s why it’s critical to protect and nurture them.

Congratulations to Jackson Oswalt and his nuclear accomplishment! It looks like he’s got all the help and support he needs to change the world. We’ll be watching to see what kind of amazing things he does next.

 

Write Like a Writer

Hey kids, wanna write like a writer? I found this last night and am passing it along for your use. Here are some adjectives you can use to eliminate the use of ‘very’ in your writing:

Write Like a Writer

Why does it matter? The English language is a beautiful smorgasbord, a mine of gems to be mined to describe the gestalt of the your story. Why waste your time (and ours) with lazy writing? Sometimes your work needs to be grandiloquent, other times it may be spartan. In any case, make use of language to take us to another place. That, after all, is why we’re reading you. Continue reading

Do What You Can

So what do you do when you’re screwed before you get started? That’s a question I’ve asked myself through the past two re-drafts of Mesh. It’s difficult to face your own fragility and limitations; painful to lay in the gutter and look up at the stars. Yet, that’s what 2020 demands of us on a daily basis. It wasn’t until last night, catching Bon Jovi’s new single ‘Do What You Can’ on Steven Colbert, that I found the answer.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a mainstream song be this honest and relevant. Honestly, I thought lyrics this good only happened in Taylor Swift songs or indie rock. When art irritates me, I’ll speak up. When it inspires me, I’ll say that, too. Great song, great message and it’s coming at a great time. We need some positivity in a world that’s trying to use us for toilet paper. If you can’t do what you do, you do what you can.

Write on!