Lancer Kind, Science Fiction author

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Interview with my pal, William McIntosh, Hugo and Nebula Award Nominee

25 May, 2010 (08:48) | Uncategorized | By: Lancer Kind

I’ve always said that if you can’t be in high places, it’s good to have friends there who can tell you about the view.

Dear reader, unlike my usual ‘speculative posts,’ Will really is my pal, and he really did get nominated for these very cool awards.  Yes! Really!  I’ve got pictures!  William McIntosh and I worked with each other at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in 2003.

Editorial: Will forgot to send me a new photo for the interview.  The only photos I have of him are from our Clarion 2003 class.

Sean Melican, William McIntosh, Ben Kuo, Lister, Jamie Kress

Sean Melican, William McIntosh, Ben Kuo, Lister, Jamie Kress

REDACTED due to witness protection program, Matt Fitz, Tammy Inman, Jonathan Laden

Douglas Texter, Cathy Morrison, Tom Doyle, Joel Schnack, Lancer Kind

Jamie Kress, Robert Canipe, Ryan Butkus, Douglas Texter, Cathy Morrison

And yes, we occasionaly fed Mr. Waldrop for a job well done.

I couldn’t find a picture of Kyle Phegley, the man behind the camera, so I did a Bing image search for Kyle and found this.  Bing says it’s him:

Kyle Phegley?

But pictures of tired writers who have been writing and critiquing into the wee hours of the night, and then forced to get up early to give critiques (thank you Mr. Waldrop, Nalo Hopkinson, Richard Paul Russo, Scott Edelman, Kelly Link, James Patrick Kelly, Maureen F. McHugh) don’t make good interview pictures.  But Bing’s image search does!

Here’s what searching for McIntosh comes up with:

Which I can only assume are: Will’s cousins, the next two are Will after he uploaded himself into some hardware (a sacrifice necessary to reach the level of story research needed to get a Hugo and Nebula nomination for his short story Bridesicle, about a woman who was stored in a Cyro-freezer).  The beefcake is a photo of Will before he uploaded himself into hardware.  And the last photo, I guess, is Will’s kid sister.

Hey Will!  This is your pal, Lancer Kind.

Lancer?  Lancer?  What a strange name.  I think I remember some unfortunate person going by that once.  I think it was a workshop…

Yes!  You’ve got it bosom buddy!

Will, what gives?  You’re an award hog!  You have not only been nominated for a Hugo,but also a Nebula!

Yes, can you believe that?  I got the call two months ago (Feb 2010) from the Nebulas, for work published in 2009.  And now the Hugo!

To how many of the major publications have you sold short stories?

Bridesicle is the fourth and all of them to Asimov’s.  There are about seven short story markets I’d call majors now: Asimov’s, F&SF, Analog, Realms of Fantasy, Clarkesworld, Tor, and Strange Horizons.

I feel loyalty to Sheila since she was the first of the majors to buy something.  I always send anything new to her first.  I’ll meet her for the first time at the Nebulas.

This year, the World Science Fiction (World Con) convention is in Melbourne, Australia, September 2-6.  Per Word Con tradition, it has local name given by the holders of the convention.  It’s name is AussieCon4.  Since the award ceremony happens during the convention, are you attending AussieCon4 to sit in the audience, wringing your hands, to see if you win?

At first I wasn’t sure, but then how many chances do you get to go to World Science Fiction Convention as a Hugo nominee?  The answer for me may be only one.  So I feel I have to go.  I just can’t miss out on going to the Hugo awards.  But the travel (from Georgia, USA) is brutal and I can’t linger there when my wife is home with our young twins.

Will you hire someone to warm your seat, like the VIPs do at the Oscars?

(laughs, you can tell by the VUE meter.)  Well it really is our Oscars.  You dream about being nominated.  I still can’t believe it’s happened.

How can I skip it?  I just have to go. I hope I know people there.  Scott Edelman will probably be there.

(discussion ensues about how Mr. Edelman seems to be at all the World SF Cons)  Hopefully this blog will help you meet more people.  Especially if I use your pre-uploaded photo:

Are you going to talk on some panels?

The people at World SF Con have asked and I’ll make a final decision if I’ll be there this week.  If so, I’ll likely do what ever Hugo nominees do.

Talking to important people in the bar.  :-)

(laughs) I still feel like I’m someone who should be sitting in the audience listening to the writers.

You’re too modest!  STOP IT!  :-)  You need a panel to talk about your fascination with frozen people.   How many votes did you get for the Nebulas?

I got nineteen in the Nebulas.  The top vote getter was 22.  They haven’t reported the Hugo votes yet.

How many people did you have to sleep with to get those votes?

Heh.  I’ll tell you, that’s why it’s so surprising.  With the kids coming, I was too busy to send out many stories in ’09.  One day, someone on the Codex site said to me, ‘Hey you’ve got a lot of votes’  When there was only a day left, I was emailing my friends–‘Hey I’m close!  I’m right there!’

It never even occurred to me that could happen.  With the kids coming, I didn’t get to work much and I only published two stories that year.  I never even dreamed it until someone on Codex mentioned that I was on the voting.

Since we went to Clarion together, I’ve always used used you as a yardstick for my own career.  In 2006 you had accumulated a number of sales and I hadn’t sold much.  So I talked with you about what you were doing and then compared that to what I was doing.  The biggest difference was that you maintained discipline about keeping your stories circulating through the markets.  I’d forget to do that because, at the time, I had only two hours a day to write, so I was a loath to spend any of that time on marketing.  After our conversation, I had the realization why what I was doing wasn’t working.  I made it my New Year’s resolution to write less and that really helped.

So now I have to ask myself the question: How the hell do I get a Neb. or Hugo?  It sounds like one needs to publish in a big distribution magazine and get some buzz as you did.

Yes.  The nominees tend to come from the magazines with the largest readerships whether they are in print or online.  People can’t vote for you unless they’ve read it.  Any of the big ones.  The big four, though I think it’s safe to say the big seven or eight.

Rachel Swirsky had blogged what she was voting and she had picked Bridesicle for best short story.  I think that created a lot of buzz.  She was on the ballot for best Novelette.

How’s your cover letter going to look now?  How about you open with: I’m a Hugo nominee, so you bitches better publish my story.

(Laughs) Some publications just aren’t a good fit for me, even if the story is a great story.  Gorden Van Gelder probably saw my first fifty stories and didn’t buy any of them, though I certainly don’t hold any ill will against him.

My feeling is that F&SF and Gordon really values style–people who are great with words and images–and that’s not me.  Sheila really values a good story and focuses less on the turn of a phrase.  That’s my feeling and that’s how I’ve always distinguished those the two magazines.

Who do you write like?

I write like other people who are very straight forward.  I just tell the story.  I don’t consciously try to create clever ways of saying things.  Perhaps I write like Robert Reed.  He’s always in the ‘Years Best’ anthology because he always creates such great stories.

What was your inspiration for Bridesicle?

I usually just get ideas and they show up as as ideas will, and I just jot them down.  I first wrote the whole story from the perspective a guy who is visiting this cryogenic dating site.  He’s a loser and doesn’t have the money to help any of them, but he wants the attention of a woman, but can’t get it other than from these frozen women.  I wrote the whole thing and then put it out for some of my writing friends to read.  Mary Robinette Kowal said, ‘I think your missing it.  I think you need to write this from the point of view of the woman.’

And you do what you always do when you get feedback that says, throw out the six thousand words you’ve written and start over.  And of course, you go: I don’t want to do that!  I want THIS story to be good.

And you let a little of time pass, and then go back and look at it while going through the stages of grief: death, denial, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance, realizing she’s right.  So I re-wrote the story from the beginning and that was Bridesicle.

What other stories have you done major re-writes to and had them turn out to be so successful?

I’m trying tor think about other stories where I have several versions on my hard drive.  I don’t know if other people make file versions.  I always feel if I’m going to re-write, I’m going to screw it up so I make a copy of the file.  The other three I published in Asimov, I did revisions but none were major.  One story, Midnight Blue, I wrote in two days and did ten minutes of revisions.  I wished they were all like that!

I sold one to Interzone called A Clown Escapes from Circus Town and that one had a version number of seven.  That one I kept doing over and over again.  I think every writer has a few of these where you think the idea is good, and you keep trying to write the story, but it’s bad every time.

I have one, about multiple personality disorder where it’s possible to induce the condition without trauma, and do it voluntarily.  A cult is started around this activity.  I’ve completely rewritten this story at least four times, and it’s still no good.  I remember the first time I did it, Joseph Murphy critiqued it and said, ‘you’ve taken an interesting idea and told it in the dullest, driest way possible.’  There are a few writers on Codex where if they tell me it’s no good, it’s no good.  Like Ian Creasy.

He’s like the best critiquer.  Just unbelievable good.  When he tells me it’s not any good, it’s not any good.  When I send him something, I just wait, hoping.  And when he’s finished I just ask, “Is it any good?  Am I going to be able to sell this?”

“Sadly, this didn’t work for me.”

I just say, “Dammit!”  He’s so perceptive.  I know he’s going to be right.  I can pretend he’s not going to be right, but he’s going to be right.

Are you working on any novels?

I’ve got two novels I finished last fall.  And right now, I’m working on a third.  I recently got an agent, Seth Fishmen, and he’s is shopping my novel Soft Apocalypse.  He’s a great guy and I’m excited to work with him.  I discovered him through Ted Cosmaka, a shooting star who just got a nomination in the Nebulas and signed a great contract with Del Rey.  Ted put in a good word with Seth.  I sent Seth Soft Apocalypse and he called me back in five days.

You got the phone call!  It actually does happen!

The other novel is a slipstream baseball novel.  It’s funny, this thing about baseball genre novels.  There are very few of them, but the ones that get out there are all successful.  So I decided to write one.  Like Shoeless Joe,  the Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and Bishop’s Brittle Innings.

We’ve talked about your completed novels, do you have something that’s unfinished and in progress?

I’ve got a few short stories, but they are just sitting right now.  I’m spending a lot of time on a new novel about a terrorist attack in New York.  So many people die, it pokes a hole between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and the dead come back and posses the living.  So you have much of New York fighting with a dead person for control of their body.  It’s about this cartoonist who draws a comic strip and he’s possessed by his grandfather who invented the strip and did not give him permission to continue it.  And Grandpa is seeking his dead wife who is possessing the body of another woman.

Oh dear!  Grandpa is going to ruin his grandson’s life, not to mention that New York is going to be in a bit of a mess.

Will, congratulations on the nomination!  You’re an elitist now!  Congratulations on crossing that divide!

Let’s wish him luck in the voting for Bridesicle and hope he brings home a nice Hugo and a Nebula!

2007 Hugo