I've signed up to teach a course at the UofL this summer: Ed 4321, Social Issues in Education. I've posted my course outline already, so that students taking the class in July can make suggestions now if they like. I've been teaching the course since 1991 but because it's an issues course, the specific content is different every year, and I've changed up the assignments to make them more manageable for a compressed summer course. Looking forward to a bit of teaching to break up my steady diet of editing and writing . . . I love working with authors and graduate students, but it's mostly solitary deskwork, so it will be good to away from the computer keyboard and actually interact with other people for a bit. My idea of a July holiday. . .
Monday, May 21, 2018
Friday, May 18, 2018
Candas as Role ModelBy Robert Runté
I confess when I was younger, I found Candas a somewhat intimidating figure.
She was, after all, courageously following her bliss to live the life of a writer; whereas I had cowardly chosen employment for which one might actually get paid. I greatly envied her freedom and personal fulfilment, as I toiled 9 to 5 in my government job.
I was astonished by her ability to sit down and write without angst, to produce in twenty minutes a document that would have taken me all day, had I been able to manage the task at all. She was and remains a model of efficiency and effective writing, concise and on target in every instance.
I greatly admired her intuitive leadership skills, among which was the ability to move others to action: anyone who fell into her orbit was likely to discover they had somehow volunteered to sit on Boards, or to organize readings, or to make cold calls for some cause, or to otherwise be doing things they would not, in the normal course of events, have thought of doing.
I was somewhat overawed at her weekly salons in which the artistic elite of Edmonton, and frequently the literary greats from beyond, would sit around her living room debating the nature of writing, the cost of tomatoes, and similar eternal verities. It was sobering to discover that writers were real, that there were more of them about than one would have imagined, and that one did not have to travel to Toronto or New York to meet them.
And, being somewhat socially awkward, I was frequently thankful for her frank advice on a variety of topics concerning how one should move through the world, such as pointing out on one memorable occasion, that my attempts not to disrupt the proceedings had been far more disruptive than the initial disruption.
It is possible that on occasion I allowed my better judgement to be overwhelmed by Candas’ unassuming charisma.
I recall one afternoon attending at her house and, having no response to the doorbell, took the initiative of going round the back to intrude upon the privacy of her garden. I found her sitting next the flower bed examining a bloom with flat, but colorful petals.
“Here, eat this,” Candas said, handing me the flower.
Internally, I dithered. On the one hand, this was well before my culinary horizons had expanded much beyond burgers, and food prejudices being among the most strongly held, I did not wish to eat a flower. On the other hand, I did not wish to appear unsophisticated, and I considered carefully that there was no logical reason not to eat the offering. After all, Candas was hardly going to hand me a dangerous herb or one which she did not routinely consume herself. As in so many other cases, I should follow her lead to experience new things and benefit from our fellowship. And, knowing Candas’ powers of persuasion, I recognized that I was going to eat the flower in the end, and the only real question was whether I would do so after my usual whimpering hesitation, or man up and eat the damn thing as if that were a perfectly natural thing to do.
I stuffed it in my mouth and chewed, hopefully before my hesitation was detected.
Candas watched me carefully. I refused to allow any of my consternation to show on my face.
“Well?” Candas asked.
“What kind of flower was it?” I inquired, once I had swallowed.
She named the variety, though in truth the knowing of it made me none the wiser.
“So?” Candas asked. “What does it taste like?”
“Well, I’ve always wondered what they tasted like, but I could never quite bring myself to eat one.”
“Would you describe the flavour as ‘delicate’? It’s for a scene I’m writing.”
I like to believe that this was an important turning point in my maturity. As with so many other occasions, Candas had introduced me to an important concept, in this case something about not giving into peer pressure, especially when the pressure was entirely in my own head.
Candas, of course, has always been mystified by any suggestion she is intimidating. She considers herself perfectly normal. Which, considering her accomplishments, is a pretty intimidating standard against which to be held.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Here are the links for all the places people can get copies of Prairie Starport:
Official website: http://www.poiseandpen.com/publishing/prairie-starport/
Book Funnel: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/5sjui795et
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1128621942?ean=2940155635376
Amazon ($0.99): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CX9CFPJ/
Paperback ($9.99): https://www.amazon.com/dp/1988233380/
Friday, March 09, 2018
Very pleased to have a chapter in the just-released Routledge collection, Global Perspectives on Teaching Excellence entitled "Excellence for what? Policy Development and the Discourse of the Purpose of Higher Education." The collection is basically a reaction to recent legislation in the UK that attempted to measure and mandate teaching excellence in higher education. My wife and I wrote a critique using my discourse analysis model of the purpose of higher education applied to the new legislation to suggest that the government's definition of 'excellence' might be somewhat problematic from the perspective of students and learning.
Thursday, February 08, 2018
My 1989 short story, "The Luck of Charles Harcourt", has been reprinted in the current issue (#5) of Polar Borealis (above left). The timing pleases me greatly because the story originally appeared in the very first issue of On Spec magazine, and my second story in On Spec (above right) came out just last month (January, 2018) in #106 Vol. 28 (3), pp. 88-105 (see post from January 11). So there is an opportunity to compare first and last, as it were.
I must confess that reading my story from nearly thirty years ago makes me wince a little bit at the now obvious sexism, and it seems strange to read about people lining up at the bank tellers instead of using the ATM, and that there were no cell phones yet. I was tempted to update the story, but editor Graeme Cameron argued that "every story is a time capsule, capturing the context of the time it was written. Which is why I don't believe fiction should ever be reprinted with alterations designed to appease changing tastes and views. Let the past speak with the authentic voice of the past, I say."
It's an intriguing issue. Lorina and I left Hargreaves' stories as they were when Five Rivers reprinted North by 2000+ because they were authentically awesome, though the future he predicted for 2000 was not quite the one we got. In my preface, I told readers to just read the stories as if they took place in a parallel universe where American and Canada had merged (to take just one example of what hadn't gone the ways Hargreaves had predicted in the 1960s) but some readers did indeed complain about the anachronisms. Though it should be noted how many things Hargreaves got right, and therefore went unnoticed.... On the other hand, we updated Leslie Gadallah's books to take out the long explanations of the Internet, because we actually had the Internet by the time we reprinted her books. Perhaps the most interesting issue I've had as an editor with anachronisms is an author who wanted to disguise that the story was based on their own life by setting it in modern day, but then the action didn't make any sense, because much of the storyline depended on the confusion arising from characters not being able to reach each other, which just can't happen that way in an era of smartphones.
Anyway, pleased with to have the two stories out at once. Waiting to see if any of the five currently under consideration get picked up.
Note that although Polar Borealis is a paying market showcasing new and established Canadian authors, it is available free to subscribers: Download Now
Thursday, January 18, 2018
[I shared this video previously on my EssentialEdits.ca/SFeditor.ca blog, but I'm still learning how to use Youtube, so am trying out the feature where the embedded video skips the first minute and five seconds, and actually starts where me. But I can't figure out how to show the frame from where the video starts, rather than a picture of Lorina Stephens, my boss at Five Rivers Publishing, who brings greetings from the press to start the video. (Click here if you'd like to hear Lorina.]
Thursday, January 11, 2018
This is my second fiction entry in On Spec; my first was in the very first issue of the magazine, August, 1989. It's taken me 105 issues to make a second fiction sale to these folks. Tough audience! (Well, I have had a couple of guest editorial spots in the magazine in between.)
By complete coincidence, that first story, "The Luck of Charles Harcourt", is being reprinted in the forthcoming/current issue of Polar Borealis magazine. I'll post about that when it happens.
Friday, September 01, 2017
Essential Edits will be engaged at Word on the Street Lethbridge in three ways:
- We'll have a table in the display area where you'll be able to meet Essential Edits staff (Dr. Runté, Elizabeth McLachlan, and Lesley Little) and view some of the titles they've edited, find out about free online resources for all types of writers, sign up for a free consultation (first come, first served), and ask questions about writing, editing, and publishing.
- Dr. Runté will be participating on the 12:00–1:00 PM panel, "Writing Nuts and Bolts: Editors and Publishers Talk about Submissions"
- Dr. Runté will be participating in the Blue Pencil Café (along with authors Barb Greiger and Paul Butler, and poet Richard Stevenson) from 3:00–5:00PM.
Monday, August 14, 2017
In spite of my intent to cut down on programming, this year, I signed up for way too much stuff, 11 events in all. I did two solo presentations, one of which had standing room only, the other less than 20 or so. The second one was scheduled to follow a presentation on the exact same topic by another speaker which was crammed, so either everybody got what they needed from the previous speaker, or I was scheduled against tougher competition. I enjoy presenting and being on panels, but that heavy commitment kept me from taking in other’s presentations. And that’s starting to be a problem because the other presentations are evolving from the standard repertoire to really significant topics.
The Evolution of WWC: Discussion Topics
I have always enjoyed WWC, but after 30 years of going to conventions I have pretty much heard everything everyone has to say about the usual topics. Indeed, I could probably give the spiel from just about any of the regular panels. Those are all good panels, and each new generation of attendees needs to hear that information, but if I can lip sync the talk, probably not necessary for me.
WWC was different initially because it’s multiple genre approach brought in an influx of new topics as speakers from, say mystery or romance or kid lit, who talked about issues and solutions in their genre that were just starting to emerge in ours, and vice versa. One of the best presentations I have ever attended was one by a script writer on blocking out a scene, and it instantly fixed a problem I was having with some of my own writing. But by year 7, I’ve gotten most of the information from those too; or the specific topic doesn’t apply to my writing, e.g., “how to write erotic scenes” not likely to come up in my satiric writing.
But there have been a number of completely new topics the last two years that took the writing conversation to a whole new level. Tim Reynolds, for example, organized one on depression, ostensibly about dealing with manuscript rejection but also dealing with the larger issues of writing with clinical depression. Laksa Media’s book launch last year brought up issues of neurodiversity among writers; this year’s launch addressed issues of writer’s coping with the burden of care for others. I believe Tim also organized the panel on mental illness. And I organized one on writing with dyslexia, dysgraphia or other learning disabilities. And all those conversations flowed out into the hallways, so that I found myself spending the weekend talking to writers about how they write with depression, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, mobility issues, a wide variety of learning disabilities, OCD (well, those were all editors), and anxiety disorders. As the circle of people in the conversation widened, it seemed like every writer had some issue that others had said would mean they couldn’t write. [Coincidentally, the Kickstarter campaign for “Disabled People Destroy SF” has been sending out essays by disabled writers every couple of days for the last month, and it is mind-blowing what handicaps these successful writers have had to overcome…] I had known some of these writers for over 30 years and had had no clue that they were dealing with any of these issues, a sign that such personal “weaknesses” were always seen as borderline shameful. I am so grateful the conversation has now brought these things into the foreground. The exchange of ideas and information on how to cope with various conditions was surprisingly useful, even for people who had already researched the heck out of the topic that effected them. Because writers are ingenious, and had each come up with some pretty nifty workarounds or strategies that others hadn’t thought of yet. I’d never heard of weighted blankets, for example, but six people in the group testified to how that one little trick had changed how they slept. Okay, now I’m recommending that to relevant relatives.
Maybe all that was just a coincidence, the topics just floating to the surface this month as part of the Zeitgeist, and I cannot really credit WWC with “planning” those hallway conversations. But I think it is fair to say that WWC provides a safe place for writers to talk openly about anything; at least a dozen out-of-towners remarked to me how friendly and open WWC is, how easy it was to meet people, how approachable the guests, and so on. Not saying another convention could have talked openly about disabilities, but, well…don’t recall any of this coming up in previous 30 years of con going.
The Evolution of WWC: Writing Advice
Another way WWC has evolved is that all those workshops and panels seem to be having an impact. The Live Action Slush panels have always been popular--so popular that they have proliferated into a network of genre-specific sessions, each drawing large audience. What is striking to those of us who have been doing these since the start is how much improved submitted manuscripts are. We almost never get any of the “common mistakes” that turned up the first two or three years. The problems we are seeing now are subtler, more specific to that manuscript, and just rarer. A significantly higher percentage of manuscripts submitted are succeeding to earn a “pass”, and even those that get “gonged” do so later in the reading and with much more muted criticism. There is no question that quality has improved.
Similarly, I can’t speak to others’ experience, but the manuscripts that came to me in the Blue Pencil Café were better than those in earlier years. One was borderline brilliant—were Five Rivers not currently closed to submissions (while we clear out the backlog) I would have bought it on the spot. Another was interesting because I didn’t care for it at first, but then I couldn’t find a single thing to fix. I realized I had been prejudiced against it by an opening that made me think of bad fantasy novels, but once I got past that negative stereotype and read what was actually there, it totally grew on me. With the right backcover blurb and cover (to avoid my wrong-headed reaction) the novel might do very well. Two others were suffering from a single flaw each, both easily fixed. (Well, conceptually easy—tough revision slogs for those authors, I would think.) Nobody likes to hear ‘back to the drawing board’, but the fact is a manuscript with a single flaw and much else good in it is infinitely better than the sort of multitude of beginner errors we used to see.
It’s tempting to suggest that the weaker authors have just been scared off from submitting their work to the panelists/workshop’s tender mercies, but I don’t think that’s it given that the proliferation of Live Action Slush panels and bluepencil cafés. Indeed, one of the bluepencil participants explicitly told me her’s was a manuscript I had thumbs-downed at a Live Action Slush the previous year, and what I was looking at was the manuscript revised on that basis. Well, okay then…this year’s version was a thumbs up! I suspect there is a lot of that going on.
In any event, WWC continues to be the best writers’ convention ever. Instead of repeating itself endlessly, the conversation goes deeper each year. There is still plenty of information for new writers (some of it from me), but much of the material is getting more and more sophisticated as befits the growing sophistication of its audience.
Robert Runté, Barb Galler-Smith, Robert Sawyer, and Constantine K, and a piece of Brian Hades, at the Edge table at When Words Collide, 2017.
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
I argue that one has to unlearn undergraduate writing skills to learn a completely new skill set to survive.
Research suggests attrition rates of between 50% to 65% for PhD candidates and thesis-route master's programs. Interestingly enough, most drop out of the program after completing all the course work and all the data collection and analysis for thesis/dissertation, which suggests that the problem is in the writing stage—though this is seldom recognized in the literature, and often not even by the students themselves! Reorienting graduate students to the different nature of sustained writing projects could assist many more students in completing their graduate degrees.
The guide is available free from EssentialEdits.ca/ThesisStrategies.pdf.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Membership in CSFFA is $10/yr and open to any Canadian, and includes the right to nominate and vote for the Auroras.
My short story, "Age of Miracles", was nominated for a 2017 Aurora in the short story category, so is included in this year's voters' package. I'm really pleased because that means more people will likely have the opportunity to read the story, though the anthology it's from, Strangers Among Us is a good one (six aurora nominations in all!) and well worth buying.
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
Friday 1 PM: Live Action Slush - Early Bird Edition (Panel) in Fireside room
Friday 4 PM: Common Manuscript Problems (Panel) in 1-Parkland
Friday 6 PM: Writers’ + Editors’ Speed Mingle (Interactive) in A-Waterton
Saturday 10 AM: Pantsers vs Plotters (panel) in 2-Bonavista
Saturday 11 AM: Managing Sustained Writing Projects (Presentation) in 9-Rundle
Saturday 1 PM:Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and the Experience of Writing (Panel) in B-Canmore
Saturday 2 PM: Five Rivers Publishing Presents (Book Launch/Social) in Fireside room
Sunday 10 AM: Live Action Slush – YA Edition (Panel)3-Willow Park
Sunday 11 AM: The Publishers Panel: Novels (Panel) in 2-Bonavista
Sunday 2 PM:Working with an Editor (Presentation) in Rundle
Sunday 3 PM: Blue Pencil (Workshop) Café 6-Heritage
If you have a membership and are coming, let me know and maybe we can get together in the evenings or between panels (when I have more than a five minute break).
Monday, July 03, 2017
This is my favourite collection of Hughes short stories so far—which is saying something, because his collections have all been quite wonderful. Seven of these stories originally appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine (a significant guarantor of quality), one in a Gardner Dozios anthology (likewise, a good sign), and one is original to this volume—and frankly, a new Raffalon story is itself worth the price of admission.
The tales of Raffalon the Thief are not so much about thievery as they are about Raffalon extricating himself from one impossible predicament after another, often revolving around his involuntary involvement with various wizards. The stories in this volume fit together almost seamlessly, the characters or situations carrying over from one to the next, as we follow Raffalon's escapades to a surprisingly satisfying ending in "The Inn of the Seven Blessings". The individual stories are engaging mysteries, heists, or escapes set against Hughes' ongoing universe/magical system, and the characterization of Raffalon is delightfully twisted. Raffalon's ethical deficiencies seem entirely reasonable given the even worse characters against which he is pitted, and an age in which crime has been amusingly bureaucratized through the Guild of Purloiners and Purveyors.
It is, however, the dialog—and more especially, Raffalon's interior reflections—that sets Hughes apart from all others. "Droll" doesn't begin to cover it, because it is not merely witty, but reflects a worldview just completely off kilter. It all makes complete sense in the eccentric universe of Hughes' distant future, but one is left wishing both that people actually talked like that, and profoundly thankful that no one actually thinks that way.
Hughes' brand of dark humour is completely unique. A comparison with Jack Vance is often evoked to describe Hughes' work, but entirely misses that Hughes is often, as here, wincingly funny. I cannot recommend 9 Tales of Raffalon highly enough, to both long time fans and those not yet familiar with this grand master of the genre.
Runté reviews of some other Mathew Hughes books:
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Dr. Runté poses with cover of Strangers Among Us anthology which garnered six Aurora Award nominations on the 2017 ballot.
The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has released the Aurora Award Ballot for 2017, and I am honoured to be included on the shortlist for one of my short stories, "The Age of Miracles".
"Age of Miracles" was published in the anthology Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law. The anthology's theme was speculative fiction addressed to issues of mental health, and my story looked at how someone with schizophrenia might navigate the world of the near future. (It plays on the idea that if we see someone on a corner talking when there is nobody else there, how do we know whether they are crazy or just talking on their cell phones?)
I'm pretty pumped that my story made the ballot, because humour is often a hard sell, especially when up against excellent serious stories, and the Strangers Among Us anthology alone had a number of outstanding stories, let alone the rest of the field this year.
The CSFFA makes available a voter package with the nominated stories/books/comics/artwork (or as many of those that publishers permit) for all CSFFA members, so voters can base their decisions on actually having read/seen the nominated works. Membership in CSFFA is only $10 a year, so the voter package is a great opportunity to see the best of Canadian SF&F, as nominated by CSFFA members. Additionally, again this year Kobo Canada has donated a Kobo for a prize draw for one lucky randomly chosen voter to encourage voter turnout. So $10 buys you the right to vote, the right to read some great Canadian SF, and a chance at a free ebook reader. Join here.
Here's the 2017 ballot:
The 2017 Aurora Award Ballot
This ballot is for works done in 2016 by Canadians. The Aurora Awards are nominated by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. The top five nominated works were selected. Additional works were included where there was a tie for fifth place.
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
Company Town by Madeline Ashby, Tor Books
The Courier by Gerald Brandt, DAW Books
The Nature of a Pirate by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
Stars like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols, Bundoran Press
Best Young Adult Novel
Day of the Demon by Randy McCharles, CreateSpace
Door into Faerie by Edward Willett, Coteau Books
Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun, Harlequin Teen
Icarus Down by James Bow, Scholastic Canada
Mik Murdoch: Crisis of Conscience by Michell Plested, Evil Alter Ego Press
The Wizard Killer - Season One by Adam Dreece, ADZO Publishing
Best Short Fiction
"Age of Miracles" by Robert Runté, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Frog Song" by Erika Holt, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Living in Oz" by Bev Geddes, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Marion's War" by Hayden Trenholm, Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, Laksa Media
"Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal el-Mohtar, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press
"When Phakack Came to Steal Papa’s Bones, A Ti-Jean Story" by Ace Jordyn, On Spec Magazine
No award will be given out in this category in 2017 due to insufficient eligible nominees
Best Graphic Novel
Angel Catbird, Volume One by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillian, Dark Horse Books
Crash and Burn by Kate Larking and Finn Lucullan, Astres Press
Earthsong by Crystal Yates, Webcomic
It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic
Weregeek by Alina Pete, Webcomic
Best Related Work
Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction edited by Dominik Parisien, Exile Editions
Enigma Front: Burnt, managing editor Celeste A. Peters, Analemma Books
Lazarus Risen edited by Hayden Trenholm and Mike Rimar, Bundoran Press
Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law, Laksa Media
Superhero Universe (Tesseracts Nineteen) edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum, EDGE
Best Visual Presentation
Arrival, director, Denis Villeneuve, Paramount Pictures
Orphan Black, Season 4, John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, Temple Street Productions
Killjoys, Season 2, Michelle Lovretta, Temple Street Productions
Dark Matter, Season 2, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, Prodigy Pictures
Murdoch Mysteries, Season 9, Peter Mitchell, Shaftesbury Films
Samantha M. Beiko, cover to Strangers Among Us anthology
James Beveridge, covers and poster art
Melissa Mary Duncan, body of work
Erik Mohr, covers for ChiZine Publications and Company Town for Tor Books
Dan O'Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press
Best Fan Writing and Publications
Amazing Stories Magazine, weekly column, Steve Fahnestalk
BCSFAzine #512 to #519, edited by Felicity Walker
The Nerd is the Word, articles by Dylan McEvoy
OBIR Magazine #4, edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Silver Stag Entertainment, edited by S.M. Carrière
Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille
Best Fan Organizational
Samantha Beiko and Chadwick Ginther, co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Winnipeg
R. Graeme Cameron, chair, VCON 41, Surrey, BC
Sandra Kasturi and Angela Keeley, co-chairs, 2016 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
Derek Künsken and Marie Bilodeau, executive, Can*Con 2016, Ottawa
Randy McCharles, chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, Marie Bilodeau, and Nicole Lavigne, co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Ottawa
Sandra Wickham, chair, Creative Ink Festival, Burnaby, BC
Best Fan Related Work
Ron S. Friedman, Villains and Conflicts presentation, When Words Collide, Calgary Comic Expo, and File 770
Kari Maaren, Concert, SFContario
Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM
Best of the Decade
This is a special category for this year’s awards for works published between January 2001 and December 2010. Note: Items in italics are for multi-volume works. Multi-volume stories were considered if they began prior to 2001 but ended before or close to 2011. We defined a multi-volume story as one with a continuous narrative. Finalists were chosen by an eight-person jury from across Canada. The winner will be chosen by our membership’s votes.
Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor Books
The Blue Ant Trilogy by William Gibson, Berkley
Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson, Tor Books
The Neanderthal Parallax, Robert J. Sawyer, Tor Books
The Onion Girl, Charles de Lint, Tor Books
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada