Supporting The Molehills That Surround The Mountain: One Way To Advance CSF This Year

This will be a shameless plug, but it’s an altruistic one. It may seem as if I’m plugging MYSELF, but I’m not. Pay attention. I’m not the subject, just a way to get at what the subject is. So, don’t […]
on Oct 12, 2006 · No comments

This will be a shameless plug, but it’s an altruistic one. It may seem as if I’m plugging MYSELF, but I’m not. Pay attention. I’m not the subject, just a way to get at what the subject is.

So, don’t click off. Keep your eyes right here, with patience, even if the subject doesn’t seem to be up your alley . I may surprise you:

The Sword Review Fiction Contest is a fundraiser that is now open for entries. You may have seen the announcement around the CSF communities. If not, I’m telling you now, and I’m highlighting the announcement with easy-to-recall, key terms: Contest. Sword Review. Fundraiser. Open.

If CBA publishers are the mountain we seek to move and climb (see last week’s post), then the Christian SF publications that squeak by on middling or tiny or non-existent budgets are the molehills that lie scattered at its base, and that we ignore to our shame.

Do you ache to hone your skills, you who aspire to multi-book contracts? Then look to what these molehills have to offer, this particular molehill that serves as my soapbox today.

The Sword Review was delightful to me last year. I admit that. They chose my humble offering of Christian SF (short story form) as their contest winner. It’s the horrendously titled—even I, the mother, cannot deny that I so poorly named the child— “Voices From The Void.” I should have just gone with the graceful simplicity of “Voices” or, as Chris of Fair Writing blog suggested, “Hush.” This is what comes of scrambling for a title at the last minute. That’s all my brain spit out as the deadline loomed. It sucks, yes. Forgive me.

But my story’s pretty good. It’s not a conceited-beyond-belief me coming to that conclusion. That’s been the consensus of the judges, the reviewers, and the email from readers. And, trust me, I remind myself of their compliments every time I wince at that awful, awful title.

Here’s the opener that TSR uses as a teaser, a taste:

“Time’s a prancing ninny, the practical joker of the universe,” says the marriage merchant, the Matcher, to none of us in particular. He hasn’t shut up once since we left Earth bound for Phlida. “Space, on the other hand, has no sense of humor whatsoever. It just broods out there like a lonely, tongue-tied bachelor. Well, see for yourself.”

We take the cue, all six of us who are stuck for the duration in the saferoom with the loquacious Matcher and his ceaseless attempts to spark conversation. We all look toward the single viewport overhead that serves up a slice of darkness pierced by pinpoints of light. The starview is meant to keep claustrophobia at bay during the journey. The conversation is meant to keep us sane.

Really, what choice do we have but to look up? What else can any of us do, bound as we are by our seats, bound together by the stabilizers that keep us in a single timestream, bound by the yearnings that have driven us from the home planet? Tell us to look, we look. Tell us to sleep, we sleep. Tell us to press that spot in our earlobes to quell the space sickness, and we press. Tell us to sip nutrients, we sip. Tell us to forget who we are and we just may forget, if we knew to begin with.

But don’t make me talk, Matcher.

I’m a novice to space travel, but I have read and heard the stories of what can happen once the gravity of homeworld ceases to bind you. Everything loosens. Things fly free. Secrets escape. And the only ones unaffected, so I’ve read, are the Loners, those genetically-gifted few who live in the belly of spaceships, navigating, maintaining, recording. They fly without risk, immune to the strange effects of these outer wilds—yes, utterly free of any susceptibility to space madness—and they are themselves bound to the normal timeflow by the complex mechanism implanted in their bodies. The operation, they say, is irrevocable.

I find it easy to believe such tales of space and spacemen.

You can read the rest of, yes, let me rechristen it, “Voices,” here:

Feel free to comment on it, too.

So, what’s the point of all that shameless self-promotion. It’s for you. It’s a mere sample of a story that won last year, and I want you to write one that’s ten times, twenty times, fifty times BETTER. I want YOU to win the contest THIS year. I want all of you to sit down and write a kicking SF story—fantasy, science fiction, your choice—and I want you to make it shine, and I want you to make it sing, and I want you to have good craft (conflict, characterization, escalation, resolution). Hear me? I want you to work on the rhythm of your prose. I want you to differentiate dialogue. I want you to address an idea, a theme, a moral even. (Moral in the old-fashioned sense, not as in moralizing, although, hey, if you can do it well, go for it.)

Why? Why am I appealing to you?

Because TSR is a place that nurtures the CSF community. It is a venue for artists, poets, short story writers, essayists. It has a forum where we can hang out and encourage one another. It consistently strives to offer good stuff that is compatible with a Christian worldview, even when it’s not overt. Even when it is, as Becky recommends, subtle.

You should check out the poetry, btw. They’ve had some really good stuff. (Ahem. I won their poetry contest this year. Feel free to read and comment on “Into The Heart.”)

Here’s the nice thing: This contest adds coins to their coffer. Their coffer needs coins. You see where I’m going here?

But it’s not just about TSR. No, let’s come back to…you. You may need this. You maybe have been laboring over some long, long saga of a work, without official recognition, without publication. This is a chance to write something shorter, more immediate, a small jewel, and maybe get what your laboring writer’s heart needs: commendation and an audience. And a bit of cash for the next Lois McMaster Bujold or John C. Wright or Gene Wolfe or Connie Willis or Karen Hancock or Kathryn Mackel or Randy Ingermanson offering.

Winning the TSR contest is what gave me the nerve to be more overt in promoting the genre, gave me the impetus to enter the Genesis. (Which , for those who didn’t hear, I won in the SF category. Um, no, no my head is not swelling to a disgusting size. I do keep a sense of proportion. No matter how cheering, it’s just a contest in the end. But yeah, my writer’s heart feels good for it.)

Now, you don’t have to win…to win. If you complete a story. If you work at it to the best of your ability and push some more so that you find a higher zone in your own craft, then you’ve done a fine thing that you can always be proud of. And if you enter this contest, you are saying, “I support CSF. With my talent and time and money.”

I’m in the midst of judging a poetry contest over at Dragons, Knights & Angels. We held that to encourage more and better poetry submissions to that webzine. We believe it matters, poetry, just as we believe fiction matters. And art. And faith. And hope. TSR is a sister (or brother) webzine to DKA. We’re in the same boat with Ray Gun Revival. Dependent on volunteers and donations. Dependent on folks willing to share their creations for extremely modest reward. We work, believing and hoping.

Hope. That’s the fiction contest’s theme this year.

Hope. That was the theme of the poetry contest this year, too. These are the last two stanzas of my first place poem, “Into The Heart”:

With rations running low, we feed on dreams of waking
to a shuttle engine’s thrumming as it lands. But Sara,
sleepless, digs and hums a broken rhythm any medic like
me recognizes: the stumbling pulse heading toward death.

I squat beside her as she dives through earth, her red
hands splashing soil on me like blood. I ask if I might
help her find her heart. She smiles a yes and shows me
how to tear the clods out of our way. We’re almost there.

This blog, like others, are tearing clods out of the way, with hope. We refuse to be the stumbling, dying pulse. We choose to be rising toward, not just survival, but thriving life. That mountain beckons. I want to be able to say, and soon, “We’re almost there.”

Hope is the bread that sustains us writers, because we write alone and, sometimes, for many years without any remuneration. Hope. What dreams are you feeding on? Do you feed the dreams of others?

We’re trying to do that here. TSR is trying to do it there. Do it with us. Raise hope. Feed dreams.

I hope you take my words to heart. I hope you support TSR and keep adding items to their nurturing pantry, keep their rations from running low. I hope you enter the contest with the best and most beautiful 3,000 or 5,000 words you have to offer.

And I hope one of you dear, dear, wonderful persons, you who have encouraged me over the past year…you…or you…or YOU…I hope you, yes, you, win.

See. I told you this wasn’t about me.

What do you think?