Philcon Schedule

From the 18th through the 20th, I’ll be at Philcon in Cherry Hill, NJ. Here’s my schedule:

Sat 12:00 PM in Autograph Table—Autographs: D.L. Carter and Neil Clarke 

Sat 5:00 PM in Plaza II (Two)—Can Interplanetary Governments Actually Work? 
Michael A. Ventrella (mod), Neil Clarke, James Beall, Ariel Cinii, Tom Purdom, John Skylar

Empires, Federations, Alliances… there are many examples of various types of interplanetary, or interstellar, governments found in science fiction. But would any form of government actually work if it were extended between worlds, star systems, or even galaxies? We will examine how governing bodies might work over such long distances… or even if they can!

Sat 6:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—The Care & Feeding of Editors
Neil Clarke, Phil Giunta, Stephen Mazur, Hildy Silverman

The best editor-writer relationship is highly creative and energetic, with both sides open to new ideas, and the focus on synthesizing something they can be proud of, rather than being concerned about egos. Developing a great relationship requires a combination of common human decency and good business sense. But what can you do if your editor- or writer- doesn’t understand that?

Sun 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—Small Press Magazine Panel 
Michael D. Pederson (mod), Brian Koscienski, Hildy Silverman, Alyce Wilson, Neil Clarke, Diane Weinstein

The editors discuss what goes into creating their publications, from the economics of staying viable in the electronic age to getting appropriate submissions.

Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part Four – The Beginning

I’m sure I’ve written about the birth of Clarkesworld before, but I can’t remember when or where. Over the course of ten years, details can become fuzzy, so I hope I have this right.

Clarkesworld was born in the aftermath of the closure of Sci Fiction, the SciFi channel’s online magazine edited by Ellen Datlow. It wasn’t the first–or even one of the earliest–but it was well-respected, which made it unique for its time. It’s loss prompted people to be worried and dismissive of the future of online magazines.

At the time, I was running an online bookstore, Clarkesworld Books, that featured a wide array of science fiction magazines. Working with the editors of some of those magazines, I started posting sample content on our website as a promotional tool. One of those editors was Sean Wallace at Fantasy Magazine.

During the Meet the Pros party at the 2006 Readercon, Sean and I fell into a conversation about that experiment, the death of Sci Fiction, and why the casualty rate for online magazines was so high. As the night wore on, we tried to come up with a plan that would allow one of these publications to survive. By the end of the night, we had convinced ourselves that we could do it. By the end of the weekend, we had the magazine fully staffed.

The original plan was to attach the magazine to the bookstore. It would feature one established author–someone we could promote books for and sell through the bookstore–and someone earlier in their career. From the beginning, it was important to us that new voices be a part of this. At the end of the first year, we’d publish an anthology and sales from that would make up the lion’s share of our income. The rest could be considered a marketing expense and there were always donations…

A lot of people were willing to provide advice. The most common thoughts were “don’t do it” and “it will be dead in a year.” A certain level of stubbornness, foolishness, and passion are required to enter this field and I was already over the edge. I doubt that anything said–unless it was from Lisa–would have deterred me at that point. There were a number of things that did help though, including the advice that I tell people to this day: “know how much you are willing to lose and don’t cross that line.”

About a year later, family matters dictated that I close the bookstore. The magazine, however, would become part of a publishing company I planned to launch in place of the bookstore. Again, lots of good advice from those in the know. Much of it similar and a lot more of it useful. The first book from Wyrm Publishing was Realms 1: The First Year of Clarkesworld. That book pushed us over into the black for our first year.

[Side note: The first two volumes of our anthologies were titled Realms largely because I never really liked the Clarkesworld name. The bookstore inherited it out of laziness from the family domain it started on and the magazine inherited it from the bookstore. I was never comfortable with my name being there front and center. I’ve since come to accept and embrace the name of the magazine for what it is. When the first two volumes go out of print, they will be reissued under the Clarkesworld name.]

The issues from our first year were nothing more than two stories–under four thousand words each–and a cover. Why so small? It’s all our budget permitted and what I felt comfortable producing. We started our second year by adding non-fiction and ended by adding podcasts, a slow growth that continues today. The learning curve during those first couple of years was steep at times and not without difficulty. The learning process continues, but that was the opening chapter that enabled us to find our stride/voice and set course for where we are today.

Clarkesworld Turns Ten – Part Three – The Podcast

As I’ve mentioned before, for our first year, each issue of Clarkesworld was just two stories and a cover. We launched the non-fiction in our second year and the podcast later at issue 21. That means this month we are also celebrating one hundred months of podcasting.

As an editor, I feel some personal responsibility to see to it that our stories are seen by as many people as possible. Knowing that there was a significant audience for audio fiction that didn’t necessarily have reading time–or liked reading online–I started looking into the possibility of adding a podcast to Clarkesworld. Sometimes the universe conspires to put the right person in your path. In this case, it was Mary Robinette Kowal, an accomplished narrator, who had just sold us “Clockwork Chickadee.” She agreed to narrate it for us and a very bare-bones Clarkesworld podcast was born.

For the next few months, Mary and Cat Rambo provided us with a single narration per issue. When neither was available for our January 2009 issue, Mary suggested that I reach out to Kate Baker. I hadn’t heard any of Kate’s narrations before, but Mary’s recommendation was sufficient for me. After a few emails went back-and-forth–Kate likes to tell the story about how she almost priced herself out of that first narration–Kate agreed to narrate “Celadon” by Desirina Boskovich.

I had Kate record a few more stories for us throughout 2009 and was consistently impressed with the quality of her work. When we finally crossed paths that year at the Montreal Worldcon, we chatted for a while. I’m pretty sure that this is where I invited Kate to join our staff as the–we didn’t know what to call the position then–podcast director. Clarkesworld lost the Hugo Award to Weird Tales that weekend, but we gained an incredibly valuable addition to the team. Best hire I’ve ever made.

Under Kate’s leadership, the podcast continued to grow and improve. While I understood the technology, podcasting was never an area of expertise for me and I made several rookie mistakes. Kate knew what it took to have a professional show and quickly placed us on the right track. Over the next few years, the audience grew steadily, the number of shows increased, and Kate became known as “the voice of Clarkesworld.

If you’ve never listened, give it a try sometime. You can listen right from our website or…

  • To have each episode sent to you via iTunes or email, visit this page.
  • If you use Stitcher, you can find us here.
  • Listening via Google Play? Subscribe here.

WSFA Small Press Award 2016

This weekend, the WSFA Small Press Award winner was announced at Capclave. We had three stories on the ballot (“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer, “The Empress in all Her Glory” by Robert Reed, and “Today I am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker) and a long history of other finalists since this award first launched. On several occasions, it has been joked that we are the Susan Lucci of this Award… many nominations, but never a win.

Sadly, Naomi, Robert, and Martin were not able to attend. I have a small stack of unread acceptance speeches from our prior finalists, but nothing in hand from this year’s crew. Naturally, this was realized just before dinner that evening–the award ceremony was to follow–, so I came up with a quick emergency plan.

When they announced that “Today I am Paul” won, I made my way to the stage, briefly stopping to thwack a friend (I believe he started the Susan Lucci reference). When I reached the stage, I said something along the lines of:

“So, I’ve been told that we’re the Susan Lucci of this award, so at dinner, I decide to see what she had to say when she finally won her Emmy and it works, so…”

I then read a slightly reworded version of the first paragraph of her acceptance speech and then went on to say that in all seriousness, thank you. I know that Martin would have liked to have been there, but the cost of travel being what it was, etc. Instead he was at a convention more local to him that weekend. I mentioned that I knew the story was very personal to Martin and that this award would mean a great deal to him. I forget what else I said, as is typical to these moments.

At one point, the crowd mentioned I should call him, but I didn’t have his number, so we took pictures instead. The audience cheered while I took their picture, then had me capture shots of the screen and, for some reason, the ceiling. I then retreated to the sidelines to try to reach Martin by email and Twitter. The actual award showed up later, so I took pictures of that and his certificate as well. After I noticed he surfaced on Facebook, I posted photos to his wall for all to see.


I couldn’t be happier for Martin. Aside from publishing it in Clarkesworld, I made it the lead story in the first volume of Best Science Fiction of the Year. It’s an amazing tale and as I mentioned, a personal–and very moving–one to boot. If you ever have the chance to hear him read it, do so.

By the way, later Martin asked if I started the speech with “Today I am Martin.” That’s why he’s the writer and I am not. Wish I had thought of that one!

Here’s a photo of the actual award. They give one to the publisher and one to the author–which I think is a really nice gesture on their part–so I’ll have one on my shelf too. I’ll be sending Martin his when the post office reopens tomorrow.


Thank you WSFA!

Capclave 2016

I’ll be attending Capclave in Gaithersburg, MD this weekend. Most of the time, I’ll be at my table in the dealer’s room, but I’m on a few panels too:

Friday 10:00 pm: Where’s My Flying Car? (Ends at: 10:55 pm) Bethesda

Panelists: Neil Clarke (M), Andrew Fox, Ian Randal Strock, Christopher Weuve
Which science fiction inventions haven’t arrived yet that you wish would hurry up and get here? Which SF future would you most like to see before you die? Which SF future are you most relieved has NOT come to pass?

Saturday 11:00 am: Alternate & Secret History (Ends at: 11:55 am) Salon A

Panelists: Neil Clarke, Walter H. Hunt, Edward M. Lerner, James Morrow (M), Tim Powers
Although alternate and secret history seem related, they are quite different. What are the differences? How do you tell them apart? What factors must you keep in mind when writing in either area?

Saturday 3:00 pm: Short Fiction Contracts (Ends at: 3:55 pm) Boardroom

Coordinator: Michael Capobianco (M), Neil Clarke
Workshop on understanding publishing contracts both for short fiction, what to look out for, what to negotiate. Limited to 10 people