Translations Destroy Podcasts on StarShipSofa! (Not really)

So. Something’s been brewing behind the scenes at StarShipSofa. Something we’re sure you’ll all be excited about.

But some backstory first.

It goes without saying that all of us at the District of Wonders welcome stories from all over the globe. We’re an international podcast, and naturally interested in finding stories published in another language. With English-speaking (particularly American) stories dominating the market – and understandably so – it can be quite difficult to get work translated from another language into English to reach a wider audience, and even harder to find them once they have. We have authors such as Andrzej Sapkowski and Cixin Liu rising to popularity, but for the vast majority of non-English authors it’s maddeningly hard to shatter that language barrier and find an audience they deserve.

So I’m doing something about that.

Starting soon, StarShipSofa will be playing one whole month’s worth of stories translated from other languages as part of our Translations Month Special. These four stories are diverse in content and sub-genre as they are in country of origin. Ranging from cyberpunk to time travel to transgressive dystopian, our stories come from France, Japan, Russia, and China. The table of contents are below:

 

  • “The Smog Society” by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu and Carmen Yiling Yan (translated from Chinese).
  • “Sense of Wonder 2.0” by Laurent Queyssi‏, translated by Edward Gauvin (translated from French).
  • “White Curtain” by Pavel Amnuel, translated by Anatoly Belilovsky (translated from Russian).
  • “Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” by Taiyo Fuji, translated by Jim Hubbert (translated from Japanese).

 

Half of these were picked up directly from slush, the other half were procured with assistance from John Joseph Adams and the team at Skyboat Media. A big thank you to them.

This project has been a long time in the making. We’re looking very much to bringing these incredible stories to you, showcasing the international diversity of science-fiction and the different favours that each country specializes in. And of course, we’re always open to broadening our horizons and welcome both more translated stories, and authors and narrators from all territories. But for now, I hope you enjoy what’s on tap this month and all the stories to come.

If you like our stories and the work we’re doing, please consider making a donation on Patreon. Every bit helps to cover our server costs and work towards becoming a paying market. The District of Wonders has adapted and published over a thousand stories over a decade-long period, and with your help we’ll go for another decade yet.  The link is here: https://www.patreon.com/districtofwonders

As always, let us know what you think of this project and the stories on Facebook, Twitter or email. And please, enjoy this special Translations Month, coming soon to your earholes in a podcast near you.

 

 

Interview over at SF Signal

It’s been a busy week, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve reached 9.6k for my new space opera novel. That’s roughly 1k a day, and will be more if I manage to reach 11k by the end of today. But I want to take the time today to really cement the fundamentals of the world in my head and have that high-concept, ultra-epic coolness that helps the universe stand out from the rest. I’ve literally got a note stapled above my screen that reads “up the weird, add the cool, mix it up”. And that I will do!

But in the meantime I also managed I do an interview over at SF Signal, talking about me, my writing process, my job as an editor, how I managed to get onboard as an editor for a Hugo-winning podcast at the age of 19, etc. If you ever had a burning sensation to know what it was like working with William Gibson, Christopher Priest, Robin Hobb, and George R. R. Martin while Season 5 of Game of Thrones was airing, you can settle that satisfaction right now! It was almost surreal, typing that all up and realising just what we managed to achieve.

Anyway, the interview is here if you want to check it out. Enjoy!

Bruce Sterling and Christopher Priest on StarShipSofa!

So it’s been a busy two weeks on StarShipSofa. Last week we played a story by one of the godfathers of cyberpunk, Bruce Sterling. He’s known in and outside of the genre slash sci-fi circles, and it was an absolute pleasure to have him.

Narrating his story is film actor Paul Cram. Paul mostly does indie films, but he’s had speaking roles with actors such as Cilian Murphy (The Dark Knight, 28 Days Later) Woody Harrelson (True Detective) Judy Greer (Jurassic Park) and others. We’re VERY proud to have him join StarShipSofa and narrate this story. Make sure you check out his IMDB profile here. And make sure you look out for some of his films, too.

You can find Bruce Sterling’s episode here.

And we’ve also had the mighty privilege of playing a story by Christopher Priest. He wasn’t that popular in the US. At least not until one of his novels was turned into a the film The Prestige by director Christopher Nolan of The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar variety. You’ve almost certainly seen it:

 

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David Bowie acted in this film as well, so we’re very proud to be associated with the project. Priest himself is a masterclass, as the story demonstrates. His best work is The Inverted World, which you have to read. I won’t say much more than that.

I’ve been very proud to have worked on these two episodes and the fine gentlemen who exhibit actual skill in narrating, acting and writing. Make sure to grab the Christopher Priest episode here if you can.

…and that’s all for now.

Forging ahead and looking back: it’s important

With one’s writing career – and artistic careers in general, I think, there’s a tendency to think about what we haven’t yet accomplished, as opposed to what we have accomplished. Film directors, musicians, script writers and video game designs are all privy to this pothole, but in my case writers especially.

You don’t look back on your sales and your publications that you’ve already earned, you dwell on how much you want to release this story, or finish that next project that just isn’t working out, or sell a proposal that no one’s buying. It happens to all of us. Just recently, David Fincher had Utopia cancelled at HBO. A Oscar-winning director who’s bought us Se7en, Fight Club, Gone Girl, The Social Network, and others, but now he’s had years of work flushed down the toilet. Ouch.

I’m not on Mr. Flincher’s playing field (in case you all weren’t aware of that already), but the same rules apply to everyone. We tend not to focus on what we have already accomplished.

As some of you good good people may know, I’m out o’ town for a holiday. Right of this moment I’m in a little Polish town somewhere outside of Wroclaw. Ensue many Anglos with tongues in knots after attempting to pronounce that correctly. I was here exactly two years ago. I was writing writing away, sending out over a dozen stories to all manner of venues, hoping to land a sale in some department. I was banging my head against the wall because no one was buying a damn word I wrote. Not a single one. Nada.

Sentences like will I ever sell anything and is my career over before it starts kept tumbling through my head. But sitting in this tiny room I kept conjuring up monsters and fantasy landscapes and rain-drenched cities. I kept plugging away without knowing if I’d ever make a sale.

Two years later and here I am. I’ve sold so many stories and articles I’ve lost count (I think the count is close to fifty now). I’ve sold to Nature twice, Strange Horizons six times, and scooped up a Finalist position at Writers of the Future. I’ve had an essay published in one of Lightspeed’s Destroy anthologies. I’ve had the opportunity to produce audio fiction by George R. R. Martin, William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson and Robin Hobb for a Hugo-winning podcast that I co-edit. And right now I’m working on a story for my first every fiction solicitation to an anthology that pays pro-rates.

I’ve done all that in two years at the starting age of 18.

It’s not meant as a boast (well, perhaps a little), but it’s more of a look at how much can be done in less than two years of writing.

And yet.

And yet…

I ask myself why I haven’t placed in Writers of the Future. Why I don’t have a pro sale that isn’t flash. Why I haven’t sold to F&SF, Asimovs or Analog yet. Why I don’t have an anthology sale. Why I haven’t appeared in the Best of Years. Why I don’t have an agent. Why I don’t have a book deal. Why I don’t….

Stop.

It can cave your head in just about the whys and how comes that inevitably crop up. I know people who have sold to venues I can only dream about, but then reach for another magazine only to fail. I’m very, very fortunate to be in the position where I am now. Pierce Brown wrote one novel a year for seven years before Red Rising sold. Brandon Sanderson wrote thirteen. I know someone who’s written fourteen novels and had none of them picked up. And I’m sure it’s taken others far longer with many more books.

I cannot even imagine what it would be like, collecting rejections for your tenth novel and wondering if you’d ever have a single word of your fiction published. I’m sitting here with multiple sales to Nature (published by Macmillan) and something inside me cracks whenever I see the latest book launches and wonder how long it’ll take before I get there myself. Thank you very much, brain.

So this is a message to anyone who’s struggling (including myself) that it’s healthy to look back from time to time and see how far you’ve come. Hell, most people don’t even finish a novel, let alone a story. Look at your virtual (or physical) shelf and see your accomplishments.

Two years ago in this very room I didn’t have a single one under my belt. And in two years time when I come to Europe again I want to look back on this blog post and realise how much I’ve achieved since. In the next two years I’m going to get that literary agent, that book deal, that Best of Years publication.

And the two years after that…who knows? Fincher directing a film adaptation of my novel would be nice (ain’t ever gonna happen, though).

Until then I’m going to keep forging ahead, but I’m also going to look back. If you’re struggling, maybe you should do the same. It’s a long long road and there ain’t many pit-stops along the way. Well done on getting this far.

But never stop walking.

 

2015: A year in review

Wait, what just flew by me?

Oh wait, that was 2015. Well, that went pretty quick didn’t it?

Looks like I’m going to have to do another one of these.

A lot of stuff happened in 2015. But to get it out of the way, I finished university. This one isa big of a mixed bag. I enjoyed my studies there and the numerous ways in which we were taught to approach subjects like criticism, deduction and scientific research. I loved meeting up with my friends everyday and making plans to do something weird.

One of the weirdest (that I can actually mention here) was in our film class, where we were set to watch the film Taxi Driver. We were ravenous, so we did what one naturally does and trooped along to Subway and ordered two entire cookie platters. Because reasons. Obviously we couldn’t finish it. So we took it into the film threatre and passed it around in the dark. It one point I believe someone started using it as a frisbee, scattering cookies and crumbs over us while Robert De Niro coasts around NYC with a bad haircut and sub nose revolver. Again, not mind-blowing stuff, but that’s all your getting from me. Other less interesting stuff was when a moron posted on 4chan that he would shoot up the university for kicks. Obviously nothing happened, but we could have done without the scare.

So yes, I had a good time there. But it was time to leave. Some classes were nothing more than pointless filler, or in some cases based on the teacher’s agenda – something that went to higher authorities more than one. Other times I just did not feel I was being taught anything practical, especially in creating writing. Some classes were incredible, others less so. There’s only so long you can take people seriously when you’re sitting in a lecture hall listening to someone ramble on about document/collage poetry when you’re signing contracts for Nature and Macmillan to purchase your work.

But I digress. Essentially: university was good and I enjoyed it in many ways, but it was holding me back in many ways as well. Time to move on.

For my own writing, I sold eight pieces of original fiction, all of which were semipro or higher and two of which were to Nature/Macmillan. I still pinch myself when I see the Macmillan publishers logo stamped beneath my stories. One of them, Daega’s Test, is currently being translated into Polish by Szortal. I also managed to reach the position of Finalist in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest Q3. I did not make the top three, but I will know within a week or two if I am the Published Finalist. Here’s hoping.

I also sold 13 reviews and essays, 4 of which have not yet been written as of yet, but are secured. 3 of them are to Strange Horizons, which is awesome. They published my review of Predestination back in January and I am still immensely grateful. And currently I am writing the official review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens for them. Not feeling the pressure at all.

The other significant essay was to legendary John Joseph Adams over at Lightspeed slash Nightmare. I’m going to be part of the People of Colour Destory Science-Fiction anthology, launching in June 2016 in paperback. It was a difficult essay to write and while I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking my mind, I had to dredge up some old childhood memories that I’d rather not talk about too often. But it was important and relevant and I decided to do it, and I’m going to be proud of it when the anthology launches with over 100+ other authors. I’m excited to see the line-up, very much so, but I’m even more excited to finally sell to John Joseph Adams and be published in Lightspeed, something I’ve been trying to do for 2 years now, which is 1/10 of my life.

I sent my YA SF novel out to do the rounds. It got an overwhelmingly good response. I think I scooped up around 14 fulls and 12 partials from major, major agents. I got essay-long rejection letters from some the most highly respected agents in NYC. But no, it’s a pass. I was guttered at first and beat myself up about it. But I told myself to shut up, learn from my mistakes and come back with a better novel.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m 65k into it now, and I’ve got the end in sight. The bones for my next project are slowly brewing, and it’s one I’m really excited about. And that’s primarily what I’m planning to do: focus on writing those novels first and foremost. I will always write short stories, always. But I came into this industry to be a novelist, to have an agent and to be sitting on those shiny shelves in those shiny bookstores. And that’s something you earn. And to do that, you need actual novels. I’m planning to sit down and outline my next novel and then go, full speed ahead. No side-stepping, no distractions, nothing. Hopefully when two months have passed I’ll have a novel. This last one took a whole year (and it’s not finished yet) because of university. I’m not letting that stop me again.

Now. To StarShipSofa.

We had an incredible year at the District of Wonders. SSS and Tales to Terrify alone managed to get over one million downloads. One million. And I worked on every single one of them.

I had the opportunity to work with and produce fiction by authors such as George R. R. Martin, William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Allen Steele, Robin Hobb, and dozens of others people who are gods in the literary world (if you told me two years ago that one day I would produce audio fiction by the creator of Game of Thrones I’d have laughed in your face). I was able to interview Ellen Datlow, Joe Abercrombie, and a whole range of other editors and publishers. I read hundreds of stories in the slush and picked out and produced audio adaptations of the ones I thought were truly the best. And it was truly an honour and a privilege to helm one of the biggest SF podcasts in the galaxy. And I will continue to be doing it for a long, long time to come.

We will be making changes over at District of Wonders. We’ve acquired two new staff members for SSS, including my intern and assistant Ralph Ambrose (who is incredible – I’d be dead in the water without him). We’ll be uping our game. More narrators, more diversity in narrators, more content, more cool features, more special issues. We’ve already got one narrator locked in who’s acted in major films opposite the likes of Ellen Page, Woody Harrellson, Cilian Murphy and others. We’ve lined up an incredible story by a major author who’s had a film adaptation by one of the most respected director’s today. We’ve got…okay, okay, I’ll stop. All I’ll say is: District of Wonders is upping their game and working much, much more closely together. Expect amazing things in 2016.

Well, that’s it. It’s been a gigantic year for me, both as a writer and an individual. I don’t know what’ll happen next year (which starts in an hour’s time for me), but all I know is that I’ve got my sights set on writing a killer novel that’ll snap up an agent. It’s something I have to earn, and I’m willing to do just that. Failing that, I want to win Writers of the Future, something I consider to be likely in the very near future. But it’s impossible to tell.

I’m going to sign off, but first let me say to the hundreds and hundreds of authors, narrators, publishers, actors, writers, editors, friends and fans I’ve met in 2015, it’s been an honour to know and have worked with you in 2015. Truly, it has. And hopefully I’ll continue to do that in 2016. And maybe, I just might meet you in person.

But that’s another story.

Signing off,

Jeremy Szal

 

StarShipSofa: Final Slush Update

Hello everyone,

The slush is done. It’s done. It’s over. And now I know how Frodo felt after throwing the ring into Mt. Doom.

I’ve been so ridiculously busy. Over the course of the submissions I’ve suffered two illnesses, traveled around the globe and back, and a bunch of other personal issues that I’d rather not discuss publicly. On top of that I’m in my final semester of university, and I’ve barely had a second to myself. But you guys all understood and gave me your unending patience, and for that I am grateful. I’ll definitely be looking at getting both an intern for StarShipSofa permanently and a few slush readers to help me out. But right now, I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to hunt down an assistant to help me out because I’m so busy. If that’s not a paradox, I don’t know what is.

It’s been an incredible experience for me, not as just as an editor, but a writer as well. I’ve never really been on the other side on the coin, as they say, in terms of submissions and shifting through slush. But the experience was worth it.

There have been stories I absolutely hated letting go off. There were some that I wrestled with for days and days, completely unsure of what to do. Damn, do you people write fantastic stories. I hated myself for saying no, and writing that letter came with a heavy heart. But the decisions have been made and the acceptances and rejections have been sent off.

For those of you who got acceptances, I’d have given you my personal email address. If you haven’t already, please send your story file and your bio (pasted in the email) over to it. Do not try to reach me via the submissions email – that’s purely for reading slush.

StarShipSofa will absolutely be reopening to submissions. When? I don’t know. I definitely need to graduate from university first, and we’ve got a lot of stuff to sort out over at StarShipSofa. When I get a second I’ll be writing more detailed blog posts about my experience doing slush and the common pitfalls, what to avoid, etc, etc. And if I rejected you, don’t give up. Drag yourself back up and shoot me a story that kicks me in the gut (not literally) and one that I cannot say no to. But more on that later.

It’s been an absolute blast to read your excellent stories, and it’s going to be even more fun working with you all and seeing what the final production looks like. I’ve heard some of them already and they’re excellent. I’m hoping you guys will be as proud of them as I am.

Until then, thank you all so much. And never, ever, ever give up.

Jeremy

StarShipSofa: Slush Submission Update and Episode 400 Special

So I’ve been slowly, slowly hacking my way through the slush pile of StarShipSofa. It’s a process that simultaneously fun and wondrous, but daunting and difficult. I love being able to see what other people have written and nothing can compare to finding that diamond in the rough and knowing you have to take it, shooting off an acceptance and getting an excited email back filled with thank yous and how they can’t wait to see the finished product.

But.

But it’s also very hard to let go off some of these stories. Very, very hard. But unfortunately that’s part of the process and it has to be done. And there’s always another story for you to send.

Okay, enough of the petty sentiments: At this point, I have read and responded to everything up until July 3. If you haven’t heard back, you are currently in the 2nd round. I will not be tackling this until I finish the rest of the slush, as there was a barrage of last-minute submissions. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.

The other major thing? That would be the very special episode 400 of StarShipSofa. We’ve got a groundbreaking author lined up, one responsible for making SF/F what it is today. This author is without question of the most popular and well known writers in and outside genre. A pillar of contemporary literature. StarShipSofa has been graced with the mammoths that are George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Lisa Tuttle, Kim Stanley Robinson, and now this author.

Who is it?

You’re going to have to find out yourself. It’s taken months of planning, but it’s nearly here. And I can’t wait to see what you think.

StarShipSofa: Submissions and Slush Update

Hey guys,

Just an update for you in regards to StarShipSofa’s submissions. I’m so sorry that it’s taking so long – I got far many more submissions than I could possibly have expected, many of which were in the 8k+ and upwards length. Additionally, I became very ill at one point and couldn’t muster the strength to sit up in bed, let alone read slush. And now that I’m back at university, things are more hectic than ever. I’m starting to read submissions during my lunch breaks between classes, it’s the only way I can keep up.

But enough excuses. At this point, I’ve read and responded to everything up to June 23. If you haven’t heard back from me at this point, I’ve put your story in the 2nd round and I’ll be holding onto it before making a final decision. And good lord, you guys have made those decisions hard as hell. Seriously, there have been some pieces I’ve found so hard to let go, but ultimately had to. This is both a good and bad thing, as it means I can take the crème de la crème, but also makes it very difficult to send that rejection. But if I took everything that I wanted to, StarShipSofa would be backlogged for years. Several years. Yes, I got that many submissions. You guys are awesome.

Also, just so you know I always personalize my rejections, and I try to give some feedback as to why I had to say no. And if I asked you to submit next time we’re open, I definitely mean it.

I’ll keep reading as fast as I can. If I haven’t gotten back to you that means you’re still under serious consideration. Please be patient, and thanks again for sending me your work.

– Jeremy

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