CanCon 2015 day 2: Writing fiction and fact for Analog

Panellists: Derek Kunsken, Eric Choi, Trevor Quachri, Andrew Barton

AnalogPanel

TQ: With respect to hard science fiction, there’s a soft creep to fantasy, and a hard creep to the uber technical. I care most about character and plot, but the story must make sense scientifically as well.

DK: Eric, since you’ve been published in Analog several times, what is an Analog story to you?

EC: Trevor’s covered it really. I edited an anthology with Ben Bova called Carbide Tip Pens, which has been described as Analog in hard cover.

DK: Is there a quantifiable difference between Asimov’s and Analog?

EC: Both have published my Mars-focused fiction.

DK: I have a track record of stories Stan (editor for Analog) rejected, but Sheila (editor for Asimov’s) bought.

EC: Editorial personalities and preferences do play a role.

DK: Andrew, you’re not a scientist, but you’ve had stories published in Analog.

AB: All of them have been science oriented. I’m not a scientist, but I try to make as few demands on the reader with respect to the science, except for the one big lie that is the basis for the story. I try to be rigorous, but I also try to write an entertaining story.

TQ: I commend Andrew for the material he’s submitted. There’s a misunderstanding out there about how rigorous the science has to be, though. Stan was a physics professor. He’d fact-check. You have to be science literate. You have to do the leg work.

DK: Andrew and Eric, what would be the difference between writing a physics-based story, and writing a chemistry-based story or a biology-based story?

EC: My most recent one was on baseball statistics.

AB: Everything I know about orbital mechanics, I’ve learned from playing Kerbal Space Program.

DK: I tend to write on the biological side of things. One response I received was that I was just showing off what I knew. What I really needed to focus on was the how.

TQ: You have to know how things work.

EC: Don’t limit yourself to a particular type of story. Smash the stereotypes. For “Crimson Sky,” I talked to a pilot and an ER trauma surgeon. Don’t be afraid.

TQ: Culture and biology may be a match. Stan was also into linguistics. Look at Dune. It’s science fiction with fantastic elements. Cultural prediction is interesting is done well. Sometimes it’s about the approach to story rather than the nature of the science involved.

Q: Can you have different physics?

TQ: It could work if you’re rigorous in your created universe.

DK: Let’s turn to non-fiction science articles.

TQ: I never get tired of those. Give me more. They have a popular focus. The information has to be accessible. Balance is key. We also have scientists who read Analog. Science fiction relative is also good, the deconstruction of tropes, idea generation, interesting research. How can a writer use this information? It has to be entertaining.

Q: Should I query first, or just go ahead and write?

TQ: If you’re adamant, go ahead and write, but we also take queries.

Q: Any formatting tips?

TQ: We’re not to picky.

Q: Can we use figures as long as they’re cited?

TQ: That’s no problem as long as they’re right.

DK: Your readers seem to be hungry for everything.

TQ: There needs to be diversity. Don’t be too complacent. Curve balls are important.

DK: What’s the ultimate fate of these stories and articles?

TQ: It falls to the individual authors what happens to the piece after publication. Sometimes there are tie-in “science behind the story” articles, audio versions, etc..

There was then some promotion regarding subscriptions to Analog, as well as where to get sample stories and articles online. It’s all available on the web site. Start there and you won’t go wrong.

Next week: We’re talking magic and magical systems.

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CanCon 2015 day 2: Asteroids

I can’t believe it. I actually had the time between Boxing Day shopping and family dinner this evening to put my post up. I love it when a plan comes together 😉

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

Panellists: Andrew Barton, Eric Choi, Wolfram Lunscher

AsteroidsPanel

AB: Let me just say this: Armageddon is not a documentary.

WL: Asteroids pass Earth all the time. There’s an asteroid that will pass us on the far side of the moon, about 15,000 miles. The Hallowe’en asteroid. Mining asteroids is feasible, but we’d need rockets bigger than the Saturn 5. Space-X is developing the Falcon Heavy, which could be used for the purpose. Our planetary resource needs could be met by mining four asteroids. There is a parallel between the exploration of space and the exploration of the new world. Spice used to be as expensive as gold until the Spice Islands were discovered. It will be expensive to mine asteroids until we have sufficient access to the resources we need to make it reasonable.

Q: Can a solar mirror be used to melt asteroids?

WL: For resource processing in situ, a solar mirror could be used to smelt minerals. If we can figure out a cost-effective way to mine asteroids, we could become a true space-faring species.

EC: Terrestrial mining is a huge part of the Canadian economy. Can we transfer these skills to the mining of asteroids?

WL: The short answer is, yes. There’s a lot of enthusiasm within the industry for making the leap. Deep mining drills are taking place in Sudbury and a paper is being prepared, a feasibility study.

EC: Back to you Andrew. You said before that Armageddon was science fiction.

AB: I’m not the expert. I’m just and author who likes to write about asteroids. My research tells me that asteroid settlement is possible. James S.A. Corey (actually two co-authors) writes about the Belters, who make a living mining the asteroid belt for water to supply settlements on Mars and Jupiter’s moons. Asteroids are actually spinning rubble piles.

Q: Diverting asteroids away from Earth is supposed to be more effective than trying to blow the up. Are there any practical experiments or is this all fiction?

AB: We could use a kind of gravity tractor to divert asteroids. There’s not a lot of drama in the process, though, so people don’t write about that.

WL: If the asteroid impact is immanent, we would have to try blowing it up. If we can spot the asteroid at least ten years out, we would have the time to mount a mission to divert it.

EC: The budgets for the films Armageddon and Deep Impact were both orders of magnitude greater than the budget astronomers have for asteroid detection.

AB: There’s a probe that has been sent to the inner solar system, to Venus and closer to the sun. It’s intended to detect asteroids orbiting in the inner solar system. There’s danger from that direction, too.

Q: What complications does the spinning of the asteroid pose to landing on it?

AB: It’s problematic because there are voids in the asteroid a probe or landing vehicle could be lost.

And that was time.

Next weekend, I’m going to take a break from CanCon do write my year-end Next Chapter update, and, if I have time, I want to put together a post on how to set up Jamie Raintree’s new writing and revision tracking spreadsheet. I was asked to do this back in the spring by some writer friends who aren’t Excel-savvy, but realized that doing it when the spreadsheet is fresh off the presses would be better. Sorry for the delay, ladies!

We’ll see how it goes 🙂

In the meantime, I hope everyone is safe and cozy with their loved ones and if anyone dared Boxing Day madness, that they’re all home and none the worse for wear (if a little poorer in their bank accounts).