Saturday, November 14, 2009

SciFi Wire / SciFi Weekly cancels all columns

Ten years ago, I pitched an idea for a monthly column to the SciFi Channel's SciFi Weekly. They didn't buy it, and I never got around to pitching it to anyone else. But even if they had bought it, I would have been out of work today; they just dismissed all their columnists because, apparently, online columns are "passé." See this story from Locus Online.

Here's the pitch I made (by paper mail!) back on September 28, 1999; it would have been a hell of a column. :)
Dear Craig:

Back when he was editing Amazing Stories, George Scithers noted a fascinating fact. To his chagrin, far more people ordered his magazine's writers' guidelines than bought subscriptions. That's right: more people wanted to write for Amazing than wanted to read it.

It's always been that way: huge numbers of those who read SF -- and, indeed, many of those who only watch it on TV and in the movies -- long to write the stuff. Indeed, whenever I give a talk on any aspect of SF, at least half the questions I get asked are about the process of writing. And so I'm proposing a new column for your wonderful Science Fiction Weekly. "Making It" would be a monthly feature aimed at those who want to write SF, with practical, real-world advice about writing -- and, just as important, selling -- science fiction short stories and novels.

Jim Baen has observed that the market for SF is in the worst shape he's ever seen it; Del Rey has just let three editors go; HarperPrism was effectively shut down this month; Tor has drastically cut back the number of titles it's doing. Beginning writers wanting to make it today are going to need an edge, and this column -- and your site -- can provide just that.

"Making It" would cover both the artistic aspects (including characterization, plotting, and dialogue) and the business aspects (such as contract basics, preparing a novel synopsis, and promoting one's work). It would attract the legions who read rec.arts.sf.composition, as well as those who buy magazines about writing, take creative-writing courses, or just dream about seeing their names in print.

My credentials? I'm a full-time SF writer (and the sole source of income for my family; my wife works for me as my salaried assistant). I've sold fourteen novels to Warner, Harper, Ace, and Tor; my fiction has appeared in Analog, Amazing, and many anthologies; I've won 21 writing awards, including a Best Novel Nebula Award, and the top SF awards in Japan (Seiun), France (Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire), Spain (Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción), and Canada (the Aurora); and I've been on the Best Novel Hugo ballot each of the last four years.

In addition, I've taught SF writing at the University of Toronto and Ryerson Polytechnic University, and for three years I wrote the "On Writing" column for On Spec, Canada's leading SF magazine.

I've also seen the SF industry from perspectives denied to most other writers: I've worked as an editor (three anthologies, including the acclaimed Tesseracts 6) and in an SF specialty store, and I've even attended a publisher's sales conference.

I'm enclosing some additional background about me and my work, and, of course, there's tons more on my web site at (called "the most complete science-fiction author site on the web" by Talk City). I'm also providing three samples of the columns I did for On Spec.

I hope this proposal intrigues you, Craig. It's something I'd really like to do -- and I'm offering it to you first.
My condolences to the columnists who were just let go by SciFi Weekly.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At November 14, 2009 9:07 PM , Blogger Dwight Williams said...

As Charles Schulz once put it:

Now doesn't that just unplug your heating pad?


At November 16, 2009 5:27 AM , Blogger brian_l_raney said...

As a famous character in a Larry Niven novel would say, "Tanj!"

At November 16, 2009 8:25 PM , Blogger Silverfish said...

That would indeed have been an interesting column to read.



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