Where Sime and Gen Meet, Creativity Happens
WorldCrafters Guild School of Professional Writing
Jean Lorrah , Karen MacLeod, Jacqueline Lichtenberg
posted for AOL Chat
of the Paranormal in the
Field of Dreams Chat Room
at 9:00 pm ET
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INDEX TO THIS PAGE:
Message From Jean Lorrah who can't join us because she has no AOL access
Message from Karen MacLeod
Inserted comment by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
More from Karen MacLeod
Message from Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Karen MacLeod's column Karen's Keynotes
On another page, you will find the chat log for this presentation
February 19 Jacqueline Lichtenberg, co-author with Jean Lorrah, THE UNITY TRILOGY (the origin of a whole fanzine universe) speaks on "the benefits of writing for a fanzine." Jacqueline says, "Jean and I have nurtured new writers via fanzine writing for decades (Karen MacLeod is the only fanzine editor still working with us (and doing the work of 3) at this moment in time). We are two of the few professional writers who ever believed in fanzines as a training ground because that's where we learned our craft. But several of our fan writers have sold professionally. Many however have no ambition whatsoever to sell professionally but simply to tell a great story."
THE UNITY TRILOGY, the origin of an entire fanzine universe, with stories, artwork, poetry, and more written by fans for fans. They have posted several fan written Sime~Gen novels that are of professional quality. New Sime~Gen Universe novels from Meisha Merlin
To find books mentioned in this article, put the author and title into the search boxes at the end of this page or click the links.
From Jean Lorrah who can't join us because she doesn't have AOL access:
The Value of Fanzine Writing and Publishing
Back in the 1970's I both wrote a great deal of Star Trek fan fiction and edited and published my own fanzines. What I learned from that experience formed the foundation of both my professional writing and my editing and publishing career--and the business side that I learned then serves me well in Sime~Gen Inc.
Let me try to separate out the three threads that are actually tightly interwoven in my life. First, writing. I was a competent writer, teaching English and already publishing non-fiction, when the 1970's Star Trek renaissance provided an eager audience for the stories in my head and bottom drawer. I had published a couple of Sarek and Amanda stories in very early Trekzines, but when Classic Trek reached its audience in reruns there was a huge audience hungry for more. I created two of what are now considered classic Star Trek fan universes: EPILOGUE and THE NIGHT OF THE TWIN MOONS, and I contributed to another, Jacqueline Lichtenberg's KRAITH.
NTM showed me that I was capable of writing a satisfying novel-length work. Structurally, it is not a great piece of fiction; as fan writing, though, it pushed exactly the right fan buttons to make it a beloved book. Over the years I have improved my plots and learned how to write action scenes, but what makes my work memorable is still that ability to find and push the reader's emotional buttons--the quintessential fanzine writer's talent.
When I got the opportunity to write professional Star Trek novels for Pocket Books, I used the view of Vulcan culture, and more specifically of Spock's family background, that I had developed while writing NTM and its sequels. That background, along with my ability to push those emotional buttons, put my Classic Trek novels on the best-seller list. I was an established professional writer by the time Next Generation began, so in essence I went straight to writing TNG fan novels for the pro market. No one else would have dared even to suggest the subject matter of SURVIVORS (go read the reviews on amazon.com to see how I know that it is one of the most beloved Trek novels ever published) or METAMORPHOSIS.
But in the meantime, through Trek fandom I had met Jacqueline, begun writing Sime~Gen, and created my own Savage Empire series of novels. Until the 1990's killed the midlist, I published steadily. Through the 1990's I continued to write, but not being in the top 25% of the best-selling authors of the 1980's, I was no longer publishable.
With the new millennium e-publishing arrived, and I quickly joined the pioneers of that genre. Not too proud to publish wherever I could, I wrote NESSIE AND THE LIVING STONE with Lois Wickstrom, which promptly won the International E-book Award as best children's book of Y2K.
In 2002 my vampire novel, BLOOD WILL TELL, published as an e-book, won two awards: the Lord Ruthven Award as best vampire novel (competing with over 150 vampire novels published in 2001), and the LORIE award as best paranormal romance. In both cases, my electronic book won over hundreds of trade-published print books. As a result, BLOOD WILL TELL will come out in April of 2003 as a trade-published print book from BenBella Books ( www.benbellabooks.com ).
The reason my e-books win even when tree books are in the running is that the writing is the same. It all goes back to that solid foundation I learned so many years ago, writing fanfic.
However, it's no use just writing a book today and thinking that the publisher will do the rest. It wasn't even true when I was first professionally published, although in those days the author was not expected to promote (and in fact was discouraged from doing so). What was already disappearing in the 1980's was the professional editor. I was fortunate to have a couple of excellent content editors, who saw plot holes and insisted that I fix them, but skilled copyeditors were already a thing of the past.
Fortunately, I was not only a Professor of English, but also had experience working with fan writers on several fanzines I had edited. Through fan writing I met Fran Hitchcock and Lois Wickstrom. Fran and I opened a small press, Lorrah & Hitchcock, while Lois and I published PANDORA, a small-press sf magazine. In both cases I often had to deal diplomatically with authors with varying degrees of skill at the editorial level.
Thus the editing skills that I had learned from zine publishing carried over into my professional life in two ways: they made it possible for me to both content edit and copyedit material for Lorrah & Hitchcock and PANDORA, and they gave me the skills to work with the content editors of my own professional writing, and to do my own copyediting. On the latter, by the way, you'd better either learn to copyedit your own work or find someone as good as Karen MacLeod to do it for you. Otherwise, I guarantee that between you and the so-called copyeditor who will try to make your work say what that person thinks you meant, you will end up with a number of "doozies" in every book.
Finally, zine editing was also my first business experience. Many a zine editor before me, with all the good intentions in the world, had taken pre-publication money, put it into her own checking account for safe-keeping, used the money in her checking account to pay for groceries, rent, and the emergencies when her car broke down and she sprained her ankle, and then found herself unable to pay for printing her zine when it was finally ready. Determined not to be one of those people, I started very simply by opening a separate checking account for fanzine money. That way I knew that everything in that account belonged to the zine, and was not to be mistaken for grocery, rent, or utility money.
I kept very simple books, but with the growth of my fanzines and later the sale of autographed copies of my professionally published books, it grew into a nice little business. I learned as it grew. PANDORA was run through Empire Books, its losses offset against the profits from what was for a few years a thriving business selling my own books.
When Fran and I opened Lorrah & Hitchcock, I learned how to incorporate a small business. Twenty years later I would use that knowledge to incorporate Sime~Gen Inc., and my bookkeeping experience to keep its books. Twenty years of expected and unexpected dealings with clients and publishers and government agencies have taught me how to read and write contracts, and with all we are doing on simegen.com I am learning even more.
Fanzine writing and publishing as we knew it is now very nearly a thing of the past. With the advent of the Internet anyone can place an unedited story on a site dedicated to stories in the same fandom, with no need for record keeping or bookkeeping, and no money changing hands. If you have read web stories in your current favorite fandom, you know what I mean: some, written by people with both storytelling and editing skills, are excellent--but they reside side by side with inept, almost unreadable stories. It's sad to see effulsive thanks given to someone who "beta'd" a story--a new term meaning that the story is apparently considered analogous to a new piece of software--when the resulting story is nearly unreadable for errors in grammar and usage.
But of course readers do not pay for fan stories on the web. Those who find the stories unreadable can stay away, but I doubt that they bother to inform the writers and site owners as to why. Hence no learning takes place. Critics were sometimes harsh in the heyday of fanzines, but at least there was feedback.
We may never again see an activity indulged in for pure pleasure that is likely to teach writing, editing, and business skills the way fanzine writing and editing did. I'm glad I happened to be a part of that particular golden age.
FROM KAREN MACLEOD -- editor of the Sime~Gen fanzine Companion in Zeor which is the one of 5 or so Sime~Gen paper-zines to survive to live on the Web, still posting whole novels, stories, artworks, poems, recipes and commentary by fans.
Karen has parlayed her experience nurturing fan writers into professionals (several have sold work in their own universes) into a career telecommuting as a book editor and consultant.
Here are some links to items that are part of the background of the chat discussion and so may be used as examples -- comments are Karen talking to Jacqueline Lichtenberg:
Karen: ". . . or do we go back to that 1977 Star Trek con, where you handed me the paperback Pocket Edition of House of Zeor (now published in The Unity Trilogy -- see all the forthcoming Sime~Gen novels here) , with your then well known money back guarantee......"YOU explain fandom. You did a good job of it in Star Trek Lives! ~~innocent look~~
"Or to Streetwalking With Jacqueline Lichtenberg. CZ #1 -- 1978
Seems like now, I've gone from fandom to professional....only took what? 24 years to have my skills recognized. You, Jean, Sharon Jarvis all trained me.
Tell them how you used to pass around the onion skin manuscripts of the novels at the cons for a select group of us to read and critique before they ever got to the publisher. Most of those readers were your zine editors, or writers.
I'm more proud of the newer editions of the zine than the older ones on the web, because we still haven't cleaned all the typos from the older editions. Katherine and I may have more stuff posted before your chat. Eric started on coding some pages, but being Eric, he won't do what I ask of him. Katherine did contact me, so there is hope you may have new material to introduce at this chat.
I'm fond of the paper fanzines, for the memories of freezing in winter, and roasting in summer to do the mimeographing. Let's NOT go there. We never made money on any of them... it was a labor of love -- and it broke my heart when you told me how many copies went into the recycling truck when you moved.
Some of the people who went PRO from the zines: Kerry L. Schaefer, Andrea I. Alton, M. Jean Airey, Cheryl Wolverton. I probably could come up with a few more, and there were established pros who contributed. These all STARTED with us. And you should give the talk about WHY fanzines are a good ground to begin with. (Boy, do we still have standards)
Put in the stories you like from the new zines. I'm not sure which are YOUR favorites. We will be posting some of Linda Whitten's things soon.
CZ's main page
Kaires' really good index page
Interview with Sharon Jarvis can be found --
I can give you the NBI site URL, and a list of what I've done for them, and what is pending. Its mostly light romance, some mystery-themed romance. Not my personal cup of tea, but its something to keep me out of trouble. (smile).
NBI is having trouble getting into Amazon, B&N.com, and in brick and mortar stores. The best thing would be for people to order directly from NBI's website. (Novel Books closed its doors January 1, 2005)
"Vampire's Friend" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg in HEAVEN AND HELL, an
anthology of humorous stories, paper published by Speculation Press,
(Note from Jacqueline Lichtenberg -- my Vampire story in this anthology is the result of BEING a fan. I am and was a gushing, blushing, goshwow fan of Andre Norton's work since I was in 7th Grade. After being invited to visit with her in her home, (and meet her cats!) with Jean Lorrah, on the plane on the way home, I outlined a trilogy which became the Dushau trilogy, designing it to be the sequel to Star Rangers (my all-time favorite Andre Norton title that ended off in the middle). Of course I couldn't write in her Universe, so I had to invent a whole new Universe to background that novel. But it is a fannish tribute to what I love about Andre Norton's work, and you should all read the dedication to that novel. Three of the vampire stories based on a story I wrote for Andre Norton's Tales of the Witch World #2 (upon her invitation) are now being recorded as audiobook presentations. Pros are fans of each others' work! )
MORE FROM KAREN:
285 Taylor Avenue
Elizabethton, TN 37643
(423) 547-9797 ~ Voice
(423) 543-1220 ~ Fax
Dates Employed: 05/2001-January 1, 2005
Publisher closed its doors on this date
Works edited for NBI include Lions of Judah -- Elaine Hopper Apology for the Devil -- Stuart Thomas Tyburn -- Stuart Thomas Married by Mistake -- Laurie Alice Eakes Allude To Murder -- Emma Kennedy Angels Unawares -- Priscilla A. Maine Head over Heels -- Cindy Procter-King An American Redneck in Hong Kong -- Michael DellaRocca Pleasures of the Heart -- one of many editors of this short story anthology Golden Prey -- Charli Sheer Written in Sand -- Rob McCubbin Since All Is Passing -- Elizabeth Delisi Because of Joe -- Liz Flaherty
And here is Karen's answer to a fan who always loved the books, hunted for them all over, and finally found us on the Web: (Karen heads the Sime~Gen Welcommittee)
Suzanne also needs to dig in Rimon's Library for some really good fiction.
Here's a list of links she may like.....
CZ's main page
Kaires' really good index page
Interview with Sharon Jarvis can be found --
Some things from the old paper fanzines have been posted. More should be following, as I have permission from a few other people to mine the paper zines for their work
Evolution of a story and its characters --
Andrea's "Belling the Cat" first draft - vs - "Icy Nager" or "Partners" (CZ # 8 - 1984)
Belling the Cat -- written 1980 -- released in CZ #12 (1997-98)
Icy Nager -- CZ Special Edition #1
Linda Whitten's "Overview of the Sime~Gen Universe" CZ# 11 (1994)
Jacqueline's article on characterization -- how to write a character CZ #5 -- The Refurbished Character
Jenn Vesperman, has a short Sime~Gen piece in CZ # 12 "The Old Kill Room" and has some illos in #13
Jenn also has her "children's bedtime story" MY BIG SISTER HAS TENTACLES in CZ #13
The Alphabet Index will be helpful.
Enjoy....let me know what else I can do to help.
I am perhaps best known for my nonfiction title, the Bantam paperback Star Trek Lives! which was based upon research proven by my first novel, House of Zeor (now available in The Unity Trilogy) . The research project which became Star Trek Lives! was based in my Star Trek purely fanzine stories, an alternate Star Trek Universe called Kraith.
Kraith was not the first writing I had ever done, but it was the first huge fictional project I ever did aimed precisely at the fanzine market. The main stories are homework projects for The Famous Writers' School course which I was taking at the time. And each of the skills demonstrated in those stories was acquired in a deliberate and concerted program to gain the skillls needed to create my first professional novel, House of Zeor.
At the time I wrote Kraith, I was also working on House of Zeor, knowing what I needed to accomplish with that work, but lacking the ability. I taught myself to write using Kraith -- and the feedback from the fan readers gave me the confidence to know that I had mastered each individual skill required.
Kraith was also deliberately designed to invite other writers and graphic artists to contribute stories. It had a set theme and a direction for historical events -- but took place in so many locales throughout the Federation that over 50 people contributed to the series. There were also several alternate Kraith universes spun off from Kraith (alternate-alternate Star Trek).
We have converted all the Kraith stories to electronic files, and are in need of someone to design the website and post the stories. We also need people to spread out among the various newsgroups and lists and see if we can find the Kraith Creators to get new permission to post their work under their names -- OR if not, then to post it annonymously.
Paper copies of Kraith are still available -- some being sold on ebay -- but no longer being published, as far as I know.
I set out with Sime~Gen to create another fictional structure that could provide a platform for many creative minds to embroider on the richness of the story with their own characters, settings, themes, and ideas. I haven't counted lately, but I suspect we have had at least 50 people contributing via the fanzines.
So far Jean Lorrah is the only other writer to master the Kraith background and writing craftsmanship to contribute to Sime~Gen professionally, but we are actively seeking others who can join us. The thing is just too big for only two writers! The way we have constructed for people to make that leap into professional writing through us is via the Sime~Gen fanzines.
Jean and I actively work with writers on their stories destined for Companion In Zeor, which is why the standards are so high that few have the patience to meet those standards for a mere fanzine story. However, the results are appreciated by the readers.
Also, now that we have a publisher committed to doing one Sime~Gen novel per year -- and interested in an anthology of fan-written stories if the novels sell well -- we have an inventory of fan writers and their material to present to this publisher when the time is right.
With all that as background, we can discuss the difference between a professional novel and a fanzine novel in skill levels and in structure.
As I mentioned, what we have posted here on simegen.com is MOSTLY professional level craftsmanship. However only a few of the fan written novels actually qualify as professionally publishable novels. What is the difference?
Can anyone at this chat identify that salient difference?
We might also want to discuss the difference between the e-book and tree-book markets -- why do things that are GOOD not sell to the tree market and end up as e-books by default?
Do you know an e-book you enjoyed that you can identify why it didn't sell to the tree market?
I have reviewed several in my column -- http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/ --- but the one you should study with a microscope if you can't tell the difference is
And you should contrast-compare that to (it's no coincidence both these are www.awe-struck.net titles)
Jean Lorrah's BLOOD WILL TELL.
See if you can articulate why neither of these books sold to the big Manhattan publishers right off.
I've just assigned you a year's worth of reading here -- so we'll probably need to have another of these Chats for those who can manage to gnaw their way through all this!
Live Long and Prosper,
And an item from Anne Phyllis Pinzow who might be joining us for this chat. She is a professional journalist and script writer who also is our most popular teacher in the Writing Workshop with her section titled Visual Writing. She has given us a new article just today, complete with photos titled The Sanctity Of The Torah Is In The Little Things.
Writing for the non-commercial (FAN FICTION) market
For those of you who are not yet brave (or skilled) enough to have a publishing house take a look at your novel, you might want to consider going the fan fiction route, to get experience before marketing your first novel to a publisher. Individuals who are now professional published authors that got their start this way, include Jean Lorrah, Cheryl Wolverton, M. Jean Airey, and Andrea I. Alton.
I was a featured guest the other day in another chatroom, where the following was discussed:
Question: Publishing today is very difficult, any advice for new novelists on
getting published? The largest problem is getting an agent to read the Manuscript. Even with a good story, clean manuscript, rejections are the rule.
Karen's answer: In addition to stating how to improve your manuscript, how to follow publishers guidelines, as I have stated in my previous WVU columns, I continued that the agent is not necessarily the publisher...the acquisitions editor usually finds things a house wants to publish. What reason do you get for your rejection?
Querent's Reply: My group receives anything from form rejections, no reasons, or
encouragement but with rejection. Without previous experience (clips) these new novelists are having a hard time. I get "not taking on new projects at this time." Sort of
nebulous things like that.
Karen's answer: With my amateur authors' fan work, I always wrote personalized responses, suggestions, and DID read the submission. Then perhaps your "group" should start in "fan" writing, which is a valid credential. My fan editing experience got me noticed by NovelBooks and other places. It takes time to build a portfolio. A critique group is helpful. You have to start small to later become Stephen King.
Querent's Next reply: Yes, it does, but try to explain that to an on fire new novelist.
Well, you have to start somewhere. If not going all out to get your manuscript printed by a publishing house, and you want those "first credentials for your portfolio" start at the amateur/fan level. Submit to quality places looking for the type of material you deliver.
Such places include:
(One of my favorite Historicals) Bygone Days : http://www.simegen.com/writers/bygonedays/
The dmoz open directory project: http://dmoz.org/Arts/Online_Writing/E-zines/Fiction/
Google has a whole list of possibilities: http://directory.google.com/Top/Arts/Online_Writing/E-zines/Fiction/
My own, A COMPANION IN ZEOR (based only on the work of Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah)
Google itself has a long list of possibilities if you enter "ezine" into their search engine. Just asking for a specific reference of an e-zine, brought up more than ten pages of possibilities.
The U.S. copyright law for fan fiction (a/k/a/ fanfic) is a whole different set of rules than if you write for a novel. This is a legal argument that (by U.S. law) fan fiction is fair use, provided it is noncommercial and properly attributes the borrowed characters and
Note that this is one lawyer's opinion, not a court judgment, not "The Law."
If the copyright law interests you, start your investigations with an article by Rebecca Tushnet, a lawyer and an expert in intellectual property, particularly copyright law. Ms. Tushnet is an Assistant Professor of Law, New York University School of Law. ( http://www.tushnet.com/law/fanficarticle.html )
Of course, this doesn't apply to the "Great American Novel." If you wish to use someone else's characters for your work, then permissions must be obtained.
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