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OBIR Magazine devoted to presenting the absurd literary taste of R. Graeme Cameron.

Note: OBIR Magazine is a non-profit SF&f fiction review magazine which costs nothing and is free to anyone who wants to read it. No income is derived from distribution of this online non-profit magazine, nor from any ads contained within its pages as all ads are placed at no charge to the advertiser. Boreal is not a business but rather a private hobby publication.

Herein you will find reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction Novels, Anthologies, Magazines, and Short Stories judged according to the following review system:

 (5*) Exhilarating = Really, really exciting. Eye-opening. Dance a jig time.

 (4*) Great Fun = Thoroughly enjoyed it. Ripping good yarn. Stimulating.

 (3*) Entertaining = Pleasing. Memorable. A good read. Worthwhile.

 (2*) Interesting = Something intriguing about it, but not enough to get me excited.

 (1*) Not to my taste = Doesn’t appeal to me due to my personal prejudices.

Note that my rating system doesn’t judge works on their intrinsic merit so much as how they run up against my personal preferences and prejudices. Readers should bear this in mind. I could be dead wrong about everything!

 

OBIR Magazine on hold.

Just realised I forgot to mention I’m doing nothing re: OBIR Magazine (or Polar Borealis Magazine for that matter) while I’m Chairing VCON 41. Gearing up and running a mid-sized SF&F convention (700-800 people) is simply too much work to allow for anything else. So OBIR is on hold.

However, VCON 41 ends October 2nd. I’ll probably crash for a week or two. Then start work on the next issues of both magazines. Probably get them both out sometime in December. Then, hopefully, back to a regular schedule,

Cheers!  Graeme

Polar Borealis to get own Web Site

I’m working on establishing a web site to house POLAR BOREALIS Magazine. Once it is up the relevant material on this site will be reduced to a link to the new site.

This should make it easier to find POLAR BOREALIS through Google.

All current and future issues will be made available at the new site for free download.

The second issue will be out in a month or two and will feature poetry by Rissa Johnson, Mary Choo, Eileen Kernaghan, Rhea Rose and J.Y.T. Kennedy, as well as stories by Stan G. Hyde, Steve Fahnestalk, Michael John Bertrand, Holly Schofield, David Perlmutter, R. Graeme Cameron, Catherine Girczyc, dvsduncan, Nina Munteanu, Matthew Hughes and Spider Robinson, plus a wonderful cover by Eric Chu.

Cheers!  The Graeme

 

First Issue Polar Borealis Posted!

The first issue of my non-profit semi-professional paying-market SF&F fiction magazine POLAR BOREALIS is posted this site (click on “Polar Borealis Magazine” above, then “Current/Back Issues,” and then “Polar Borealis #1”) aimed at beginning Canadian writers eager to make their first sale, with some pros to provide role models.

With art by Jean-Pierre Normand, Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, and Taral Wayne.

Poems by Rissa Johnson, Eileen Kernaghan, and Rhea Rose.

Stories by Christel Bodenbender, R. Graeme Cameron, Steve Fahnestalk, Karl Johanson, Rissa Johnson, Kelly Ng, Craig Russell, Robert J. Sawyer, T.G. Shepherd, Casey June Wolf, and Flora Jo Zenthoefer.

Hope you find it of interest.

Cheers!  The Graeme

OBIR #4 posted!

Just click on the current issue upper right. Issue # 4 has 40 reviews, including the three novels ‘The Black Bottle Man,’ ‘Goddess Gambit,’ and ‘Signal to Noise.’ Also an interview with ‘The Graeme’ by Lynda Williams, an essay on the H.P. Lovecraft controversy, and two guest reviews by Gregg Chamberlain.

Plus an announcement on plans to start up a semi-pro SF fiction zine which will pay 1 cent a word for stories 3,000 words or less. See POLAR BOREAL Magazine for info.

You Can Vote for the 2015 Faned Awards!

But only if you want to.

I started giving out the Faneds (based on popular vote) in 2011. They promote and celebrate Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy fanzines and all who contribute to them.

Though fannish in nature, the quality of writing and criticism in them is often astonishingly high. ECDYSIS by Jonathan Crowe (currently nominated for an Aurora Award) and BROKEN TOYS by 11-times Hugo nominee & Rotsler Award Winner Taral Wayne are particularly noted for their very thoughtful, literate and well-written essays and articles (often reflecting wider interests than SF&F topics).

Though Canadian zines are few in number compared to American or British zines, they are as varied and interesting as any. Our first Canadian expression of “amateur SF&F magazines” appeared in 1936 with the publication of THE CANADIAN SCIENCE FICTION FAN by an unknown editor (name not mentioned in a Donald Wollheim review) who became the recipient of the first Faned “Hall of Fame Award” in 2011. My point being that Canadian SF&F fanzines date back to the very beginnings of organized SF fandom. We are not newcomers.

If you are interested in amateur literary phenomena, check out my Press Release and Ballot. Just click on “Weird Zines” (in the banner masthead above) and then “Faned Press Release.”

And if you are already a reader of Canadian SF zines, then copy the Ballot portion of the article into a word document and follow the instructions if you wish to vote.

By the way, OBIR Magazine counts as a fanzine, belonging to the category of “Perzine” or “personal fanzine,” but since I didn’t begin publication till this year, and the 2015 Awards celebrate Zines published in 2014, OBIR is not eligible. But NEXT year…

Ignorance is my friend

There was a recent post by Robert J. Sawyer pointing out that promotional material full of grammatical errors hardly inspires confidence in the value or worth of the book being promoted. Not to mention that editors looking for a reason to stop reading an unsolicited manuscript can find none better.

I studied Latin, French, and English in High School. I failed Latin, barely squeaked through French, and got good marks in English by writing as simply as possible and avoiding complex grammatical subtleties.

I know what a noun is. I know what a verb is. Anything beyond that and I start to get confused. Grammar my downfall.

That I can write reasonably well, most times almost clearly enough to get my point across, is due to the vast amount of reading I have done, reading which has allowed “acceptable practice” to seep into my brain in a process of osmosis similar to what Charlemagne used to employ when he slept with a scroll under his pillow in the hope that an ability to read would somehow leech into his brain during the night.

Not for me the delights of artfully choosing the best word or phrase for maximum impact and demonstration of literary skill. For me the process is more like “What the hell is it I’m actually trying to say here?”

But what a boon this is! When I finally convince a paragraph to resemble what I think I’m trying to communicate I’m so happy and satisfied I don’t give it a further thought. No more worries. No obsessive tweaking to impress the critics. When it is clear it is done.

I derive great satisfaction from this. If I actually knew more — or anything at all — about the subtle possibilities inherent in the complexities of clever grammatical usage I would probably end up depressed and give up writing entirely.

But because I am profoundly ignorant I sail through the task of writing with clear skies and a brisk breeze. Oh, to be sure there are shoals to avoid when choosing the proper course, but once my path is clear it is time to let down full canvas and take full advantage of my ignorance.

And the ocean is becoming very friendly, what with (so rumour has it) certain publishers saving money by not proof reading, many authors saving money when self-publishing by not hiring anyone to proof read, and most common of all, writers totally unable to proof read their own work. (Me, for instance.)

As a result, one can assume, the general standard of correct grammar has been lowered in modern literature, lowered to a standard approaching my own level, thus generating a higher rating of acceptability for whatever it is I manage to conceive.

Or to put it another way, “The Marching Morons” prediction-come-true works splendidly to my advantage. The lower the expectations people have for the technical quality of contemporary fiction, the greater the chance people will actually want to read me! I might even get published someday.

An encouraging trend which makes me very happy.

One puzzling note: for some reason my critics don’t critique my writing. They tend to critique me. Not quite sure why.

The Joy of Being a Judge

I was one of the preliminary readers for the Amazing Stories magazine Hugo Gernsback short story contest. The idea was to rate the stories from best to worse with the best few going on to the finalist judges who are currently hard at work judging up a storm. Results will no doubt be announced soonest.

Why was I chosen to be one of the preliminary readers? A bit suspect you might think, given that I’ve never been paid for anything I’ve published. But I’ve run the Writers Workshops at VCON for five years in a row, I publish an (almost) weekly column for Amazing, and I produce OBIR. In short, I am in the habit of reviewing writing and, especially where a contest is concerned, take my responsibility as a reviewer rather seriously.

I’m not supposed to reveal anything concerning the entries. The preliminary judging, and probably the finalist judging, is meant to be completely anonymous. The contest is not a writers workshop. It’s a contest.

That said, I think I can briefly discuss my task in general terms without giving anything away.

The first thing I did, once I’d been sent PDFs of all the entries I was responsible for, was read through them all quickly in search of general impressions and a rough idea how they compared to each other.

To my astonishment the best two stood out immediately, as did the worst two. It was the ones in-between I had to think long and hard to assign them a place on the list.

The two worst had silly premises that were internally inconsistent, nonexistent characters, plot points which lead nowhere, were overcomplicated and, in general, read like a first draft by someone who had never written fiction before.

The two best had engaging characters, featured an appropriate level of technology which was subordinate to the plot and did not overwhelm it, a simple but well thought out premise with some of the more intriguing implications explored, evocative description, and contained nothing which interrupted the narrative or kicked me out of the story. Thoroughly professional in other words.

The two worst reminded me of the stuff I wrote as a young teenager. The two best reminded me of what I aspire to and hope someday to achieve.

How I placed the in-betweeners depended largely on how needlessly complicated and confusing they were. The more they equaled the clarity and simplicity of the two best, the higher I placed them on the list.

Or, to put it another way, the more complete and whole the story as an entertaining and/or intriguing entity in itself, without anything needing to be edited out, the higher the rating.

One of my dreams is one day to publish an online SF&F fiction zine which pays contributors. Pretending for a moment I am an editor of such, I have to say that I would have bought the two best entries in the contest immediately and been proud to publish them. At least two or three of the remainder would have been sort of acceptable, though I probably would have channelled J.W. Campbell and suggested a rewrite. The rest I would simply have rejected.

In general, still in fantasy mode as editor, I would say to aspiring writers that less is more, clarity and precision important, and above all, a short story is not a miniature novel. Keep it simple. Make it vivid. Make the reader care. Or, at least, fascinate, amuse or intrigue the hell out of the reader. Don’t be dull. Don’t be ordinary.

Such is my advice.