The Insiders

Article excerpt

The Insiders. Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg. The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. vi + 269 pages. ISBN 9780786447978. $35.00 pbk.

* Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg are widely published and well recognized writers and editors, and this book is a collection of their column "The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues" from the SFWA Bulletin over the past dozen or so years, twenty five selected from the forty seven already published in the bulletin as of the date of this volume. The dialogues are grouped into three sections: "Writing and Selling," "The Business," and "The Field." They do not appear to be presented in order of publication, and are not dated individually, though it is possible to interpolate the timing of any given column by reference to the authors they discuss, or the Worldcon or other event they riff off of in any given entry. Reading the essays is rather like being in attendance at a Worldcon panel with their informal give and take and willingness to respond to and rebut each other's views. That in itself makes for a valuable and entertaining read for fans, would-be sf writers, and those laboring in the field to make a living.

Because the essays were written over a number of years, they sometimes repeat the same salient points, including "read contracts carefully," or when debating the pros and cons of strategies to reach a wider audience, deal with new technologies and venues to maximize earnings. In chapter 20 on "False Doctrines," they suggest that for years writers were misdirected in the model of short story writing emphasized at the Clarion Writing Workshops (195), while pointing out that John Scalzi got his start with blogs and posted a novel online for free, which some would see as a "hideous mistake" but which led to his second novel being published: Old Man's War (196). Resnick underscores the value of foreign sales to supplement the writer's income and returns to the theme of reading contracts carefully: "Can bad contracts wipe out your subsidiary earnings? …