The Nuclear Ramjet Armageddon Weapon and Publishing Tips

by Mike Shea on 12 January 2005

I read about Project Pluto over on Boing Boing and read a full article about Project Pluto in Air and Space Magazine. This thing is far too cool. I have to find a way to fit it into a short story. Just listen to this:

"Pluto's namesake was Roman mythology's ruler of the underworld -- seemingly an apt inspiration for a locomotive-size missile that would travel at near-treetop level at three times the speed of sound, tossing out hydrogen bombs as it roared overhead. Pluto's designers calculated that its shock wave alone might kill people on the ground. Then there was the problem of fallout. In addition to gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor, Pluto's nuclear ramjet would spew fission fragments out in its exhaust as it flew by. (One enterprising weaponeer had a plan to turn an obvious peace-time liability into a wartime asset: he suggested flying the radioactive rocket back and forth over the Soviet Union after it had dropped its bombs.)"

Goddamn we were some crazy morbid fuckers back in the 50s.

I found these publishing tips over at Neil Gaiman's website. Some excellent advice and resources. Hi, Neil -- Happy to answer. 1. If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is "get an offer." If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get. a. If you're good enough to get published, having an agent may prove helpful. If you aren't (yet), you definitely don't want the kind of agent you're going to get. i. There is no substitute for writing a book that people want to buy and read. If you can do that, you can get published. If you can't, no clever workaround will help, because we can't force people to buy and read books they don't like. b. Some ways you might get an agent without getting an offer: Be obviously and extraordinarily good. Sell a lot of short stories. Have some other seriously hot credentials. 2. Don't start by looking for an agent. Do your research first. Start by learning about agents, submissions, publishing houses, the industry, et cetera. Note: This is a huge subject. a. No matter how you think it works, the publishing industry doesn't work the way you think it does. This is true even for publishing professionals. They know how their part of the industry works, and they know a lot about adjacent areas, but the further afield they go, the less reliable their expertise will be. People who aren't in the industry generally don't have a clue. i. A phenomenal number of articles about how publishing works are written by people who don't know what they're talking about. This is partly because writing about writing, or writing about publishing, is what wanna-be authors do when they've given up on writing, but don't yet want to admit it. It's also because a made-up version of the publishing industry is going to be much simpler and more logical than the real thing, and thus is easier to write about. ii. Look askance at articles that credit some industry practice to the stupidity of people working in the industry, who have failed to see the simple and obvious solution the author of the article is about to suggest. 3. There are easily as many scam agents, useless agents, and clueless agents as there are real ones. They all swap bad information with each other. The difference is that the scammers know it's bad information. a. You can't research this subject just by getting online and looking. You have to stick to good sources. 4. Did I mention that any idiot can write a book about how to be a writer? When you see someone who's never sold a book, but who's written a book about how to get your book published, and said book was published by a vanity house, and said author is nevertheless accepted as an authority on the subject by a great many aspiring writers, you know you've wandered into strange territory. a. The scary part is that I've just described more than one Authoritative Source of Advice about Writing and Publishing. b. Any idiot can put up a website, too. c. Check out your source's credentials. i. It's always worth your while to assess the quality of the info you're getting, because bad advice can cost you such an inordinate amount of time and effort.

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The Essential Resources:
The Association of Authors' Representatives
 <a href="http://www.aar-online.org/">http://www.aar-online.org/</a>
There are some legit agents that don't belong to the AAR, but not
 many; and if an agent belongs, they're legit.
Writer Beware: <a href="http://www.sfwa.org/beware/">http://www.sfwa.org/beware/</a>
Preditors &amp; Editors is one site in two places, mirrored:
<a href="http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/">http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/</a>
 mirrored: <a href="http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/">http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/</a>
Aspiring writers should read both Writer Beware and Preditors &amp;
 Editors. Reading them from start to finish wouldn't be a bad idea.
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Further Agent-Specific Resources
Agent Research &amp; Evaluation has a good reputation and a stern
 attitude: <a href="http://www.agentresearch.com/">http://www.agentresearch.com/</a>
Agent Query, <a href="http://www.agentquery.com/">http://www.agentquery.com/</a>, is an online database of
 agent info. I haven't used them. They've been casually recommended to
 me.
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People who give reliable advice:
Victoria Strauss, who ought to get a Special Hugo or something. She
 has a collection of very good articles on her website, a couple of
 which are specifically about finding an agent:
 <a href="http://www.sff.net/people/victoriastrauss/articles.html">http://www.sff.net/people/victoriastrauss/articles.html</a>
Ann Crispin.
Jim Macdonald, sometimes known as Yog Sysop. He hangs out at
 AbsoluteWrite, fighting scammers in the <a href="http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11">Bewares Board</a>, and teaching
 writing in <a href="http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm3.showMessage?topicID=257.topic">Learn Novel Writing with Uncle Jim.</a>

Me (she said, modestly) mostly, unless I'm feeling irresponsible. You can usually tell.
 Further down is a list of some of my Making Light posts about writing,
 publishing, and related subjects. I put it at the bottom because it's
 so long.
John Savage, a pseudonymous lawyer who specializes in law for writers.
 He does a weblog, Surreality Check:
 <a href="http://savage.authorslawyer.com/journal.shtml">http://savage.authorslawyer.com/journal.shtml</a>.
C. E. Petit, a lawyer who specializes in law for writers, has a weblog
 called Scrivener's Error: <a href="http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/">http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/</a>.

 Michelle Sagara.
Kent Brewster, of Speculations/Rumor Mill, has overseen a great many discussions of publishing, editing, and agenting.
Andy Zack is a legit agent who answers questions online.
==============
Selected other sites that track and discuss good guys and bad guys:
Speculations.com, the Rumor Mill:
 <a href="http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/">http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/</a>
especially see Speculations' "Search for the Killer Agent" thread:
 <a href="http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/?z=451718&amp;f=452061">http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/?z=451718&amp;f=452061</a>
AbsoluteWrite, the Bewares Board:
 <a href="http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11">http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11</a>
WritersWeekly.com, Whispers and Warnings
 <a href="http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewforum.php?f=14">http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewforum.php?f=14</a>
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Miscellaneous:
Sillybean's Publishing 101 has a good selection of current links on
 writerly issues, and I'm not just saying that because it links to a
 lot of my articles:
 <a href="http://www.sillybean.net/article/510/writing-and-publishing-101">http://www.sillybean.net/article/510/writing-and-publishing-101</a>.
Internet-Resources.com is an oppressively compendious list of writers'
 resources: <a href="http://www.internet-resources.com/writers/">http://www.internet-resources.com/writers/</a>
==============
Bad Resources:

 Avoid the list of agents at writers.net. Anyone can type in their own
 name there.
The more you know, the more errors you see in the "Everyone Who's Anyone in Adult Trade Publishing and Tinseltown Too" website. <a href="http://everyonewhosanyone.com/index.html">http://everyonewhosanyone.com/index.html</a>

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Stuff from Making Light, roughly in order of its relevance:

 On the Getting of Agents
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html</a>
Slushkiller
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html</a>
A Brief Note on Linguistic Markers (recognizing scammers)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005540.html#005540">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005540.html#005540</a>
More Linguistic Markers (more of the same)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005555.html#005555">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005555.html#005555</a>
Bad Advice on Cover Letters (Todd James Pierce's bad advice)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005212.html#005212">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005212.html#005212</a>
Taking Your Own Bad Advice (Todd James Pierce digs himself in deeper)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005218.html#005218">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005218.html#005218</a>
Varieties of Insanity Known to Affect Authors
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004307.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004307.html</a> If it amuses you, "Varieties of Insanity Known to Affect Authors" isalso available on assorted t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags:<a href="http://www.cafepress.com/nielsenhayden">http://www.cafepress.com/nielsenhayden</a>
Cover Letters (a brief note on bad cover letters)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001505.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001505.html</a>
Nudge Note (short: waiting through a submission)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004668.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004668.html</a>
Extratextual Characteristics (on categories)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000159.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000159.html</a>
How Books Sell (addressing some common errors)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002858.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002858.html</a>
Squick and Squee (fanfic as an R&amp;D lab of techniques)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005871.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005871.html</a>
Namarie Sue (Mary Sues, and other iniquities)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004188.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004188.html</a>
Is It Me -- (things the editor doesn't want to hear about)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004900.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004900.html</a>
&gt;From Correspondence: Sneaking Out Under the Literary Radar
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002703.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002703.html</a>
On Writing Genre Fantasy (brief)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/003897.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/003897.html</a>
The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot (cheap plot tricks)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000290.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000290.html</a> The weblog post talks about and links to The Evil Overlord Devises aPlot, but the actual thing is at <a href="http://www.sff.net/paradise/plottricks.htm">http://www.sff.net/paradise/plottricks.htm</a>. The fancy automated version of the Evil Overlord Plot Generator (with Murphy's Laws of Combat) is here: <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/overlord/">http://nielsenhayden.com/overlord/</a>
Looking at The Writers' Collective (scam publishing)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005292.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005292.html</a>
Hanging Out In Someone Else's Argument (PC magazine)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002630.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002630.html</a>
Look Quick, Before It Goes Away (can't summarize it)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005569.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005569.html</a>
Yetanother Book -- (very brief, on stupid advice books)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005596.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005596.html</a>
Deserts of Vast Literacy (extremely brief)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001477.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001477.html</a>
Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp (scam poetry competitions)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002693.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002693.html</a>
The Power of the Press, Sort Of (hapless vanity publisher)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005922.html#005922">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005922.html#005922</a>
Prose and Cons (scam agent Melanie Mills gets busted)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004041.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004041.html</a>
Yetanother Variant (touches on publishing scams)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001541.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001541.html</a>
Rowling vs. Stouffer (I thought it was interesting)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001463.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001463.html</a>
The Underlying Forms of Fraud (a general article on fraud)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001509.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001509.html</a>
Communicator Awards, and Other Coincidences (Cris Robbins Agency)
 <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000357.html">http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000357.html</a>
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How's that?
-t.

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