August 5, 2014


If you’re a popular science fiction writer, chances are you’ve been inundated with requests in the last few days. People–sometimes fans, sometimes total strangers–have been asking you to write micro-fiction. The more famous the writer, the more such requests.

So what’s going on? There’s an actor named Misha Collins (a star of Supernatural TV series) who runs a very popular Internet scavenger hunt called GISHWHES — or Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.” Teams of players race to complete fun and wacky tasks, such as snapping a photo of elderly people mud wrestling, staging a water balloon fight set to opera music, etc. They score points for each item completed, based on the difficulty of the challenge.

This year, Misha Collins also directed his minions to do this:

Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus.

An Elopus is sort of like a Cthulhuphant — half elephant, half Octopus pictured in their logo above.

Cue the many Big Name writers befuddled by all the requests:

And those are the polite tweets. Some authors are quite mad at Misha for doing this.

Personally, I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I feel that Misha has done nothing wrong. No one is forcing any writer to participate in this exercise. It’s completely voluntary, and many of my colleagues welcomed the chance to help out the contestants while picking up a few potential new readers/fans.

On the other hand, I feel strongly that writers shouldn’t be expected to produce commissioned stories for free. Even tiny little micro-stories of under 140 words.  It may not take very long to write one, but a good writer spent years polishing their skills and there’s value in that. Also, there are other important things they could be doing with that time.

This afternoon I stumbled upon a brilliant post by Michael A. Burstein whereupon he offered to write these stories in exchange for at least one team member picking up a copy of one of his books. This seemed like a very fair and rational way to approach the situation, so naturally I stole it.

The idea meshed perfectly with my ongoing Kickstarter campaign to fund my short story collection. So I posted an update on Kickstarter and share it on social media, basically offering the following:

* I will write a Misha story for free for anyone who is already a backer of my campaign.
* If anyone wants one who isn’t a backer, all they have to do is pledge $10+ to the campaign, and they will get a micro-story for their team out of it AND all the rewards that go with whatever level of pledge they select.
* I will post all the micro-stories I write in this fashion as backer updates on Kickstarter (set to private, so only backers can see them, thereby protecting First Rights in case I ever want to do anything else with those stories.)

This worked out really well. Over the course of the evening, I managed to adopt a total of four GISHWHES teams. I already wrote and sent stories for the first three teams (and I must say, I’m pleased with how those stories turned out!) Going to write the fourth tomorrow, and any more that come in (a couple of other folks expressed interest.) I also raised almost $100 extra for my campaign, and exposed it to a whole bunch of new readers because so many people were kind enough to retweet my offer.

My offer is still open to interested GISHWHES teams. And there are other options, too. Lots of other great writers are willing to work with you — including the above-mentioned Michael Burstein, and Nathaniel Lee, who is the master of micro-fiction! So please, take advantage of our skills and our imaginations. So long as there’s a fair quid pro quo involved.



New Trends In Sci-Fi and Fantasy panel at Kickstarter HQ

July 30, 2014


Are you in the NYC area? Would you like to visit Kickstarter headquarters in Brooklyn and hear me and several other SF/F editors speak live in a FREE event?

Join us for a panel followed by some socializing and drinks this coming Thursday. Here are the details of this event:


Kickstarter Presents: New Trends In Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Thursday August 7 | 7 to 9:30pm

Kickstarter HQ

58 Kent Street

Brooklyn NY 11222


The line-up is:

Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld magazine

Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, editors of the Long Hidden anthology

Alex Shvartsman, editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series

Brian White, editor of Fireside magazine

Margot Atwell (moderator), publishing community manager at Kickstarter

This is a FREE event, however there is limited seating available, so RSVP now to reserve a spot!


Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

July 28, 2014

I’m very excited to announce my upcoming short story collection, “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories,” forthcoming in February 2015 in trade paperback and e-book formats. Here’s your first look at the cover, with art by Dixon Leavitt and graphic design by Emerson Matsuuchi. We may still tinker with some of the typesetting, but it’s very near-final.

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman

Ken Liu has graciously agreed to write the introduction to this book, and some other great people are on board to help out (but I don’t want to spoil all the cool stuff at once!)

The physical book will contain approximately 40 short stories (including at least one previously unpublished story unique to this collection). The e-book, in addition to these stories, will include nearly 20 more, offering my complete body of published work from when I began writing fiction in 2010 and until recently (part of the reason for the February release date is to wait for the exclusive rights to expire on as many stories as possible, so they can be included). Each story is going to include author notes — commentary tidbits and (hopefully) interesting anecdotes that relate to the stories. I’ve had so many stories published, reprinted, translated, etc. — but this will be the first time they’re collected together!

To that end, I’m also launching a Kickstarter campaign to help defray the costs of copy editing, original illustrations, and–if we venture into stretch goals territory–some other very cool stuff such as an audiobook version and additional original stories.

If you would like to get a copy of this collection, it would be of significant help to me if you were to pre-order it via Kickstarter rather than waiting until it’s released in February. The more funds I’m able to raise, the better I can make this book.  There are lots of other cool rewards for the backers, too. Notably, every pledge (even if you only pledge a dollar) will receive a FREE e-book 0f Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse, a space opera anthology I co-edited with Bill Snee for Deorc Enterprises.

Dark Expanse cover

Even if you can’t pledge  now, please check out the campaign anyhow. There is a video of me in my natural habitat (aka living room), links to some free fiction, and lots of corny jokes. I would also greatly appreciate a signal boost — let your friends (and enemies) know about this book. That way, they can back it, and you can borrow their copy!

I’ve put in what feels like infinite hours editing anthologies of other authors’ work, and while I love doing that, unleashing an entire book of my own fiction onto the world is a really big deal to me. I hope people like it.




New Publication: Seven Conversations in Locked Rooms

April 18, 2014


The premier issue of Fantasy Scroll is out, featuring stories by Ken Liu, KJ Kabza and others. It includes my short story “Seven Conversations in Locked Rooms” which was originally published in the Memory Eater anthology, but never before made available online. You can read the story here.

Fantasy Scroll is currently in it’s final week on Kickstarter, so if you like the content of the magazine, consider supporting them there.

And since I’ve been a little negligent about reporting recent acceptances, here are a few stories of mine you can expect to read in coming months:

“Notes on the Game in Progress, Played Almost to a Draw” – a Roger Zelazny homage flash story, was accepted at Daily Science Fiction

“One-Sided Argument” was accepted at Nature

“Icarus Falls,” a longer story, was accepted at Daily Science Fiction just yesterday.




UFO3 is Funded

February 18, 2014

image description

The UFO3 Kickstarter campaign has funded! 263 people raised $8052, allowing the project to move full speed ahead with no cutbacks in the amount of stories and illustrations I hope to include.

This was a true photo finish. We were $500 short with an hour to go, and $300 short with 30 minutes to go. We reached full funding literally five minutes before the time ran out! For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, the project must reach 100% of its funding goal or the creator gets nothing at all to work with — so you can imagine what a stressful wild ride those last couple of hours were. But, all is well that ends well.

I am finishing work on the Dark Expanse anthology for Deorc Enterprise (more on that very soon) and am looking forward to reading UFO3 submissions very soon now! The submission window is going to open on March 1. Meantime, a huge thank you to everyone who supported this campaign!


UFO3 Kickstarter Ending Soon

February 16, 2014

image description

UFO3 Kickstarter campaign will be ending on Tuesday evening.

As of the time I’m writing this, we raised just about $5500 but there’s still a long way to go. If you like the series and would like to see it continue and prosper, please consider pre-ordering your copy of UFO3 through the campaign instead of waiting until the book is released. Getting access to the funds early will allow me to invest into buying more stories, promoting the book and the series better, and commissioning more pieces of interior art.

In addition to all the UFO books there are unique cool rewards available, such as becoming a character in stories written by Gini Koch and by me,  getting a critique for one of your own stories, or even having your name mentioned in the foreword.

There are also prints of the gorgeous cover art above, which can be added to any pledge level for an additional $10.

I really enjoy editing the UFO series. Although I hope it will turn a profit someday, I have not taken any pay to date, and have invested a lot of my own money on top of what’s been raised via Kickstarter to publish and market previous volumes. UFO is growing, but at this rate it will be a few years yet before it becomes self-sustained (especially since I want to keep raising the pay rate for authors as aggressively as possible).  So if you’re able to help out — whether by pledging any amount, or letting other readers know about the campaign — please do. Thank you!


Some Good News for UFO2

January 28, 2014


I just got word from Barnes & Noble — they are going to be carrying UFO2 (alongside UFO1) in their physical stores!

This is a pretty big deal. Few books from very small publishers like UFO Publishing are accepted for placement in physical B&N locations. They’ve been carrying UFO1 for about a year now, and I’ve received reports of it appearing in places like Texas and New Hampshire.  This, combined with the best Amazon sales month ever, is really good news for the long-term viability of the series.

Of course, it takes a wheelbarrow of money to put together each book. That’s why Kickstarter has been so instrumental. It doesn’t cover 100% of the costs, but it covers a large enough chunk to make it possible for me to do All The Things in order to produce the best book I can.

To that end, I’ve been doing a bit of a media blitz, promoting the current Kickstarter campaign, such as this interview.  I’ll be appearing on a few more blogs and podcasts in coming weeks to drum up support.

Also, SF Signal is running a giveaway for copies of UFO1 and UFO2. Click here for details!




UFO3 Cover Art and Kickstarter

January 19, 2014


image description

I’m thrilled to share cover art and the line-up of headliners for UFO3 with the world today! Although not yet listed on the cover mockup, NYT bestselling author David Farland just joined the list of headliners earlier this week. We’ll add his name on there shortly!

The Kickstarter campaign for the book launched today, with many lofty goals. I appreciate the help of anyone able to pledge, but even if you can’t spend the extra dough, please help by letting as many new people know about the UFO books as possible!

Click here to visit the Kickstarter page.



Things I’m Geeking Out About Today

July 18, 2013

This is not, strictly speaking, a writing-related post, but there are lots of cool pop-culture news I found out about today that make me smile, and I figured many of my readers would enjoy them, too:

Simpsons / Family Guy Crossover

FOX announced that they will air a Family Guy episode in Fall 2014 where the Simpsons are going to meet the Griffins.  The only thing that’s not awesome about that? Waiting over a year to see it!

Ain’t it Cool News is one of the many sites that has details as well as some videos for you to peruse.

Name of the Wind TV Series

The popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones is already paying off dividends for the rest of us. 20th Century Fox will produce a TV series based on Patrick Rothfuss’ epic novel series.  I’m still waiting on HBO’s adaptation of “American Gods” as well, but this is definitely another one of those must-try shows for me, and yay for more epic fantasy coming to prime time. has the news.

Firefly MMO

Firefly MMO social role playing game has been announced, and they’re already taking sign-ups.


As a certified, card-carrying fanboy, I’m very pleased with all of these developments. More days like this one, please!



On a completely unrelated note, Daily Science Fiction launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday. They publish a ton of excellent material and all of it is available online for free. They also pay their authirs very competitive rates, respond to submissions promptly, and treat writers the way every market should. Please consider supporting them, and you can even get physical books of their stories as a reward. I own the Year 1 book and it’s enormous!

Click here to view their Kickstarter campaign.



Good News Galore

July 15, 2013

So many good news to report lately, so little time to blog. I’m going to use this post to catch up:


* “A Gnomish Gift” was published in issue 361 of Weird Tales, out this week.  Weird Tales has been around for approximately ever, and has published the likes of Howard and Bradbury, so appearing on their pages is a special treat for me. Having cool original artwork drawn for my story (love the angry little gnome!) and sharing the TOC with the likes of Peter S. Beagle and Tanith Lee? That’s just a bonus:


* Sold “Worldbuilding” to Daily Science Fiction.

dsf“Worldbuilding” is a tongue-in-cheek flash story that makes fun of the common SF tropes. Daily SF is a great home for it, and it will be my sixth story appearing under the DSF rocket.

* “A Shard Glows in Brooklyn” will be reprinted two more times. In September it will appear in an e-book anthology Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in NYC edited by Donna Ansari. This is a charity project and all proceeds will be donated to City Harvest.  This same story is also going to appear in the Write1Sub1 anthology, whenever that ends up getting put together.

* The Coffee anthology reached its initial funding goal on Kickstarter! There is approximately a week left in the campaign, and any additional contributions will help me buy more original fictions at professional rates. If we reach $2000, a cool final stretch goal will be unlocked!

* In related news, The Coffee anthology is open to both reprint and original submissions. I am getting a steady stream of stories and responding promptly, so send something while there isn’t a long queue 🙂

* UFO2 is off to the designer. I hope to have ARCs ready by the end of the month.

* Beyond the Sun anthology is off to the printer and should be shipping in August.

* I return to the DJ Grandpa podcast this week and we talk about Coffee, anthologies, and the challenges of crowdfunding. DJ Grandpa is one of the best–if not the best–crowdfunding podcast around. Be sure to check it out!


* There’s a new book store opening up in NYC (in Astoria, Queens to be precise), specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries. The owners want to build it up it as a cool local hangout, where people can not only buy books, but also socialize and participate in fun special events.  The soft launch is this coming weekend, and while they’re still working on a web site, you can visit their Facebook page for updates. Local book stores are a rare breed these days, and local stores specializing in genre even more so.  So stop by the Enigma Bookstore and help support these brave entrepreneurs!

Well, there you go. It’s been a busy week. I hope to report more good news soon, but for now — back to writing!