Odyssey Podcast #136: John Joseph Adams

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #136

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

John is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award (for which he has been a finalist twelve times) and an eight-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble, and his books have been lauded as some of the best anthologies of all time.

In addition to his anthology work, John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare. Prior to taking on that role, John worked for nine years in the editorial department of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

John has written reviews for Publishers WeeklyKirkus ReviewsLocus MagazineAmazing StoriesAudible.comStrange Horizons, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His other nonfiction writing has appeared in venues such as io9Syfy WireTor.com, and Wired.com. John is also currently a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. He also served as a judge for the 2015 National Book Award.

For more information, visit his website at johnjosephadams.com, and you can find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by John Joseph Adams. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott

Award-winning author Melissa Scott will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Melissa was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and studied history at Harvard College. She earned her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in the comparative history program with a dissertation titled “The Victory of the Ancients: Tactics, Technology, and the Use of Classical Precedent.” She also sold her first novel, The Game Beyond, and quickly became a part-time graduate student and an—almost—full-time writer.

Over the next thirty years, she published more than thirty original novels and a handful of short stories, most with queer themes and characters, as well as authorized tie-in work for Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Star Wars Rebels, and Rooster Teeth’s anime series gen:LOCK. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1986, and won Lambda Literary Awards for Trouble and Her Friends, Shadow Man, Point of Dreams (with longtime partner and collaborator, the late Lisa A. Barnett), and Death By Silver, written with Amy Griswold. She has also been shortlisted for the Tiptree Award. She won Spectrum Awards for Death by Silver, Fairs’ Point, Shadow Man, and for the short story “The Rocky Side of the Sky.”

Lately, she has collaborated with Jo Graham on the Order of the Air, a series of occult adventure novels set in the 1930s (Lost Things, Steel Blues, Silver Bullet, Wind Raker, and Oath Bound) and with Amy Griswold on a pair of gay Victorian fantasies with murder, Death by Silver and A Death at the Dionysus Club. She has also continued the acclaimed Points series, fantasy mysteries set in the imaginary city of Astreiant, most recently with Point of Sighs. Her latest short story, “Sirens,” appeared in the collection Retellings of the Inland Seas, and her text-based game for Choice of Games, A Player’s Heart, came out in 2019. Her most recent solo novel, Finders, was published at the end of 2018, and she is currently at work on the next book in the sequence, Fallen.


Your first novel was published in 1984. What advice do you have for writers looking to achieve a long career?

I think for me the most important thing has been to stay active in and involved with the genre, as a reader and a fan as well as a writer. By staying involved as a fan, I mean making an effort to find new works that I can get fannish about, that spark of pure delight, that make you want to stay up all night reading or spend hours parsing all the details with your friends. It’s finding the next book that’s going to go on my “re-read every year” list. Without renewing that spark, there’s a danger of getting bored or falling out of step with the field. That’s not to say that you have to join every new trend—for example, I’m not very excited by YA as a writer, though I’ll happily read it; the singularity was a fascinating concept but did nothing for me as a storyteller—but it’s vital to know what’s happening and why. The genre is constantly evolving. To stay active, you have to evolve with it.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott”

Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland

David Farland will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. David is an international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print.

He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for Best SF novel of the year, the Whitney Award for Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the year, among others. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

He is the lead judge for one of the world’s largest writing competitions and has helped dozens of writers launch their careers, including such well-known names as Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, and Stephenie Meyer.

You can learn about his workshops and sign up for his free advice column at www.mystorydoctor.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

There isn’t one piece of advice that everyone needs. Putting together a writing career is like putting together a puzzle. So I try to talk to a writer and figure out what the one piece of advice that author needs is.

For example, with Brandon Sanderson, he really just needed to believe that he could make writing a career, so we worked on that. For Stephenie Meyer, we analyzed her intended market and how to break into it. For James Dashner, he needed to transition from a low-paying market writing sports tie-ins to writing science fiction for a wider audience, and so on.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland”

Graduate Essay: Linden A. Lewis, “How to Create a Novel from a Short Story”

LindenALewisOFFICIALAuthorPhotoLinden A. Lewis is a queer writer and world wanderer currently living in Madrid with three American cats who have little kitty passports. Tall and tattooed, Linden exists only because they’ve stopped burning witches. Linden graduated the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016, and their first novel, The First Sister, will be released by Skybound Books in Spring 2020.


I was in the query trenches for over a year when I realized I needed to focus on something else. The novel I had poured my heart and soul into brought only rejection after rejection—or even worse, silence—and I was falling deeper into what I thought of as “writer’s depression,” or the belief that I would never write something good enough. Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Linden A. Lewis, “How to Create a Novel from a Short Story””

Final 2016 Odyssey Online Course Deadline + New Podcasts

OdboatThank you to all those who have registered for the winter online writing classes with Jeanne Cavelos and Barbara Ashford!

There is still time to register for “Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot,” taught by David B. Coe, author of The Thieftaker Chronicles (writing as D.B. Jackson), the LonTobyn Chronicle, a trilogy that was awarded the William L. Crawford Award for best new fantasy series, the Winds of the Forelands series, and the Blood of the Southlands trilogy.

Odyssey Online helps you to learn new techniques and build your skills, and provides in-depth feedback to guide you.  If you’re ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them, you’d be welcome to apply.

Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot

Course Meets:  January 21 – February 18, 2016
Instructor:  David B. Coe
Application Deadline:  December 26, 2015
Level:  Beginner/Intermediate

Of all the many tools writers have at their disposal, perhaps none is more powerful, or more overlooked, than point of view. Often thought of simply as the perspective through which a story is told, it is actually far, far more.  It is the mechanism by which we guide our readers through the plot points, narrative arcs, and emotions of our fiction. It is the place where all of our storytelling elements–character, plot, setting, prose–come together. And point of view can also provide solutions to some of the most common problems encountered by aspiring writers and professionals alike. Award-winning author David B. Coe, highly praised mentor and teacher of fiction writing, will show how weaknesses in point of view can undermine an entire story.

We will begin our discussion of point of view by looking at the many factors that go into choosing the correct point of view character or characters for our stories, as well as the proper voice for those characters. We will then move to the study of how point of view influences not only character arc, but also our establishment of plotting, setting, and pacing. We’ll explore the challenges in writing from the point of view of non-human characters and characters from alien cultures. Finally we will conclude the course with an exploration of the ways in which POV can be used to address a host of common problems writers encounter in their work.


Resources abound at the Odyssey Workshop home! Visit the Odyssey Podcasts page for downloadable lectures on a whole variety of writing-related topics. Recent podcasts include:

  • “Making It Real” by E.C. Ambrose (#87 and #88), who discusses the importance of worldbuilding, setting, details, and POV.
  • “Productivity for Writers” by Alex Hughes (#85 and #86).  Alex Hughes shares how to prioritize writing and strategies for focusing on getting words on the page.  Alex will also be leading our first live webinar in February 2016. See the details and register here!
  • “Characterization” by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (#83 and #84). Guest lecturers at the 2014 Summer Workshop, Ellen and Delia talked about writing characters with your own heart and insight, and creating in depth, complex characters.

Odyssey Podcasts #76 (Alex Jablokov) and #75 (Holly Black)

Jablokov Black podcastEvery month or two, the Odyssey Writing Workshop releases new podcasts created from excerpts from lectures given by guest writers, editors, and agents at the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Each one is ten to fifteen minutes long.

Our two newest podcasts feature authors and guest lecturers Alexander Jablokov (Brain Thief), from the 2014 summer workshop, and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), from the 2013 summer workshop.  Alexander discusses how a character functions within a plot, and the many conventions authors use to present believable characters, while Holly explains how to create a magic system.

Other available podcasts include:

  • Carrie Vaughn: Goal-setting for writers (#38)
  • Lori Perkins: Agents, what they do, and what to look for in an agent (#37)
  • Sheila Williams: Qualities of short story openings (#74)
  • Nancy Holder: Short fiction and novel contracts; advances and royalties (#72 & #73)
  • Lane Robins: Outlining techniques (#64)
  • Craig Shaw Gardner: Writing humor in science fiction and fantasy (#18)
  • Melissa Scott: Worldbuilding techniques (#5 & #21)

These podcasts and many more are available for free on the OdboatcleanedupOdyssey Podcast page at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html.  Here you may browse and download podcasts, or subscribe to podcasts so you automatically receive them upon release.

Odyssey Podcasts can also be found in the iTunes store (for free): https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/odyssey-sf-f-writing-workshop/id213992784?mt=2.

Podcast #26: Allen M. Steele

Podcast #26 is now available for download here.

At Odyssey 2005, Allen M. Steele lectured on building a world’s environment. In this excerpt from his lecture, Allen takes writers through the process of creating a believable, realistic world, using the setting from his “Coyote” novels as an example. He explains how to use scientific discoveries as a basis for setting, and how to use real-life locations as inspirations for your imaginary land. He talks about common problems in invented settings, such as the homogeneous world and the habitable planet that has no atmosphere-generating volcanoes. From designing the solar system to the geography of the planet to the plants and animals, Allen covers the important elements necessary to creating an entire environment. If the author does it correctly, he can create a setting that “sucks the reader’s eyeballs out of his head and pulls him into story.”

Allen M. SteeleAllen M. Steele was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his B.A. in Communications from New England College in Henniker, NH, and his M.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. His novels and short fiction collections include Orbital Decay, Labyrinth of Night, Oceanspace, Chronospace, The Last Science Fiction Writer, and the “Coyote” series—Coyote, Coyote Rising, Coyote Frontier, and, most recently, Coyote Horizon.

His work has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in many anthologies. He was First Runner-Up for the 1990 John W. Campbell Award, and Orbital Decay won the 1990 Locus Award for Best First Novel. He’s won two Hugo Awards (’96, ’97), two Locus Awards, four Asimov’s Readers Awards, the Analog AnLab Award, the 1996 Science Fiction Weekly Reader Appreciation Award, and 1998 Science Fiction Chronicle Readers Award as well as the 1993 Donald A. Wollheim Award and the 2002 Phoenix Award. Steele serves on the Board of Advisors for the Space Frontier Foundation.

He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife Linda and their two dogs. To learn more about Steele and his work, just visit his website at http://www.allensteele.com/.

Odyssey Resources for Writers

Podcast #21 is now up at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html. Award-winning author Melissa Scott explores the various ways you can show your fantasy or science-fiction world to the reader without stopping the story to explain.

For those who aren’t yet ready to attend Odyssey, or can’t get away for six weeks, or would like a taste of the Odyssey experience, we offer the Odyssey Critique Service. You can find more details here: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/crit.html.