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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 10:05 am:   

I am editing a themed anthology and am inviting submissions.

Let me state right off the bat that regrettably, there is no money involved. The only payment the writers will get is a copy of the anthology. On the plus side, I am accepting reprints also, and the rights to the stories - originals or reprints - revert back to the writers.

However, I hope you will find the theme intriguing enough to pique your interests.

The guidelines can be found here: http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com/?entryid=223.

Best.

Ahmed A. Khan
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William Lexner
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 01:42 pm:   

You have got to be kidding.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 02:36 pm:   

Ahmed,

Best of luck. I do know one person who writes stuff like that, and I'll pass your submission call along.

It's nice to think nice people will win out, but it does it sound rather improbable, and to be honest, kind of boring. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I find really "nice" people a total snore. As well, my experience has been that it's the nice ones you got to watch out for: their knives are sheathed in silk. You never see the blow coming because you're fooled into thinking they're incarnate angels.

Anyway, good luck. I'll bet you get tons of submissions. Wish fulfillment of that sort seems to be taking over the culture.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 03:10 pm:   

Thank you for your comments, Bronwyn. But the kind of people you are talking about - they are not really nice, are they?

And William, what am I kidding about?
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 04:45 pm:   

Ahmed,

Perhaps that's my point: people who are utterly commited to being nice at all costs seem unreal, because a) they're denying the animal part of themselves that will surface when the chips are down, b) they deny that they possess human feelings like greed, jealously, and so on, and c) they tend to project all those ungly disowned feelings onto the "other." It's always somebody else who's evil . . . never them.

By far the nicest friend I ever had turned out to be the worst snake in the grass; by far my friend who has been deemed by some as cynical to a murderous degree is the most generous and caring person I have ever known. And he's a brilliant writer to boot. Way underappreciated in my view, though he gets by financially well enough. I just don't understand why he doesn't sell like hotcakes.

I guess that I simply don't believe in nice people: I believe there are people who do good in spite of the ugly feelings inherent to all human beings.

Regarding the theme of your antho, I suppose it's possible it might work. But the nice people would have to be shown fighting some serious internal moral battles for me to believe it. I simply haven't seen any so-called nice people actually do that. They seem to me a bit too rightously proud of themselves to even admit they could stoop to hatred or envy.

I am somewhat curious as to how these writers will make your theme work in a way that's believeable. I think it's huge challenge.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Saturday, December 02, 2006 - 08:57 pm:   

Bronwyn,

I totally agree with you on several points, particularly the one about the nice people fighting some serious internal moral battles.

I also agree that the theme is a huge challenge. And in fact this challenge is what is making this antho so exciting for me.

With reference to the example that you gave, the matter once again comes down to a proper definition of the word "nice". Let us use your writer friend as an example of "nice" and go from there.
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peter staw
Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 11:54 am:   

Hmmm. I have met some thoroughly likeable people who appear to have done nothing but good in the time I've known them. And no-one else has said anything about them that has even remotely changed, or appears to have been intended to change, my opinion of them. One trait - and it could even be called a fault of 'nice people', in a cynical way - is that of 'naivety'. Nice people are naive, I've found.
I wonder that a nice person probably would win the day without harming a 'nasty person', or by harming in the least painful way. Maybe nice people couldn't win because they wouldn't know how to. But maybe they will because they know they have to.
Perhaps the demon-fighting is met by a strong person with good intentions. Perhaps weak people allow the demons to take over, or win. I don't know. But it's quite a challenging idea to explore, whatever the eventual outcome in terms of ideas.
'You have got to be kidding' is not a 'nice' way to bury someone's idea, so I hope it doesn't! ;-)
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 04:21 pm:   

Peter,

Are you saying that these likeable people don't have dark thoughts? If so, I guess I live on another planet. Doing good is one thing; perpetually thinking good thoughts is another.

I do agree with you that those who focus solely on goodness, that is, on seeing the goodness in others, often miss seeing humanity's dark underbelly. Maybe that's a good thing; ignorance is bliss, they say.
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peter staw
Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 05:35 pm:   

Bronwyn,
Not sure I can agree with certainty that some people do not have dark thoughts. Surely there are degrees of darkness and light, perhaps to the point that it would be wrong to call something dark or light. And there is something in the human psyche that has compelled storytellers, from the year zero until now, to create characters who are good, with no room for dark thoughts. I am, and always will be, in love with Snow White and can never come to terms with the idea that she harboured dark thoughts :-) Of course, she isn't real. But she is created with the intention of us believing that she is real. Suspension of disbelief, for me, wasn't too difficult. And she won!
People recognise goodness in others, and in reality believe that they are good. The dark stuff just doesn't materialise. Something is telling us that these people do exist in reality, otherwise we wouldn't keep creating them.
Snow White is the proof that stories of the kind Ahmed is seeking can be done. And they can endure. (Come to think of it, I had a sneaking fancy for Cinderella, too lol) I'm probably harbouring dark thoughts ;-)
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 09:13 pm:   

Thank you for your nice and interesting comments, Peter. Hope the challenge inspires you to write a story.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 10:53 pm:   

Peter,

Well then, I suppose we can agree to disagree. ;-)

I'll add, however, that maybe the reason we create Snow Whites is because we need to believe such pristine goodness is possible. As an admirer of Gandhi, Buddha and Jesus as flesh and blood examples of compassion incarnate, I cannot help but think that the struggle between light and dark is not at all like Snow White's journey. Did Snow White ever once get righteously angry at the injustice done to her? Not that I recall. And when I think of Jesus' haunting words on the cross, Father, why have you forsaken me?, I think of it in terms of sacrilegious doubt, a dark spot on his shining face. It's a remarkable statement regarding a loss of faith coming from the very man who claimed to be the son of god. And that momentarily lapse of his omnipotent faith and power makes him all the more endearing, to me at least. Same thing with Buddha crying over the death of his mother, which prompted his monks to exclaim in despair, But how can you, the enlightened one, weep copiously over mortality? Buddha's answer: It's only my body that is weeping. As a friend of mine once said: Darkness makes the stars visible.
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peter staw
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 04:20 am:   

But Buddha, didn't create the darkness, he only saw it as it was. Being human, I hope, doesn't mean that you have to have some darkness within you, though you can feel it. Jesus was human, too - it's why it all 'got to him', in the end. He experienced the pain and despair, and saw and felt the darkness and evil around him. A perfectly human response, but not perhaps a dark one? He was asking for help. Something I'm receiving, as everyone's thoughts are helping me understand more about what I'm writing. :-))))
Not sure I can write the kind of story you're after, Ahmed. I'd love to, but I'm in the middle of other works - it's why I'm here, just searching!
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Daniel Ausema
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 08:32 am:   

I'm not sure the question of good or evil thoughts really plays into this, as I read the guidelines anyway. I can't say I'm a fan of *nice* exactly either, but it seems to me that kind and cooperative people could easily out-survive the cutthroat SOBs, as you call them. And kind or cooperative or nice can only be known by their actions--they might have dark and terrible thoughts but still act cooperatively. And then which are they, *nice* or *SOB's*?

Evolutionarily, since we're twisting an evolutionary catchphrase, it's certainly been shown that in many circumstances, a sort of altruism (niceness, I guess) is in the interest of a community, makes evolutionary success more likely. And it's something I've seen played out in countless groups I've worked with when I worked in experiential education. So if I were to do something, I'd begin with that thought in mind.

Ahmed, do you have this posted over at Ralan's? He accepts non-paying anthologies, and you'll get the word out well with it posted there. Not sure I will do anything--I usually avoid non-paying markets--but I won't shut down an idea if one comes.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 08:39 am:   

Daniel, I emailed to Ralan and received his e-form. Hopefully, I will email it back to him today and have the guidelines up at Ralan.com by tomorrow or day after.
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Bobby Sample
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 10:49 am:   

This topic is very interesting -- I think most of the conversation dances around definitions of "nice" that vary person to person. Lately, the word isn't used much as a synonym for "honorable" or "interesting" or even "good" but in our day to day life we know nice when we see it, and most of us prefer it to the alternative. It's the fictional "nice" that leaves us all suspicious -- whether in real life or on the page. I'm going to toss in the conceit that a nice character has as much potential to be fun, interesting and/or sympathetic as a "bad" or "flawed" character according to the above descriptions. It always depends on the truthful spirit of the writing. Truly "nice" people have a hell of a stack of challenges in today's world, let alone some supposed more savage world where the stakes rise even higher against them. Isn't the notion of high stakes the core of the best story? Also, nods to the one who mentioned naivete -- this can actually be an entertaining quality of a character in a fictional treatment. And, of course, it stacks more odds against him.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 10:52 am:   

Bingo! I think you have hit the nail right on the head, Bobby. I agree with your analysis.
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Bobby Sample
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 10:57 am:   

Just remembered this: a wonderful story by Susan Palwick called "The Fate of Mice" I read in a Best Science Fiction of the Year 2006 anthology. The naivete of the main character -- who's about as nice as any believable character is going to get -- is a key element of the plot he finds himself in. The unhinging of part of this naivete creates an epiphany or deciding point for him that turns the story. I found his predicament both highly entertaining and suspenseful to the very last line.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 05:38 pm:   

"I'll add, however, that maybe the reason we create Snow Whites is because we need to believe such pristine goodness is possible."

Snow White gives young women a role model to follow in order to make them more pliable to the whims of the prevailing patriarchy. Be all passive, do your work, and if the evil queen gets mad, don't worry. There's a prince to save you. Nice is what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be. Nice is for chumps.
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Bobby Sample
Posted on Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - 10:47 am:   

Hmm... I guess I have trouble equating "nice" with "pristine goodness." The latter seems implausible, and sounds like it would make a boring story beyond its uses for irony, parody, hypocrisy, and so on.

"Nice is for chumps" may be a valid point. Where a nice character is caught in an exciting story, some sort of victimization is often the crisis at hand; unrealistic expectations of others or some failing of self-reliance can create crises as well. Not that this harms a story -- if it's written well, these character failings add to the plot and increase its tension.

On the other hand, short of "pristine goodness" one can also expect "nice" to allow some practical level of self defense for the good of self and community (think Kane in "Kung Fu" -- sticking to his Buddhist principals but letting the kicks fly when his back's to the wall). This is not an uncommon setup for post-apocalypse tales: the decent, old-fashioned community bracing for the invasion of the Mad Max types.

This discussion appears to keep winding back to problems with "nice" that involve new definitions of the word. "Nice is what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be" is a powerful statement (maybe a cool basis for a story as well) but requires a strong sense of irony to appreciate. Many satirical applications of this statement spring to mind that apply truthfully to our everyday world. For example, "Patriotic" is also what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be. But for the statement to be true, you have to leave in those quotation marks.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - 02:58 pm:   

"Hmm... I guess I have trouble equating 'nice' with "pristine goodness." The latter seems implausible, and sounds like it would make a boring story beyond its uses for irony, parody, hypocrisy, and so on."

"Pristine goodness" translated to a fairy tale female would be "nice virgin."

"For example, 'Patriotic' is also what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be."

Patriotic is what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be when the people with power aren't satisfied with the status quo.

Nice is what the people who have power want the people who have no power to be when the people who have power are satisfied with the status quo.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 09:25 am:   

"Pristine goodness" translated to a fairy tale female would be "nice virgin."

Snow White to a T. Snow White being the definition of nice was Peter's, btw.
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peter staw
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 11:55 am:   

Is pristine goodness the correct description for nice virgin? Maybe.
Would nice virgin be a correct description of Snow White? Sounds like a criticism, more than a recommendation!
I wonder that the two descriptions mean, or suggest, different shades of things.
I do recall saying that Snow White is a perfect example of a story with a 'nice' person winning at the end. What end of the spectrum the word 'nice' can be stretched to belongs to each individual, and I would say that Snow White was definitely nice. (And in the context of Ahmed's request, an example of what can be achieved.)
I would also agree, as has been suggested, that Snow White could be described as being full of pristine goodness, or displaying a nature indicating pristine goodness.
But 'nice virgin'? Heavens no, Bronwyn! I couldn't devalue the main character of one of the greatest children's stories ever with a description such as that! It wouldn't be very nice ;-)
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 03:03 pm:   

Okay. Very nice virgin.
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peter staw
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 03:16 pm:   

lol Only just stopped myself starting a discussion on the nature of 'very'!!!!
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006 - 08:20 pm:   

Peter,

You are obviously very, very, VERY nice.

I got way too much darkness in my nature to even comprehend your definition of nice. :-) The daimon that compells my writing is like a mutant mix of Zorro, Hades and the Grim Reaper. Snow White never cut it for me, even as a kid. Grimm's fairy tales, that's more my speed.

Different strokes for different folks.
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peter staw
Posted on Friday, December 08, 2006 - 12:30 pm:   

lol Bronwyn, I'm sure there are many who wouldn't remotely describe me as nice. The devil's advocate in me can make me rather a prickly so-and-so. So that makes you even nicer for saying it ;-
Hey, I wouldn't mind reading some of your stuff if you fancy letting me have some. I'm sure if they're even half as good as your posts, then I'm in for a treat.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Saturday, December 09, 2006 - 08:53 am:   

Your comment is very kind. I'm flattered you ask to read to my work.

Due to past circumstances, however, I'm afraid that I very rarely share unpublished work, 'cept with a couple of hardnosed and extremely tight-lipped, non sci-fi reading English profs at UBC. Sorry. Please don't take it personally.

I suppose you might be able to find my few published stories. But I should warn you that of the three, two are extremely dark and disturbing.

"Blueblood" published in WOTF, volume VIII, the first story I ever wrote, is a twist on vampirism and over-the-top lush, in other words purple. "Feel No Evil", a psychologically gruesome story about a sadistic working class who feed off suffering as a form of entertainment, published in Talebones, #8 (or 9?). (Received an honorable mention from Gardner Dozois in his year's best.) "The Last Crow", published in the ten year anniversary issue of Absolute Magnitude (Summer/fall 2003), is about an old Indian woman who faces the loss of her totem animal in a changing environment, is probably more your style, being a heroic tale involving self-sacrifice. Come to think of it, this story might even oddly fit Ahmed's criterion, since there's more than one way to skin a cat or save the world.

Neither Feel No Evil nor The Last Crow are available online, sad to say.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Friday, December 15, 2006 - 01:24 pm:   

A little update on the anthology: So far I have finalized 3 stories, 2 of them from name authors, who have my heartfelt thanks: Robert J. Sawyer and Phyllis Gottlieb.
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - 01:40 pm:   

Update on the anthology:

Contentwise, it is almost there - about 90% complete.

Coverwise, it is done. You can view it by cutting and pasting the following url in your browser. Somehow, it does not work if you just click it.
http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/fictiononline/FallRiseBLACK.jpg

The cover has been designed by Michele Murray of AllOneRiverArtWorks.com.

Best.

Ahmed
http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 07:42 pm:   

"Fall and Rise", the anthology of post apocalyptic fiction, is out now and orders are being shipped. The author's copies are being mailed out. Details of the anthology can be found at http://www.whortleberrypress.com. If anyone wants to order copies, please email me at ai_59(at)yahoo.com.

Ahmed
http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com

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