For years I’ve been bookmarking useful websites with the intention of sharing these resources with the (writing) world at large. Please note this is a work in progress and I will be adding links and annotating them as I get time – and, periodically, checking to make sure the links still work.
If you have any suggestions for additions, please post a comment on this page and at some indeterminate point I’ll get around to checking out your suggestions – but as this is a curated collection (i.e. stuff I’ve personally found useful), I reserve the right to ignore your suggestions in much the same way my son ignores almost all of my suggestions on personal grooming.
- Ralan.com – Market listing for speculative genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror and many other genres and sub-genres). Includes listing for short fiction (organized by pay rate: pro, semi-pro, pay and token), book length works, and contests. I am reluctant to enter contests unless the contest has no entry fee and the rights grab is reasonable. However, there is one contest that is worth entering, if only because there is no rights grab at all, and the (very reasonable $5) entry fee supports an organization I think is worthy of support:
- The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest . “The Merril Collection, originally the Spaced Out Library and later renamed for the late Judith Merril, is the foremost North American public assemblage of Speculative, SF and Fantasy Fiction and is an invaluable tool for enthusiasts, researchers and authors.” Note: this link is currently dead, which suggests the contest hasn’t been run in the last few years. If you know its status (moved, morphed or cancelled?) let me know and I’ll update as appropriate.
- For other Canadian contests (largely literary magazines), there is a good listing on the CBC website in their Books sections.
- The Submission Grinder – “The Submission Grinder is a submission tracker and market database for writers of fiction and poetry.” Just what it says. I’ve kept my own stats on pro markets for a few years because I like sending new work to places that respond the fastest (of course the work must also be a good fit for that market) and my stats are pretty congruent with what you find here.
- Manuscript format for submissions – William Shunn (often cited on submission pages)
- The Writers’ Trust. A site that lists residencies for Canadian writers. Also includes information on other programs for writers.
- SF Canada. “SF Canada exists to foster a sense of community among Canadian writers of speculative fiction, to improve communication, to foster the growth of quality writing, to lobby on behalf of Canadian writers, and to encourage the translation of Canadian speculative fiction.”
- Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA). “Founded in 1965, SFWA is an organization for published authors and industry professionals in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres.”
Contracts ‘n tax ‘n other legal stuff
- SFWA model magazine contract
- Five Things Canadian Writers Should Know About Income Tax
- Tax Deductions for Canadian Writers
- Canada Council. For Canadians.
- Ontario Arts Council. For residents of Ontario.
- Toronto Arts Council. For residents of Toronto.
Other Income (lending and copying rights, etc)
- Public Lending Right Program – “The Public Lending Right (PLR) Program sends yearly payments to creators whose works are in Canada’s public libraries.” For Canadian authors.
- Access Copyright – “We manage licensing, collection of licensing fees and distribution of royalties on your behalf so that you can focus on what you do best – creating! Payback: You will be eligible to receive our annual Payback payment. Each year, all eligible affiliates receive a share of the Payback payment depending on how much they contributed to the repertoire of works licensed by Access Copyright.” For Canadian authors.
- Authors Licensing and Collecting Society – “We make sure you receive the money you’re entitled to as a writer when someone copies or uses your work. We collect money from all over the world, then pay it to our members. ” Similar to Access Copyright, but based in UK. Canadians are eligible to join.
Yes, I still buy books, even though there are few in the list below. Over time, I will add print and ebooks I’ve found most valuable. For now, though, I’m focusing on (mostly free) online resources.
General Reference Works
- Wikipedia, of course. It’s always my starting point, but not the be all and end all when I need more than a cursory overview. When it’s not enough, my next step is to use Google Scholar and search for non-Wikipedia articles. Tip: over the years I’ve found many of my queries have begun with “list of”, “parts of” or “types of” when I need to find the right kind of object or concept (“types of ships”, “types of magic”, “list of religions”, “parts of an engine”, etc).
- Google Scholar. Search engine for both full text and metadata of scholarly work (i.e. peer reviewed journals, conferences, etc).
- Encyclopedia Britannica. Somewhat free. I’ve used it occasionally, probably more because of a nostalgic pang (my parents had the full set) than for any other reason.
- Internet Archive and Wayback Machine. “Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” The Wayback Machine is part of the Internet Archive and contains snapshots of web pages over time. If something you wanted has disappeared from the Internet, you may be able to find it here. Or not.
- Library of Congress Digital Collections
- Courses/lectures on various subjects:
- OpenCourseWare Consortium – Toolkit
- Connexions – Sharing Knowledge and Building Communities
- National Repository of Online Courses (NROC)
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- Academic Earth
- Open Culture – “Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community.”
- Dan Koboldt’s Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy is, “ablog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction. Just as science fiction often has roots in hard sciences — physics, astronomy, genetic engineering, microbiology — fantasy world-building relies on everything from economics to military strategy to animal husbandry. Each week, we discuss elements of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in a relevant topic area. We debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.” A must read if you’re not completely assured in the science you use in your stories. Often points out egregious errors in the use of science/technology.
Biology and Medicine
- Tree of Life Web Project
- This is what happens after you die | Mosaic
- The Body After Death – The Body After Death | HowStuffWorks
- BioDigital: 3D Human Visualization Platform for Anatomy and Disease
- DEA / Drug Fact Sheets
- Mayo Clinic – includes a symptom checker. Pretty sure I don’t have brain cancer….
Geography & Environment & Maps
- David Rumsey Historical Map Collection | The Collection
- Collections with Maps | Library of Congress
- Maps of War
- Virtual Mappa
- The world: 4º C warmer
- ORBIS – Stanford Geospatial Network Model of Roman World. Very cool. I’ll let them explain: “For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.Taking account of seasonal variation and accommodating a wide range of modes and means of transport, ORBIS reveals the true shape of the Roman world and provides a unique resource for our understanding of premodern history.”
- A YouTube video of a map showing the Expansion of the Roman Empire through History.
Society, Architecture, Professions and Life
- Historical Fencing Manuals Online — Swords & Swordsmanship
- Components of medieval armour – Wikipedia
- All Things Medieval – Art, Castles, Weapons, etc
- Medieval Life – Castles, People, Life, Timelines
- Castles and Manor Houses – Life, Food, etc
- The Roman Military
Weapons, War & Violence
- Historical Fencing Manuals Online — Swords & Swordsmanship
- A Study of Assassination – A transcript/manual produced by the CIA in the 1950’s.
- Q & A: Physics Questions? Ask the Van | Department of Physics | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space flight
- Universe Today – Space and Astronomy News. Contains a Guide to Space, an overview of articles on the site organized by topic – solar system, outer space, space exploration, etc.
- Science Alert – “ScienceAlert is an independently run news website that covers the most important developments in the world of science and scientific research, while sharing fun, interesting information.”
- Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets for SF Writers – Everything you’d ever want to know about spaceflight. If you’re setting your work in space, and not absolutely confident in your science, this is the site to visit. Includes sections on spaceship and engine design, mission operations and infrastructure, crew and gear, war in space, and the implications for future spacefaring nations and cultures. This site nicely summarizes a dozen reference books I used to use on the physics of spaceflight, design of space stations, etc (and lists some of these books as suggested reading, including one on “designing” plausible aliens).
- The Physics of Interstellar Travel : Explorations in Science :: Official Website of Dr. Michio Kaku
- A Black Hole Engine That Could Power Spaceships – black holes – io9
- Black Hole Thermodynamics
- An Atlas of The Universe
- NASA Science. Lots of good stuff here on space and space missions/exploration. Of special note for educators is the NASA Image and Video Library. (And audio, too!) “You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.”
- Solar System Exploration. More good stuff from NASA.
- Cosmic Watch App – Very cool. “The Cosmic Watch is an interactive 3D tool. It’s a realtime worldclock, time travel machine, astrolab, antikythera mechanism, orrery, armillary sphere, astral-chart generator and solar system simulator.”
- Habitable Zones. “Using this website, you can calculate the habitable zones of single, binary and multiple star systems.”
- Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. “Launch Pad is a workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a ‘crash course’ for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes.”
- Nasa Image and Video Library. And audio, too! “You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.”
- Worldbuilding Stack Exchange
- “World Anvil is a worldbuilding tool for Authors, Storytellers and worldbuilding lovers.“
- Worldbuilding – Stars, planets, star systems, galaxies and more!
- Build Your Own Earth. “Imagine creating your own world and exploring its climate and weather. That was the vision that we had for Build Your Own Earth. Even with today’s supercomputers, such a vision is not yet feasible. But, we are able to create a few worlds for you and allow you to explore them.”
Language & Dictionaries
- The Free Dictionary. My go to dictionary and thesaurus.
- Dictionary.com. Popular online dictionary.
- Wiktionary. Dictionary with user-contributed content, a la Wikipedia. And, like Wikipedia, take some of the definitions with a grain of salt.
- Urban Dictionary. Sometimes useful dictionary of “street” slang. User contributed, so a mixed bag.
- Google dictionary. Add on to Chrome that allows you to, “view definitions easily as you browse the web.”
- Cambridge English Dictionary. I like this one for its extensive example uses and related words & phrases.
- Visuwords. Visual representation of related words (like a thesaurus). There is a similar feature in The Free Dictionary, but not nearly as sophisticated.
- Netlingo. Dictionary of Internet terms and acronyms.
- 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose – Free Ebook
- The Slang Dictionary: Or, The Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and “Fast” Expressions of High and Low Society… – John Camden Hotten, 1872 – Google Books
- The Racial Slur Database. Need I say more?
- The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases.
- Onomatopoeia Dictionary – Written Sound. More a thesaurus for words that sound like the sound they represent.
- Ingrid Sundberg’s Colour Thesaurus – Web colours vary (for various reasons), so the colours in these charts will look a bit different on different monitors. Nor is this a complete set of colours. Also, some of the colour names given are more like the more fanciful names found on paint chips rather than colour words found in the dictionary (or maybe they’re standard names graphic designers use – who knows?). But if you’re just looking for more descriptive names for shades of basic colours (red, green, blue, white, tan, grey, etc), this can be useful. So long “reddish purple”, hello “fuchsia”!
- Colour Thesaurus. Same thing from a graphic designer. Comes with the same caveats.
- General words used to describe colors – Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus
- Behind the Name: Meaning of Names
- OneLook Dictionary Search
- The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English > What is the New Partridge?
- Appendix:English toilet slang – Wiktionary
- Time Traveler by Merriam-Webster: Search Words by First Known Use Date
- Ngram viewer. Shows frequency of word/phrase use over time. Why is this useful? If your work is set in the past, you can look at this chart to see when certain phrases first came into use and then peaked. Also provides links to uses found in Google Books.
- A Historical Dictionary of American Slang
- Online Slang Dictionary – includes Online Slang Thesaurus
- LibrarySpot.com: Encyclopedias, maps, online libraries, quotations, dictionaries & more.
- Google Translate. I’ve used a few different translators over the years, mostly for Latin/English. I like this one because it has an auto-detect language feature (so I don’t have to hunt for Latin in a drop down list when inputting a Latin phrase) and it seems fairly accurate. One issue I’ve noticed is that it sometimes ignores words with special characters (like “æ”). As with any translator, take its translations with a grain of salt — or you may end up with inaccurate, and sometimes embarrassing, mistranslations. Always best to consult a human expert. (If only I followed my own advice!)
- A Latin-English/English-Latin Dictionary Client (Java or HTTP)
- The Ultimate List of Emotions.
- Random Word Generator. Fun with words! Also makes random phrases, sentences and, best of all, random fake words. Cool.
- freesound. Database of sounds – I know, sounds aren’t words, but I’ve found it helps to listen to a sound before describing it in words.
- Soundsnap. Same as previous.
- Mood music. “Original, 10 minute ambiences and music for your games and stories.” Also includes SoundPad, wherein you can create your own soundscapes. Useful as mood music for writing (if you’re into that sort of thing) and for those who concoct multimedia stories.
Social Media For Readers (and Writers)
Educational (and otherwise) Cool Things I’ve Collected Over the Years
- Miniature Earth
- Hydrogen Atom Scale Model
- The Solar System Scope – “Free online model of solar system and night sky.”
- JOURNEY OF MANKIND – The Peopling of the World
- World Battleground, 1000 years of war in 5 minutes
- YouTube – A Fair(y) Use Tale. A short video on copyright.
- Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee. Large book I’ve never quite finished, but what I’ve read seemed spot on. The principles are of storytelling (for the screen) but the vast majority apply equally well to (on the page) fiction.
On Teaching/Learning Writing
- Coursework Home Page [ the OpenFiction Project ]
- Speculative Fiction Writing Workshops. Kelly Robson’s excellent list includes Clarion and Clarion West (I attended the latter, which I highly recommend). I’ve also attended numerous other non-SF writing workshops and retreats, and have been a member of several writing groups, both SFnal and non-SFnal. My recommendation? Go with an SF workshop or group – if you can find one. You’ll hear a lot fewer critique comments prefaced with, “Well, I generally don’t read this sort of thing, but….” On the other hand, if you live in a smaller community where SFnal groups are hard to find, a regular writing group can also useful, as long as you remember that the people who are trying to critique your work are unfamiliar with the conventions and tropes of the genre – which means they may give you questionable suggestions and/or miss redlining things, like cliches, that would otherwise be familiar to those who read in the genre.
Grammar and Style
- The Elements of Style – By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Classic (slim) book on grammar.
- Chicago Manual of Style. Classic (fat) book on grammar and style conventions.
- OWL: Handouts: Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling. From Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. I’ve often recommended this site to students when teaching courses that require essay writing.
- 25 Moral Dilemmas | Pixi’s Blog. In general, good fiction is about creating tension, and there is no better way to create tension than putting your character in a moral quandry – and, when people ask you, “Where do you get your ideas?”, you can give them this URL.
On Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction
- The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at Kansas University. “This site provides a wealth of information and informed commentary about science fiction and the Center’s programs, including awards, course syllabi, writing resources, and much more.” Lots of good stuff here, especially for teachers.