The Magazine and Website of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field

Locus Online
  
Sub Menu contents

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Archives

Admin

Site search


Description

A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

 




 


Editor

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Contributors

Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
Karen Burnham
Siobhan Carroll
John Clute
F. Brett Cox
Ellen Datlow
Paul Di Filippo
Michael Dirda
Gardner Dozois
Andy Duncan
Stefan Dziemianowicz
Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Elizabeth Hand
Cecelia Holland
Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
Ellen Klages
Russell Letson
Karen Lord
Brit Mandelo
Adrienne Martini
Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
Maureen Kincaid Speller
Peter Straub
Rachel Swirsky
Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

Eric Del Carlo Guest Post–”When Is the Right Time to Collaborate?”

There certainly are periods more auspicious for collaboration than others. Perhaps a fledgling writer with a few sales under her/his belt gets the opportunity to collude with an older established author, with a contract already on the table. Or perhaps one writer conspires with another writer of equal worth to tackle an elaborate novel, one requiring, say, a scientific proficiency one of the two can’t fake and the other can supply readily.

Those are occasions of natural authorial magnetism. Two halves come together. The collaboration may or may not be successful, but the scenario is sound.

But soundness does not always figure into the strange, wonderful, unnerving alchemy of collaborative fiction writing.

Let me take you through my own unique experience.

In the early Aughts of this century my father Vic, then in his seventies, got hit with a stroke. Major but not catastrophic. Call it 6.5 on the neurological Richter: structural damage, but we can rebuild. I was living in pre-Katrina New Orleans at this time; hadn’t been back to hometown San Francisco in years; I went out there to see Vic.

Now, to dial it back further, my father and I had throughout my youth shared a love of all things genre–science fiction, horror, thrillers, etc. Actually, I was picking up the baton of his devotion, which he had carried all through the rise of sf, from the pulp era on. I knew he had always wanted to be a professional writer, and though it had come to nothing for him, I took up that predilection as well.

So I visited my father in San Francisco and was stunned to see how quick his recovery from the stroke had been. We caught up, talked movies, rewired those bits of our relationship frayed by absence and time. I returned to New Orleans.

Oh, something else: I myself had expressed an interest in writing from about age seven on, and Vic had encouraged me. We had traded ideas, talked through plots. Essentially, we were two amateurs workshopping stories off each other as best we could. In my case, by my thirties I’d racked up a decent amount of sales and had even coauthored two fantasy novels with the late Robert Asprin, who I knew from an adjacent barstool in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

When I was back in the Big Easy, a thought occurred to me. An idea. An intrigue. Wouldn’t it be cool to collaborate on a book-length project with my father, who, to date, had only a single short story sale to his name?

Well… sure. The man’s just had a stroke. He’s in his dotage. He’s an under-published writer who never had the chance I’d had to develop the craft we both loved so much.

Thing was, though, I’d always liked Vic’s work. He had shared his short story efforts with me. And however fragmentary and unpolished some of them were, his concepts were exciting. He had a good ear for dialogue, a keen sense of characterization. For decades he’d been on the cusp of breaking through into true professionalism. Personalized rejection letters from editors confirmed this.

But now he was in the third act of his life, still recovering from a traumatic physiological event. So the time was ripe for a literary undertaking of this magnitude. Right?

In hindsight I am reminded of that bit from the film Dog Day Afternoon. After the bank robbery goes hopelessly awry, the head teller fixes Al Pacino with a withering gaze and says, “He don’t have a plan. It’s all a whim. ‘Rob a bank!’”

That was about how I proposed it to Vic. I called him up and said, “Let’s write a book!”

Well, I did have one good idea. Actually, it was his idea. In the Eighties, when I was still in high school, my father had written a short story entitled “The Golden Gate Is Empty Again.” It was a moody little piece wherein the Golden Gate Bridge had magically and inexplicably disappeared one day, with hundreds of people on the span. The tale was told from the viewpoint of a man whose father was on the bridge during this terrible event. After a few minor plot machinations it emerged that this character’s father was himself responsible for this act of magical terrorism. Further, the bridge reappeared at the end of the story according to the nature of the time-sensitive spell that had been cast. Seven years had elapsed since the bridge’s initial vanishing; it returned to our world for seven seconds, then winked out again–not long enough for the protagonist’s father to drive clear of the span.

That story had emotional impact. It wasn’t perfectly assembled. Vic got good responses from editors at the magazines he sent it to, but none bought the piece.

Twenty years on, the original manuscript was gone. No yellowing sheaf of papers remained, no file on a computer disk. But I remembered it. Vivid details had stuck with me. I thought it would make a very serviceable framework upon which to build a novel.

The phone call I placed went something like this:

“Dad, you remember that story of yours about the Golden Gate Bridge disappearing?”

“Yes.”

“I think we should collaborate on a book based on it. You write the father’s backstory up to his disappearance on the bridge, and I’ll write the son’s viewpoint as he returns to San Francisco years later seeking answers to his father’s mysterious, possibly magical past. What do you say?”

It didn’t take much or any convincing. My proposal was an out of the blue, back-brain impulse. Vic’s acquiescence was just as instinctive. Though I’d had some professional success in the field, I had no plan what to do with the novel once/if it was done. Nobody was clamoring for a book with Eric Del Carlo’s name on the cover. I didn’t know if urban fantasy–the category this book would belong in–was “hot” or not. Honestly, I didn’t care. This was a throwback to the old days when my father and I would talk into the night about plot structure and the necessity of sympathetic characters in fiction. It harkened back to avid analytical discussions, conducted in McDonald’s booths, over the merits of C.H.U.D. or Class of 1984 or whatever just-released low-budget movie we’d seen that evening.

Those were treasured memories. Now, here, was an opportunity to revisit that period, one which had permanently infused me with an enthusiasm for creative writing.

But could we do it? Could we really write a book together? The only outline we had was the memory of an unpublished short story lost to the dust of time. We knew how the novel would end. That gut-punch finale from the short story was perfect. We need only flesh out the particulars, lace in some subplots. We would be working on semi-independent storylines, in different time frames.

Perhaps we wouldn’t trip each other up as we proceeded.

Like a chess game, somebody had to make the opening move. The first chapter fell to Vic. He wrote it up and emailed it to me. I read it. It was a dynamic opening, a birth scene, introducing the character I would be writing in my own alternating chapters. Vic’s work established his own viewpoint character. The prose was solid, the tension palpable. And he even dropped in a hint of magic.

Here was the person who would eventually–somehow–be led inextricably to causing the supernatural disappearance of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Okay, then. My turn. Vic’s chapter ran about ten manuscript pages. That’s not long for a chapter, but it’s enough to communicate a chunk of material. I started out my half of the story with my character, now a grownup, arriving in a near-future San Francisco and visiting the solemn site of the Memorial, where the yawningly empty Golden Gate lay, that watery entry into San Francisco Bay. My much-conflicted character acknowledged that his father had been on the bridge when it vanished.

So those were the opening moves, a couple of very respectable pawns-to-king-4s. Now would come the real test. Could we keep it moving? Could we sustain thematic coherency? Our individual storylines had to advance at similar paces, even though Vic’s chapters would cover years and mine only days. I waited with some trepidation for my father’s next installment. Would it be weeks?

Had that first chapter just been a fluke, a momentary burst of writerly zeal?

Nope. He came back with another polished chapter within days. Which meant I had to respond in kind. We were off and running.
Now this isn’t supposed to be a synopsis of the book. We moved our separate timelines forward in a convincing manner. When he introduced a character in the past, I could follow up on that person in the present. As events happened to the younger incarnation of my character, I incorporated the consequences into the adult version. Conversely, when I dropped something into my time frame that was useful, my father would do some reverse engineering and provide foreshadowing.

It became a duet. The subplots we’d each created flourished. We could still work independently, but a greater grander interdependence had arisen. We both worked on the wholeness of the story, playing off and absorbing one another’s style and ambience. Our voices remained distinctive, but there was symmetry here and an increasingly sublime cohesion.

Also, weird stuff happened.

Vic dropped in a reference to the nascent sf novel Earth Abides in one of his chapters. I just happened to be reading that very book at that very time. He introduced a character we both ended up using prominently in our respective halves. Reading his description, I remember thinking that this woman’s eyes would probably look like Michelle Pfeiffer’s. A paragraph later he made that explicit comparison. Then there was the lemon scones thing…

Well, suffice to say something that seemed genuinely magical was happening with our book about magic, and about a father and son.

Over the course of a few swift months we finished the novel. Eventually it found a home via Charles Zaglanis with White Cat Publications, which has released it in ebook and paperback. Initial feedback has been very good. Whatever else, it will serve as a document of what will surely be the most joyful professional collaboration I’ll ever experience.

But was it smart for Vic and I to write a book together? On paper, hell no. It was the endeavor of madmen. You can’t hope to collude on an intricate, character driven novel without an anatomizing outline. A person doesn’t wait until he’s in his post-stroke seventies to make his push at being a novelist. No one does that. I was foolish to suggest it.

Yet we did it. The time was all wrong, but the magic was just right.

 

About the Author

Eric Del Carlo’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Perihelion, and is upcoming at Analog. His novels include the Wartorn books (Ace Books), co-written with Robert Asprin, and The Golden Gate Is Empty (White Cat Publications), which he wrote with his father Victor Del Carlo. Find him on Facebook for questions or comments.

Cat Rambo Guest Post–”Not a Straitjacket”

I was lucky enough to be at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend, and one of the highlights was a panel on diversity, with fellow panelists Jamie Ford, Ramon J. Terrell, Garth Reasby, and Sarah Remy, moderated by Anna Alexander. It wasn’t the only panel on diversity–there were, by my count, four panels that touched on the topic over the course of the three day con.

I wanted to share a few of the points that came up, because it’s a conversation that’s been going on for decades, as someone noted on the panel, and it’s something that is deeply interwoven into the nature of speculative fiction itself.

1. Diversity is about having more stories. Not fewer. Not swapping out a new lot for the traditional, mainstream narratives, but adding to them. Bringing in the mythologies, the tropes, the figurative language of more cultures, more viewpoints. For anyone who’s ever complained about the sometimes tired nature of “the Chosen One” plotline, this is the wellspring that will bring new energy, new life. Because stories start affecting each other. They start creeping into each other’s plot holes and wandering off to talk about mashups. Others engage in loud conversations with each other, sometimes even shouting matches. And in the meantime, the virtual room that is the field of speculative fiction keeps expanding in order to hold them all.

BEASTS OF TABAT

2. Yes, it can be worrisome to know that you might put a foot awry or offend someone. But if you are working with sincerity, respect, and a willingness to admit it and change course when you inadvertently steer into someone’s sensibilities, will serve you well. You have allies in this, and one of the biggest ones is the Internet, with its wealth of self-expression from a wide range of people. It’s okay to ask for help, but don’t treat the person as though they’re putting the official stamp of approval on the piece for whichever group or groups they fit in. And it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. You learn from it. You do better the next time. That’s part of being human.

3. This is important stuff, and one of the things that makes it important is the howling knee-jerk internal response that happens when you realize–or someone points out to you–that something you’ve said or written is racist. Or sexist. Or transphobic, or any of a number of categories that the majority of us very much don’t want to be placed in. But it’s what’s been said that’s  important, that needs to be recognized and addressed. To take it personally, to truculently declare that you’ll never write from other viewpoints because it’s too hard to get it right, is childish and unworthy of a writer. This is how people learn, and sometimes yes, it’s a painful process. To find a piece of yourself you’re not fond of or dislike is a tremendous gift from the world to a writer, because it lets the writer dissect and analyze it in order to write about where it comes from.

Make art out of everything, not just the pre-approved stuff. Don’t be afraid to make it, and don’t be afraid to admit when it has flaws. Diversity’s not a straitjacket; it’s the key that lets you out of one.

 

About the Author

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and edits in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in such places as Asimov’s, Weird Tales, and Strange Horizons. She was the fiction editor of award-winning Fantasy Magazine (http://www.fantasy-magazine.com) and appeared on the World Fantasy Award ballot in 2012 for that work.

John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia”–her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. In 2005 she attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop and is a member of the Codex Writers Group.

In 2007, her collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories, appeared, while her first solo collection, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, was published in August of 2009 and was an Endeavour Award finalist. In 2012, her collection Near + Far appeared from Hydra House as well as a novella, A Seed Upon the Wind, as part of the Fathomless Abyss collaborative project. Her story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” is a 2012 Nebula Award finalist.

Her website is www.kittywumpus.net.

PeacockHairedCat

Bryan Thomas Schmidt Guest Post–”Top 10 Reasons Why Kansas City Is Important To Fandom”

I recently launched a Kickstarter for a one-of-a-kind history-making anthology, Speculations KC for the 2016 Worldcon, a return to Kansas City after 40 years. One of the joys of moving here has been discovering the rich connections to genre history and fandom that the area has. The Midwest may sometimes not be the first place to come to mind when you think about genre, so I thought it might be good to remind people why the Kansas City region is so important in genre history and fandom and why it’s a great place to visit. So here are a few thoughts:

1) Star Writers—From Robert Heinlein to William F. Nolan, Larry Niven, and James Gunn, the Kansas City area has been home to a lot of big name writing stars of genre fiction. Two of these are SFWA grandmasters, Niven will become one this May, and Nolan will become one at the World Horror Convention later this year. Lesser known talents include Frank K. Kelly, who was an early pulp writer in his teens and twenties and sold every story he wrote to the pulps, then went on to write speeches for Harry S. Truman. He also happens to be Nolan’s cousin. Tom Reamy was an openly gay writer whose 1970s stories included daring-for-the-day homoerotic themes and characters. And Pat Cadigan and Kij Johnson are two of the most respected female writers working today and have both won numerous awards.

2) Fandom History—The Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society has been around since the early 1970s, and has hosted ConQuesT, the local fan-run science fiction and fantasy convention, every Memorial Day Weekend, 46 times as of this year. From members of this group also came the original MidAmeriCon, “Big MAC,” in 1976, which put Kansas City on the map of fandom and paved the way for today’s thriving local groups and events. Naka-Kon, the area’s main anime convention, is in its twelfth year, and continues to receive rave reviews from fans and professionals alike. KC is also home to not one, but two large comic/media conventions that have been receiving amazing local press as of late. Spectrum Fantastic Art Live acts to bring together artists, industry professionals, and fans of the science fiction and fantasy art community from all across the globe.

3) Genre History—MidAmeriCon, the first Worldcon here, started the Hugo awards Academy Awards-style ceremony, was the debut of Star Wars props and pics to science fiction fans with guest appearances by Mark Hamill and Gary Kurtz, had the first official film festival at a Worldcon, and hosted the first Hugo Losers Party, founded by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It also was the first videotaped Worldcon. Conquest 46 will be the first time George R.R. Martin is Editor Guest of Honor, and many other worthwhile guests have received early recognition here.

4) Academic Study—The University of Kansas hosts the unparalleled Gunn Center For the Study of Science Fiction, named after its award-winning founder, a legend in the field, and currently run by Chris McKitterick and Kij Johnson, active writers in their own right. From offering numerous classes, guest lectures by David Brin, Gary Wolfe and others, to handing out distinguished awards like the annual John Campbell and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, to running professional-quality workshops every summer for novel and short fiction writers, important academic work for our field is being done here. And I’m not even mentioning the invaluable collection of pulps and papers held in nearby libraries.

5) Location–You can’t get a much more centralized locale in the United States than Kansas City. By air, you can arrive in 1 ½ hours from Dallas or Chicago, 2 ½ hours from DC, 3 hours from New York, 3 ½ hours from Los Angeles, 4 ½ hours from Montreal, 11 hours from London, 13 ½ hours from Finland, and 15 hours from Japan. MCI international airport is just a quick 20 minute drive to downtown. If train is your preferred mode of transportation, Amtrak is located at the historic Union Station, a mere 1.5 miles from the KC Convention Center. And for those that love a good road trip, you won’t necessarily have to travel far to reach Kansas City…. it’s an 8 hour drive from Chicago, Denver, Dallas, and Nashville just to name a few.

6) Arts Mecca—With Hallmark Cards based here and Spectrum Fantastic and more, Kansas City has a strong reputation for the arts. That includes comic book companies like Andrews McMeel which have published The Far SideFox Trot, and other famous cartoons, and many other wonderful events from symphonies to theaters to opera and more. The arts community thrives and receives a warm welcome and great appreciation here.

7) Family Friendly—Not only will there be educational and fun children’s programming at MidAmeriCon II, as well as onsite childcare, but Kansas City also offers plenty of family-friendly attractions throughout the metro for kids of all ages. Kaleidoscope art studio in Crown Center, free to the public and operated by Hallmark, offers the creative opportunity for children and their parents to produce masterpieces with leftover bits from the Hallmark studios. For a more technical adventure, visit Science City at Union Station where numerous interactive learning stations allow children to play and learn hands-on while encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields. Other popular family outings include Legoland Discovery Center, SeaLife Aquarium, The Kansas City Zoo, and Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead—all within easy reach of downtown and the conventions.

8) The Blues—Kansas City’s Blues scene is legendary and some of the most famous musicians and songwriters got their start here.  Kansas City now hosts the American Jazz Museum and it still has a great live music scene on both the Country Club Plaza, the first outdoor mall of its kind in the country, as well as in local bars, clubs and more.

9) Museums–Whether your interest is art, history, music, toys, sports… Kansas City has a museum for you. By far, the most popular of these is the National WWI Museum at Liberty Memorial, which houses one of the largest collection of WWI artifacts anywhere in the world. For a bit more regional content, I already mentioned the American Jazz Museum, so let’s add the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Steamboat Arabia Museum (a don’t miss for you steampunk fans), and the Truman Presidential Museum & Library—all of which offer a wealth of exhibits which showcase some of Kansas City’s past. A few other popular attractions are the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Airline History Museum, and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

10) Dining–In 2014, Travel and Leisure dubbed Kansas City the nation’s third best city for foodies, as well as number one for the most affordable dining. From fine dining and fusion foods to cultural food trucks popping up all across the metro, the dining scene is continually growing and enticing new chefs to relocate to Kansas City, bringing their unique flavors and concepts to the area. To help Worldcon attendees in 2016 make the delicious decisions of where to dine while in KC, MidAmeriCon II will be offering a taste-tested dining guide of Kansas City’s eateries. And did I mention the BBQ?!? Kansas City is home to a plethora of world-renowned BBQ joints. Everyone in town has their opinion on which establishment is actually the best–Gates, Arthur Bryant’s, Woodyard, Jackstack? But between the locals there’s one BBQ opinion that’s not in dispute: KC Style is the king of BBQ!

So there are some great reasons why Kansas City is a great part of fandom and genre history. Hope to see you all at MidAmeriCon II in Summer 2016, and please check out Speculations KC, which will pay tribute to many of these contributions and more and be a great keepsake for fans and collectors!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/601968027/speculations-kc-kansas-city-worldcon-anthology

 

 

About the Author

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is a critically praised, award nominated editor and author of anthologies, novels and short fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince, received Honorable Mention on Barnes and Noble’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011. His anthologies include Shattered Shields with Jennifer Brozek, Mission: Tomorrow, Galactic Games, and Monster Hunter Tales with Larry Correia, all from Baen as well as others for EDGE, Fairwood Press and more. He hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht regularly on twitter, interviewing top guests from around the field, and is a Junior Acquistions and Developmental editor for Wordfire Press.

Damien Angelica Walters Guest Post–”An Orchestra of Scars”

Truth: I’ve been sitting for two hours in front of this blank page, unsure where to start or what to write about. There may have been a few side trips to Facebook and Twitter during that time, but I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a subject as opposed to just talking about my short fiction collection.

Non-fiction doesn’t come easy to me, and every topic I thought of discussing (likeable versus unlikeable characters, the resurgence of the horror genre, the difference in reviews of work written by women as opposed to that by men) has already been discussed and by those far more learned than me, so I’ll write about what I know, which is trauma.

It’s okay if that made you roll your eyes; I’ll confess to rolling my eyes as I typed it. I know people love to slow down when they drive past the scene of a wreck, but don’t worry, I’m not going to peel back my layers and reveal an inner victim here. I’m referring to trauma in fictional characters, trauma as it relates to horror and dark fantasy.

Take scars, for instance. Some are fascinating, others horrific; some draw the eye, others repel it. Regardless of our initial, visceral reaction, every scar has a story. Every scar is a story.

I had major surgery when I was three and have a fairly large scar on my neck as a result. As far as scars go, it’s an interesting one and resembles a burn more than something surgery would leave behind, but my memories are far more interesting: the smell of the hospital, the feel of the hospital crib with its metal bars, the sense of being so very small beneath the bright white lights, the rasp of my fingers against the bandage nurses put on my stuffed rabbit to match mine. As for the story: I was born with a large hemangioma (a benign tumor) on my neck that continued to grow, and the removal required something like two hundred stitches. I found out later that my surgeon went into reconstructive plastic surgery because of it.

Fast forward to me in my teenage years, when I accidentally put my arm through a window. I’ve quite a few scars from that, too. My memories consist of the bit of skin I left behind on the glass, the blood draining from my friend’s face when she saw the wounds, the snow outside, the doctor’s eyes as he stitched me back together. And the story? It involves me taking out the trash and coming back in, my friend and I started goofing about with opening and closing the kitchen door. It was cold, I was in my school uniform, and it was funny until I moved my arm forward when I should’ve moved it back.

Both of those memories, those stories, are as clear now as they were five, ten, even fifteen years ago.

But the scars that don’t show on people usually have the strongest stories, even if they’re the stories people won’t or can’t tell. No scabs to peel, no stitches to break, but the wounds run even deeper than the physical. This is the horror I’m drawn to.

Life does its best to break us in ways small and large, and many of my stories, regardless of how fantastical they seem, have their roots in the real. “Sing Me Your Scars,” the title story of my collection, owes its birth, in part, to my frustration with the endless onslaught of memes about what real women look like. Although they’re completely different stories, both “Melancholia in Bloom” and “Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods” share the common thread of loss of memory and loss of self. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and another family member is in the middle stages of the disease right now. I can’t help but use it in my fiction as a way to help make sense of things, to help cope.

But the trauma that seeds my work is not always my own, and the real horror in the world is that it’s everywhere you look. The world sings it scars every day. I could never read the news again and still have enough story seeds to grow a lifetime’s worth of stories. This is what makes my heart hurt. This is why I write of such things.

In spite of what I write, I’m an optimist. The world might be ugly and people might be cruel, but there is beauty and kindness and hope, too. Sometimes it’s hard to find, but it’s there. My stories may not always come with happy endings, and when they do, the characters are usually left with more than their fair share of wounds, but damaged and scarred, I’d like to think they keep moving forward out of the shadows in search of that light.

 

About the Author

Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Apex, Nightmare, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and others. “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu and reprinted in the Chinese literary journal ZUI Found, has been nominated for a 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.

Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, is available now from Apex Publications. Paper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming from Dark House Press.

You can find her on Twitter @DamienAWalters or online at http://damienangelicawalters.com.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia Guest Post–”Say No to Strong Female Characters”

I was not a fan of The Book of Life. I will not elaborate too much on this point except to mention that when I watched it I recalled a bit from an article by Sophia McDougall published in The New Statesman:

I remember watching Shrek with my mother.

“The Princess knew kung-fu! That was nice,” I said. And yet I had a vague sense of unease, a sense that I was saying it because it was what I was supposed to say.

She rolled her eyes. “All the princesses know kung-fu now.”

I thought the same thing about the heroine of The Book of Life. She knows kung-fu and she spews the kind of “feisty” attitude we must associate with heroines and she is therefore strong and everything is kosher.

In an effort to get a wider variety of women in movies and books, we have often heard the mantra that we need more strong female characters. However, as some commentators have noted (http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/) “strong” has often become a code word for a very specific kind of character. The kind that must demonstrate her chops via feats of physical strength. So, for example, in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 the heroine Elizabeth Swann has now acquired fencing skills. This serves as a credential for her “strength” even though the character had demonstrated “strength” of another type already in the first movie: she was smart, even devious, managing to wriggle her way out of more than one situation.

Shana Mlawski did an interesting study of male and female characters a few years ago. The main question she wanted to answer was whether male characters are more immediately likeable than female characters (http://www.overthinkingit.com/2010/06/28/are-male-characters-more-likable-than-female-characters/). Her conclusion:

All of the above data suggest to me that we (or at least the critics at EW) like a wide variety of male character types but prefer our women to be two-dimensionally “badass” and/or evil.

That means that badasses like Sarah Connor and villains like Catherine Trammell could be palatable to audiences. Male characters, however, were allowed to come in a wider range and still deemed likeable. Men, Mlwaski, writes, could be “passive” characters. Women? They could blow stuff up or kill people.

The result is sometimes a bit like this comic strip: bang bang, I’m strong. http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=311

One could argue that “strong” refers to a well-rounded character. However, in the words of McDougall:

Chuck Wendig argues here that we shouldn’t understand “strong” as meaning, well, “strong,” but rather as something like “well-written”…. But I simply don’t think it’s true that the majority of writers or readers are reading the term that way…. And even if this less limiting understanding of “strong female character” were the common reading, doesn’t it then become even sadder and even more incomprehensible that where the characterisation of half the world’s population is concerned, writing well is treated as a kind of impressive but unnecessary optional extra?

Maybe part of the problem is the desire for “likeability.” For niceness. (http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2010/oct/19/novels-nice) Girls still have to be sugar and spice, or perhaps, kung-fu and a pretty face.

Since I have small children, I watch a bunch of animated movies every year and aside from The Book of Life I watched The Lego MovieThis had a character who can build all kinds of cool brick structures and can “kick ass.” How To Train Your Dragon also has a “strong” girlfriend for the hero. Yet it all felt like a MacDonalds burger: it looks like meat but I’m sure it ain’t meat.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I watched the 1980s adaptation of Flash Gordon and was mildly delighted to see that Dale Arden was “strong” too! Despite the cheesiness and bubbly sexism Dale kicked ass! She was for the duration of the film most interested in exclaiming FLASH! but at one point she took off her heels and beat about half a dozen guards. Strong woman, indeed.

And that, I guess, is my point. We really haven’t gotten that far from Dale and her display of 1980s strength. What’s more, every few months I am distressed when I hear a call for more strong women like the ones we used to have in the 80s. Ripley and Sarah Connor, a breed that has apparently gone extinct. Only it didn’t go extinct. Alice has fought the Umbrella corporation for years and Selene is still battling vampires and werewolves in Underworldand a few years ago we got Trinity from The Matrix and surely the new Star Wars films will bring us some feisty new lass who can shoot a laser gun. Hey, even turds like Van Helsing knew that you require one (and only one) “strong” woman in the film.

My debut novel Signal to Noise is coming out and I’ve been obsessively reading the reviews. The main character, Meche–who in 1980s Mexico City discovers how to cast magic spells using vinyl records–has been described as “awkward,” “angry and cruel at times but also powerful, active,” “angry and self-isolating” and “smart, caring and affectionate but, at the same time, bossy, possessive and manipulative.”

You have no idea how much this pleases me.

When I think about the desire for “strong” women in fiction I think about my great-grandmother who was an illiterate peasant and then a maid after the Mexican Revolution. Surely she wouldn’t fit the grade of “badassery,” but I think that there is a certain kind of endurance in being on your knees for years, cleaning floors, in order to support your illegitimate daughter. There is duty and there is affection.

You might reply that this is not a good example as audiences rarely want to read about the tribulations of poor maids, but my point is not to demand a particular type of character but to remark that we should not yearn for “strong” women but for a wide variety of women. They need not all know how to fence or have studied kung fu.

 

About the Author 

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia’s debut novel is Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City. Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, was a finalist for The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her stories have also been collected in Love & Other Poisons. She tweets @silviamg.

Una McCormack Guest Post–”Writing Within Boundaries: The Challenge of Franchise Fiction”

I often think of writing as a process of entering into a contract with your readers: when you persuade someone to read your work, you’re making promises to them that your work will deliver in certain ways. Certain genres, it seems to me, make specific contractual demands on a writer–for example, I doubt that Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light is going to end with Henry VIII abdicating and the Catholic Church being re-established. Science fiction does the same; franchise fiction–at least, the kind that I write–makes its own promises to the reader. By having to pay attention to certain “fixed” events established on-screen, the franchise fiction writer sometimes has to be as much a writer of historical fiction as science fiction.

I sometimes describe my Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice as a historical novel that happens to be set on an alien planet. This novel is set on Cardassia Prime across a period of several years (roughly the same time period covered by the TV show) but from the perspective of the antagonists, the Cardassians, who are responsible for the war that comprises the main storyline of the later seasons of DS9. As such, I was bound to keep to events that had been established on-screen–the capture of DS9, the entry of the Romulans into the war, the fall of Cardassia Prime–indeed, that was the point of the story! My methodology writing the book was much as I imagine a historical novelist’s must be: establishing dates, compiling lists of significant figures such as political leaders (and their dates in office). Events in my book grew out of these limits: What must have happened between event A and event B? What could have happened, given those two events? I found this a very fertile mode of storytelling. Nothing in the book contradicts what is seen on screen (at least, I hope not!), but the story–and most of the characters–were completely new, patching together what was glimpsed on-screen into what I hope was a satisfactory whole. The pleasure of reading–the contract that I offered the reader–was to enjoy the retelling of a familiar story through an entirely fresh perspective.

Other books that I’ve written in Pocket’s Star Trek range have allowed me to expand this future history of the Cardassian Union, and have drawn on texts from the Star Trek expanded universe, aiming for consistency while establishing space for my own stories. The Crimson Shadow, which is set after the end of DS9, and during a period of stabilization on Cardassia, draws upon the world-building done by actor Andrew J. Robinson (Garak) in his novel A Stitch in Time. It was an interesting challenge to remain true to three separate creative visions: the original series, Robinson’s, and my own vision of Cardassian society and culture.

The Star Trek book range is currently a fairly complex universe, with many overlapping stories. (The Crimson Shadow was part of a five-book series, Star Trek: The Fall, written with four other authors: a thoroughly enjoyable project in its own right, working to satisfy all our various ideas for the series.) I think of the books as fulfilling a role similar to that fulfilled by the New Adventures when Doctor Who was off-air. They are the sole place where stories set in the Star Trek universe are being told (the J. J. Abrams films inhabit their own timeline). As such, the readership is dedicated, has bought into the continuing narrative, and is interested in seeing that narrative furthered.

*Spoiler Alert*

The space station Deep Space 9, for example, is now a completely new facility, crewed by an almost entirely new staff (there is crossover from Star Trek: The Next Generation too: the current commander is Ro Laren, and Beverly Crusher has been CMO on the station for a few books). Anyone new to the range picking up my current book, The Missing, expecting Sisko, Kira, Bashir, etc., might find themselves confused. They will find plenty of sniping between Odo and Quark, however. Some things remain the same.

I’m often asked whether writing franchise fiction constrains my writing in any way. I’ve found it’s much better to think of these boundaries as challenges rather than limitations. There’s as much fun to be had from writing a sonnet or a villanelle, in working with a tight form, as there is from writing free verse. Sometimes those limits are exactly what makes the writing process challenging and interesting.

 

About the Author

Una McCormack is a lecturer in creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and a New York Times bestselling author. She has written six Star Trek novels for Simon and Schuster, including her most recent, The Missing, and two Doctor Who novels for BBC Books, The King’s Dragon and The Way through the Woods. Her audio dramas, based on Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, have been produced by Big Finish. She lives in Cambridge with her partner, Matthew, and their daughter, Verity.

Alex Shvartsman Guest Post–”The Art and Science of Anthology Editing”

Now that I have five completed anthologies under my belt, the number of questions I get–from friends and strangers alike–about various aspects of anthology editing has turned from an occasional drip to a steady trickle. And while I would love to presume it’s because I’m such an awesome anthologist, the truth is, there’s fairly little information on the web regarding this niche topic. I thought it might be a good idea to collect some basic suggestions in one handy blog post. (Also, I’m incredibly lazy, and pointing people to a link is easier than cut/pasting chunks of this between e-mails!)

So, here goes:

Develop a Unique Concept

The optimal place to start is to develop a theme that is narrow yet appealing to a sizable readership, which your professional or life experience can somehow contribute to.

There are three primary reasons for a reader to pick up an anthology:

1)      It contains a story or stories by some of their favorite authors.

2)      They’re interested in the concept of the anthology.

3)      They trust the editor’s selections.

Unless you’re Gardner Dozois, Ellen Datlow, or anyone else who knows a lot more than I do about this subject (and therefore wouldn’t be reading this post), you probably won’t be able to capitalize on #3. And while we’ll cover headliners later, anthology concept is what you have the most control over.

There are plenty of space opera, zombie, steampunk, and Lovecraftian horror volumes edited by well-established anthologists. And while it’s possible to produce another quality entry into any of these sub-genres, you’re much better off exploring a narrow topic that will appeal to a large enough number of readers for the project to succeed.

My inaugural project as editor was Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of humorous science fiction and fantasy. I felt that there weren’t enough pro-paying venues that seek out humorous and lighthearted stories. I did some digging and discovered that no similar volumes exist or had existed in recent memory; most humor anthologies cover a specific theme (Deals with the Devil, Chicks in Chainmail, etc). As a reader, I would gladly buy an annual volume that collected wide-ranging humor stories. Happily, other readers agreed: I’m at work on the fourth annual volume. Similarly, Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic tapped into a large, unexplored demographic; there haven’t been any coffee-themed speculative anthologies before. The book is easy to market as a present for anyone who enjoys both reading and coffee.

4books

When Neil Clarke, award-winning editor of Clarkesworld magazine, decided to launch his first anthology, he found a subject that was near and dear to his heart. Literally. A year before he announced Upgraded, an anthology of short stories about cyborgs, he survived a heart attack and had a defibrillator installed, effectively making him a self-proclaimed cyborg. Clarke wrote:

As I began looking into the possibility of a cyborg anthology, I quickly noticed that the cyborgs most people think of are villains (Cybermen, Darth Vader, the Borg, etc.). My people make excellent villains, but that only represents the tip of the iceberg. The more I thought about it, the more certain I became that this was the anthology project I had been looking for…  a cyborg-edited cyborg anthology. I don’t think that’s been done before. Besides, cyborgs are cool.

So, what unique idea do you have, and how can your life experience contribute to the project? An architect might collect tales of fantastic cities and structures. A real estate agent could gather urban fantasy and ghost stories involving houses for sale. (Plus, they’d be able to market these books to other architects and real estate agents, in addition to SF/F fans.)

Have a Plan, Have a Budget

What’s your strategy for producing an anthology? While it’s possible for a first-time anthologist to sell their project to an established publisher, this is perhaps even more difficult than selling a first novel.

Your agent could contact publishers and pitch them your idea. You will need a brief write-up of the concept and a list of headliners who are tentatively willing to contribute stories. The more appealing your headliners, the more likely you are to land a deal. There are a number of (mostly much smaller) publishers whom you can approach without an agent. Even so, it’s a long shot unless you have some sort of a pre-existing relationship or a resumé.

If a publisher accepts your proposal, they’ll pay you an advance against royalties (usually upon delivery of the manuscript) which you can use to pay your authors and cover some of your time and effort. The amount can vary greatly and is extremely unlikely to exceed $10,000.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are perhaps the best solution for such fledgling niche projects. Not only can you raise some or all of the funds needed to produce the book, but the level of interest during your funding period will be a good indicator of how well the book might sell upon release.

In recent years I’ve seen more and more “hybrid” projects, where an anthology would raise its initial funds on Kickstarter, then become picked up by a publisher who would handle subsequent sales and print distribution. For example, Bryan Thomas-Schmidt’s space exploration anthology Beyond the Sun was crowd-funded, then published by Fairwood Press.

Whatever your strategy, please be sure you are able to fairly reimburse your writers, cover artist, and everyone else involved in the project. Your contributors should be paid at least $0.05-0.06 per word, perhaps more for your headliners (some won’t write for that little). If you plan on including reprints, you can pay $0.01-0.02 per word for those. Always provide at least one contributor copy to each author.

“I can’t afford to pay much” is not only a common excuse I hear from token-market publishers, but also a terrible business strategy. Most of the accomplished authors will not submit their work to penny-pinching projects. In the end, you will have a much weaker pool of stories to select from, and the project will be far less likely to get noticed by readers and critics alike.

cover-hi-res

Headliners

As I mentioned above, headliners are the top reason a reader might buy your anthology. Established authors will each have sizable fan bases who will gladly cough up a few bucks for their story alone; they might discover new authors as a bonus, which is an excellent reason to combine works from well-known authors and talented new writers alike.

Once you’ve established your anthology’s concept, think of popular authors who are especially good at writing the sort of stories you seek. Reach out to them directly. Send a polite query, including your pay rate, desired word count, and deadline.

If you plan to crowd-fund your project, be sure to mention that. Don’t ask them to begin working on the story until you’re certain you can afford to pay for it, but it’s okay to ask for tentative commitments. The same applies to anthologies you are shopping to publishers: so long as you don’t ask the author to begin the work, soliciting tentative interest so you can present your list of authors who are “on board” to the publisher is fine.

Keep in mind that popular authors are incredibly busy. Many won’t be able to commit to the project. Some will never respond to your e-mail. That’s okay–there are lots of great authors to approach, and some of them will say yes. If you’re having a hard time coming up with potential headliners for your project, you may not be quite well-read enough yet to edit an anthology.

Your e-mail should be brief, personal, and professional. Here’s a sample:

Dear Mr. Melville,

I’m in the process of putting together an anthology of short stories about whales. I greatly enjoyed Moby Dick and was hoping you might consider writing a short story for this project.

I’m seeking original stories of 2000-6000 words for Whales, Whales, Whales, and am able to offer $0.10/word for First Print and Electronic English language rights exclusive for 6 months after publication and non-exclusive rights afterward. Each contributor will also receive two paperback copies of the book and a lifetime supply of whale oil.

The submission deadline is December 31, 2015 and the publication date is August 1, 2016.

Thank you very much in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Hopeful Editor

Other Contributors

Once you have a few solid headliners lined up, it’s time to fill out the rest of the book. There are two ways to go about this: you can open to submissions from the general public, or you can invite a bunch of authors directly. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Opening to submissions will likely allow you to find gems by little-known authors. Who knows, you could be the editor who discovers the next Octavia Butler or Robert Heinlein. Nothing about this process is more satisfying than nurturing and promoting brilliant new authors. However, this approach is extremely time-consuming. By posting the submission call on sites like The Grinder, Ralan, and Duotrope, you’ll likely receive hundreds of submissions. By the time you’re finished, you might sink enough hours into the project to earn less than minimum wage, but your anthology will be stronger for it.

The second approach is to identify and invite a number of authors whose work you’ve enjoyed to contribute directly. (Shameless Hint: I very much like getting invited to projects). These would mostly be neo-pros, not established best-selling authors.

The trick here is to catch people who are on their way up. Two years ago, any decent anthology could’ve gotten a story out of Ken Liu, who is one of the most brilliant short story authors writing today. By now, he’s too busy with bigger projects and has to turn down most anthology invitations. Be sure to approach authors whose work you already know and enjoy: they’re much more likely to write stories you’ll want to accept.

Cast your net wide: it’s important to solicit stories from a diverse group of authors. Let your potential contributors know that you welcome material from authors of all backgrounds, and actively seek out promising authors from traditionally disadvantaged groups. There is a ton of talent there, but even if you do an open submissions call, don’t just assume that you will get enough diverse submissions; be proactive about encouraging them. Also, I’m partial to encouraging the submission of translated stories, so English-speaking readers may be exposed to works from other countries and cultures.

Finally, it’s important to note that an invitation to submit is not a guarantee of acceptance. In fact, closed anthologies will generally invite more authors than they have room for, so that the editor can select and buy only the best of the available stories.

Selecting & Editing the Stories

If you do your job right, you will end up with more great stories than you can use. This is a good thing. An anthology isn’t just a random collection of tales united by theme: it is a work of art. The interplay of voices, styles, and plots should fit together like a symphony performed by an orchestra with you as the conductor.

To this end, most editors will whittle the submissions down slowly and only send out acceptances at the end of the process. They’re looking for material that isn’t just good, but fits well with the rest of the accepted stories.

Once the stories are in, don’t just spell-check them and throw the ones you like into the book. A good editor will work with an author to polish their story like a gemstone. In many ways, this process is similar to beta-reading and critiquing stories for fellow authors, except your opinion has more weight and you must be more careful to help rather than hinder the story. In addition to selecting the best stories, this is where your own skill and talent will matter most to the quality of the project.

Finally, there’s the devilishly difficult task of assembling the table of contents (TOC). There are many schools of thought on the subject. Some editors subscribe to “open strong, close long”–they place their one or two strongest stories at the beginning and close with a longer piece. Others prefer to mix up lengths and close on a light note, with their one humorous story at the end of the book.

This process is more art than science and no two editors will build the TOC in exactly the same way. Ultimately, it will come down to the interplay between stories, as described above.

I recently had the pleasure of designing the TOC for my own short story collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories. This is generally a bad idea, because authors are famously poor at judging the quality of their own work. Fortunately, most of the stories in this collection are reprints from pro venues, which means they were vetted by other editors. For this TOC, I took a rollercoaster approach: hopping from humorous to dark, from space opera to urban fantasy, in an effort to emphasize fun and enhance the sense of wonder for the reader. Did I succeed? Can you deduce my reasons for story placement? In a shameless act of self-promotion, I invite you to pick up a copy and find out.

 

About the Author

Alex Shvartsman is a writer, translator and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 70 of his short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. He is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His collection Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories was released on February 1, 2015. His website is www.alexshvartsman.com

A Cheery Holiday Roundtable

In December 2014 I approached our esteemed panelists with the following:

On his blog Michael Swanwick recently addressed a reader-inspired question: “How do I cope with the despair endemic upon being an unpublished or little-published writer?” In an essay first published in 1991, Robert Silverberg wrote about spending his adult life as a successful professional writer but still facing the “long despair of nothing well.” The word “despair,” and related terms, like “defeat” and “depression,” appear with some frequency in discussions of writing.

My question for this group is: if this is something you experience, how do *you* cope with despair as it relates to your professional SF/F/H endeavors (writing, reviewing, editing, scholarship, etc.)?

Are your coping methods now the same or different as when you were unpublished/little-published/trying to break in?

Cat Rambo

Strangely enough, when I am feeling particularly angsty, I mail Michael Swanwick, who was one of my Clarion West instructors. I mail him a long tortured letter and then he mails back and tells me to go write.

Paul Graham Raven

The most honest answer in my case is probably “scuttle sideways into a world where there’s marginally better odds of landing a regular paycheck given your skillset”–with the rueful caveat that I’m fully aware that the academy isn’t exactly a stable employment market for the majority of its participating Rational Actors, but also that I’m too old to pass the eye-candy selection standards at Starbucks.

More true to the spirit of the question: deadlines are the great and final motivator. A promise to deliver must be fulfilled, and commissions–regular or irregular, paid or otherwise–bring a certain productive rhythm to one’s writing life, and also provide a justification for sustaining it, if that doesn’t sound too pompous. (It totally does, but whatevs.) So I guess volunteering for things is a good motivator, as is reading new stuff by writers who inspire you, and stuff by writers you think are idiots. Whatever warms the engine-block, right?

But getting yourself into writing the stuff you’re always promising yourself you’ll write, those odd-ball back-burner secret pet projects that you’ve poked at for half a decade or so, but never have time to work on properly because you have to pay the rent and writing? Damned if I know–if anyone’s got tips, I plan to copy them down!

Jeffrey Ford

Honestly, I never felt despair when I was unpublished. Writing was too much fun. It was a lot of the other shit in life that at times caused despair, but even then, not much. It took me ten years of writing without much acknowledgement before things took off. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. Also, I was young and basically didn’t give a fuck. I’d decided I was gonna write come hell or high water. When you have kids, though, things get deep pretty quickly. Then I had a full time job where I taught five classes a semester and drove an hour and a half each way to work and back. Writing time was precious, but I used the drive to think up story ideas and my students, to a great extent, taught me a lot about writing. Writing has never made me feel despair. Sometimes frustration. But often elation and accomplishment as well. Only bad things happening to the people I love can really get me down. In these situations, writing has saved me more times than not.

Cecelia Holland

Despair is part of my process. I don’t get into the meat of the story until I’ve destroyed all I already know about it and am reduced to sitting, staring out a window, and eating chocolate chip cookies. Then, against my will, drop by drop like acid falling on the heart, through the awful grace of god, comes wisdom. Read more »

Roundtable on 2015 Releases

Being close to the end of the year, it occurs to me it might be interesting to talk about some of the books we’re most looking forward to in 2015, and why. I will mention three to get the ball rolling. Daryl Gregory’s Harrison Squared (March 24, 2015). I love Daryl’s writing, and this Lovecraftian teen story promises to be dark, comical and poignant all in one. Kit Reed’s Where (May 12, 2015). Don’t know much about it, but consistently find her work intriguing and worth checking out. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (May 19, 2015)–Stan returns to pure space exploration. (And I love the cover).

Ellen Datlow

Afraid I can’t participate in this one. Too busy reading for 2014!

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

That’s a great reason, Ellen! Maybe you can mention a few of the projects *you* have in the pipeline for 2015, which will surely be on some of *our* lists of books to look forward to? :-)

Ellen Datlow

Okay. A quickie (I’m learning a new computer and email system today, which is taking wayyy too much time).

To be totally self-serving, my antho for Tor called The Doll Collection will be out March 10th–and it will hopefully satiate anyone who loves/hates/is afraid of dolls. With illos by Ellen Klages, Rick Bowes, and my doll collections :-)

Cecelia Holland

I have a book coming out next year also, Dragon Heart, from Tor. If Ellen can do it, I can.

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

You certainly can, Cecelia–thanks for sharing. Any 2015 releases you’re looking forward to as a reader?

Jack Skillingstead

I always look forward to Daryl’s work. I read Harrison Squared in manuscript last year, and, yes, it’s very good.

Nick Gevers

A few books I’m looking forward to in 2015:

Gene Wolfe, A Borrowed Man (Tor)
Michael Swanwick, Chasing the Phoenix (Tor)
Neal Stephenson, Seveneves (William Morrow)
Catherynne M. Valente, Radiance (Tor)
James P. Blaylock, Beneath London (Titan)
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings (Saga Press)
Ian McDonald, Luna (Gollancz)
Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score (Ace)
N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit)
Jeffrey Ford, A Natural History of Autumn (Small Beer)
Paul Witcover, The Watchman of Eternity (Bantam UK)
Paul McAuley, Something Coming Through (Gollancz)
Robert Charles Wilson, The Affinities (Tor)

And Stan Robinson’s Aurora.

Karen Burnham

I definitely agree with looking forward to Daryl Gregory’s Harrison Squared–I always love Gregory’s stuff, and the related novella, We Are All Completely Fine, which came out from Tachyon in 2014, was excellent.

Filed under “guilty pleasures” are the new Atrocity Archives book from Charles Stross (The Annihilation Score) and the (presumably) final book in the Tao trilogy from Wesley Chu, The Rebirths of Tao.

It’s always interesting to see what new door-stopper anthology will come out from Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, so while I haven’t had the chance to dive into their Time Travelers anthology yet, I’m looking forward to Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology. Whenever I’m reading as a scholar, volumes like this are invaluable.

I’d be looking forward to Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities more, except that his most recent book, Burning Paradise, didn’t grab me. But on the basis of all the books of his that I’ve loved, I’ll give this one a try as well.

Karen Lord’s The Galaxy Game will be likely be intriguing, a follow on to her previous The Best of All Possible Worlds.

And isn’t everyone waiting for Kelly Link’s new book Get in Trouble?

Fabio Fernandes

I’m looking forward for the usual suspects, naturally–Gene Wolfe’s A Borrowed Man, Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, Stan Robinson’s Aurora and the next Richard Kadrey Sandman Slim novel (I’m a huge fan). Also:
Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest (the sequel to The Three-Body Problem).

And I’m really interested in the upcoming anthologies: Rose Lemberg’s An Alphabet of Embers, Nisi Shawl and Bill Campbell’s Stories for Chip, Seanan McGuire’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Matthew David
Goodwin’s Latino/a Rising, and Sam Wilson’s The Near Now (with a personal interest in this last one, cause I have a story innit–but there are stories by Lauren Beukes, JY Yang, Charlie Human and Sarah Lotz that I’m dying to read, so).

Russell Letson

As a reviewer, it would be tactless of me to indicate which books I look forward to–and by implication, which books I might not be so excited about. Of course, anybody can look at the forthcoming-books pages of Locus and at my reviews over the last few years and make some educated guesses, but I’ll leave that parlor game to–well, I can’t imagine who would find it amusing. I’m sure I’ll find a couple dozen titles that will at the very least engage my attention. (I’m reading one right now, but you’ll have to wait for the review to see which one it might be.)

Paul Graham Raven

I’ve never been much of one for thinking far ahead about books, to be honest–which is more a reflection of my general inability to plan than anything else, perhaps. (I was always terribly laggard about even my favorite bands, back in the days when the number of new album releases was still something one could reasonably be expected to keep up with.) And the demands of a PhD aren’t exactly freeing up extra braincycles, either–so I’ll politely excuse myself from this thread, while noting that reading it is clueing me in to a few titles I’ll try to remember to look out for in the year ahead. :)

Cecelia Holland

Yes, I think this round is going to be for the critics, not the writers.

Paul Graham Raven

Heh–I assumed that more people would think of me as the former than the latter, despite (or is it because of?) my unbalanced attempts to keep a foot in both camps. :)

Fabio Fernandes

I’m more of a writer (and editor) than critic. :)

Karen Burnham

Apropos of what Russell said (although I don’t share his take on reviewers avoiding mention of favorites) I should say that probably what I’m most looking forward to next year is the thing I’ve never heard of that I’ll end up loving. In 2013 that was the anthology Glitter & Mayhem–I would never have picked it up based on its cover copy description, but when I was assigned to review it (for Locus, I think) it totally hit my sweet spot. The array of authors and the way they tackled the subject matter turned out to be my favorite of the year. I don’t think any 2014 releases hit me quite that way, but I haven’t been reviewing much this year, either. So I’m looking forward to the things I don’t know about yet in 2015!

Stefan Dziemianowicz

I’m of the same frame of mind. As a critic who reviews horror fiction, had you asked me last year at this time what books I was looking forward to, I would have mentioned Stephen King’s Revival mostly out of a sense of obligation. It’s always interesting to see what new tricks the genre’s bestselling author has got up his sleeve. But it wasn’t until this year, when I actually read Revival and was totally blown away by it, that I realized how long it had been since I had reacted so strongly to one of King’s novels. For 2015, I’m looking forward to books by authors whom I’m not familiar with that make an impact, and books by authors whose work I do know that exceed expectations. That’s about as vague and indefinite as you can get, but it’s what keeps me reading as a reviewer.

Peter Straub

This is a funny thread. The writers say they won’t, and the critics say they can’t.

Cecelia Holland

It’s all in the life of the mind, Peter.

Ellen Datlow

The editors also can’t (at least this one can’t) :-)

Andy Duncan

Karen beat me to it, but I was going to say Link’s collection, absolutely. Heard her read from it at World Fantasy. Terrific, of course.

Peter Straub

Karen and Andy, I’m with you on this one. Kelly’s new book, for sure.

Ellen Datlow

Even I will say YES, although I’ve read all the stories, I think :-)

Siobhan Carroll

I echo the enthusiasm for Kelly Link’s new collection. Andy, don’t you also have a collection coming out? Or is it just wishful thinking on my part?

I’ll be on the lookout for Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix, Karen Lord’s Galaxy Game, Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory, and others. I’ll add that I caught Randy Henderson’s highly entertaining reading of his forthcoming Finn Fancy Necromancy at the World Fantasy Convention, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that.

Andy Duncan

Siobhan, yes, thanks, but it might not be 2015.

Elizabeth Hand

I’m late to the party, sorry! My answer echoes Russell’s–I review so much stuff that I feel that I can’t play favorites. I will say that there are MANY titles already mentioned here that I’m really looking forward to!

Nick Gevers

Oh yes, another 2015 title I’m looking forward to: Liz’s Wylding Hall.

Paul Di Filippo

I confess to being out of the loop on this discussion–please forgive!

But if no one has yet mentioned Reif Larsen’s I Am Radar, allow me to do so. I did not read his previous novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Pivet, but recall being attracted by its different vibe. With galley of the new one in hand, my interest in this author is further stoked. Looks totally Pynchonesque!

Marie Brennan

I’m afraid I’m way too out of the loop as to what’s coming out in the next year. (I have to stop and remind myself which of *my* books is coming out next year–the perils of a timeline where you’re working on #4 when the general public has only read up through #2.)

Siobhan Carroll

I loved the new Fitz & Fool book, so I’m looking forward to Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest, and I hear great things about Jo Walton’s The Just City… honestly though, I’m most looking forward to discovering titles and authors I don’t yet know are out there.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

Okay–let me chip in a few titles from the horror side. I’m looking forward to Joe Hill’s fourth novel, The Fireman, an excerpt from which I heard him read some months back at at New York’s KGB Bar Fantastic Fiction reading series (and which, at the time, he alluded would NOT be out until later than 2015). It’s a 1,000-page post-apocalyptic thriller that–say, wait a minute… wasn’t there some other guy a few decades back whose fourth novel was also a 1,000-page post-apocalyptic thriller? Hmmm….

I eagerly anticipate Ellen Datlow’s anthology The Doll Collection, because any original anthology that Ellen edits invariably yields a handful (or more) of stories that wind up in the various year’s-best compilations. (Plus, who among us doesn’t have some creepy childhood memories–or fantasies–of dolls?)

Melanie Tem has the novel Yellow Wood coming out, and Steve Tem a stand-alone novella In The Lovecraft Museum. Both of the Tems write stories whose supernaturalism seems perfectly in synch with the rhythms of everyday life. They’re writing a sort of fiction for the twenty-first century that Shirley Jackson was lauded for in the 1950s and ’60s.

And–what the hey–I’m interested in Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels, because it revisits themes and moments from his Books of Blood era.

Fabio Fernandes

Alvaro, if I may add one more title: Victor Milan’s The Dinosaur Lords. Knights and dinosaurs: what’s not to love?

Three Recent Associational Items

While the print and online versions of this magazine do an excellent job of monitoring and reviewing new SF/F/H texts, and non-fiction books closely tied to SF/F/H, it occurs to me that at times there might be other “associational” books that are worth bringing to the attention of readers. This is one of those items.

First, a book related to Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Interstellar (2014), reviewed here by Gary Westfahl. I’ll say right upfront that I haven’t seen the film yet, but in this instance I don’t think it makes much of a difference. As someone with an interest in science, I was delighted to learn that renowned physicist Kip Thorne acted as consultant (and executive producer) on the project. Better yet, as I recently discovered, he has written a beautifully-illustrated popular science book on the subject: The Science of Interstellar. From what I’ve read so far, I can heartily recommend it. (The only reason I haven’t read all of it is that it contains spoilers, so those sections will have to wait until after I’ve checked out the flick). Ursula K. Le Guin recently used the phrase “realists of a larger reality” to talk about writers of the fantastic, and I think that phrase also applies to scientists who conceive of far-out possibilities. That’s what Thorne has done, and his book nicely bridges cutting-edge theories with thoughtful extrapolation. In this video Nolan and Thorne talk about their collaboration; and in this piece, Matt Williams describes how the film-making process may have led Thorne to make a discovery.

Continuing this thread of interest in science, there are two other recent films that chronicle pivotal moments and key contributions of two great minds, one deceased, one still alive. Both of these films are largely based on fascinating non-fiction books.

One is Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, which is the inspiration for The Imitation Game. The other is Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking, which is the primary source material for the movie about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything. These are movie tie-in editions of older books, and the texts have been updated with new material, so I recommend the newer editions. For anyone who is curious about cryptography, computation, algorithms, the nature of time, the Big Bang, and black holes, these are good gateway texts that provide the very human contexts of these ideas.

 


© 2010 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress, modified from a theme design by Lorem Ipsum
-->