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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.




Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


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

Five Golden Things — Eileen Gunn

Five SF stories about Linotype machines

We don’t see much science-fiction about Linotype machines any more, and it’s easy to forget how radically those big, noisy heffalumps changed the world. Their invention in 1886 spawned publishing’s industrial revolution, and the machines remained pretty much the same over the entire 20th century, even as they were being superseded, first by phototypesetting and then by digital type.

The Linotype and its operators (a rowdy, hard-drinking bunch, at least in legend) had a mystique, and the individual machines had personalities. They had good days and bad days. On a bad day, the operator had to dodge streams of hot lead that could shoot out of a temperamental machine with little warning. On a good day, the operator and the machine got into a rhythm: they became a sort of cyborg. It was kind of a marriage, for certain values of marriage, and the romance was not lost on early SF writers, some of whom had indeed been Linotype operators.

  • “Etaoin Shrdlu” by Fredric Brown (Unknown Worlds, 1942) Major Linotype neepery here, including slugs, minion molds, hoppers full of dead metal, and air-express packages from Mergenthaler, plus a sentient, politically aware typesetting machine, a couple of besozzled typesetters, and a load of patented Fredric-Brown wick-wackery. What can I say? The man loved Linotype machines.
  • “The Angelic Angleworm” by Fredric Brown (Unknown Worlds, 1943) Brown stretches a paper-thin idea to an extraordinary shaggy-dog length, but the protagonist’s appearance before the Head Compositor in Heaven is worth the wait.
  • “The Devil, You Say?” by Charles Beaumont (Amazing Stories, 1951) A suicidal newspaper editor, a mysterious stranger, a number of fortuitous disasters, and a preternatural Linotype machine! Too obvious? Aw, cut the guy some slack — it was the talented Beaumont’s first short story, and he turned it into a popular Twilight Zone episode.
  • “Behind the News,” by Jack Finney (Good Housekeeping, 1952) A classic Finney story, in which an ur-slacker who edits a small town weekly feeds meteor metal into his Linotype and inadvertently turns fiction into fact. Wonderful for said editor’s parody of ’40s newspaper prose as he tortures small-town politicos and learns to temper satire with believability.
  • “Son of ETAOIN SHRDLU: More Adventures in Type and Space,” by Sharon N. Farber, Susanna Jacobson, James Killus and Dave Stout. (Asimov’s SF Magazine, 1981) A short sequel to the Fredric Brown story, of which John Clute writes, in the SF Encyclopedia, that this was Killus’s first published genre story, and his subsequent stories were “more ambitious than this initial vignette.”

The flow of Linotype stories has slowed, but has not dried up completely. Inspired in the course of putting together this list, I fired up the old composing machine and produced “Face Value,” a brief homage to the immortal Fredric Brown, which appeared in the Readercon 24 souvenir book in July. And Linotype Gmbh, a few generations downstream from hot metal and now a marketer of digital typefaces, has returned the compliment to science fiction, with a special offer of five digital fonts.

Eileen Gunn is a writer and editor. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies — Eclipse One, Wired, Hayakawa’s Sf Magazine, Nature, Asimov’s Magazine, and others around the world. Her fiction has received the Nebula award in the United States and the Sense of Gender award in Japan, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and World Fantasy awards, and shortlisted for the James Tiptree. Jr. award.

Italcon 39: Before, During, and After: A Personal Perspective by Michael Bishop

An unexpected invitation

On February 12 of this year, Armando Corridore, owner and publisher of the firm Elara Libri in Bologna, Italy, e-mailed me an invitation to attend Italcon 39 – “the annual Italian congress of fantastic literature” – as its sole American literary guest.

Armando explained that the convention would be held in Bellaria, “a quiet seaside town on the Adriatic coast,” from May 23 – May 26. It would run simultaneously with the 27th Italian Star Trek convention and the annual meetings of Italy’s Star Wars and Doctor Who clubs.

Armando declared that most aficionados of “fantastic storytelling in literature and other media” regard this joint convention as their major event of the year. He said that my friends and colleagues Paul Di Filippo and David Gerrold had served as special guests at Italcon 38 and that these joint conventions would foot all travel, lodging, and meal costs for me and my wife, Jeri.

Talk about an offer a guy can’t refuse.

Still, I hesitated. We had a trip to Puerto Rico planned for early June, mere days after our scheduled return from this Italian jaunt… if we accepted it. Also, as a less than prolific (of late, at least) science-fiction writer with no Italian and no easily available new book to shill for, what sort of guest would I make?

Bedeviled by such thoughts, I asked Jeri if she wanted to go. “Of course,” she said from her laptop across the hall. “Why wouldn’t I?” Thus chided, I e-mailed Armando back expressing amazement, gratitude, and excitement. I also asked if he could consent to our flying in a few days ahead of the convention.

I stressed that until the SF-related festivities actually began, we would pay for our own bed and board. We had never visited Italy before and wanted to take this chance to see a little of his lovely country – beyond, that is, the poster-hung walls of the convention center in Bellaria.

Armando said that this was no problem. He would obtain a quality room for us in Bologna – our pre-convention base of operations – at a discounted price and see to it that we flew to Catania, Sicily’s second largest city (behind Palermo, its capital), for two days after the event, just as our friends Paul Di Filippo and Deb Newton had done in 2012. He further told us that we could reach Venice, Florence, Verona, and Rome by train within forty minutes to a two and a half hours, depending on our selected destination, and return the same evening to Bologna to sleep.

Bologna and Florence

And so, as anyone but an irredeemable idiot would have, we accepted Armando’s invitation and eventually wound up – after flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Bologna – in northern Italy, in a bustling, history-laden city with the oldest university in Europe.

Indeed, we spent six nights there. Bologna has many fine ristoranti, trattorie, or osterie, and even more historical places to visit, nearly all accessible by foot from our hotel near the train station, if one doesn’t mind walking.

Jeri and I like to walk. We climbed over four hundred stairs in a bell tower called the Torre degli Asinelli, visited several good museums, including the Museo di Palazzo Poggi devoted to art, natural history, and medicine, and the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna featuring work from the tenth century onward. Many of its paintings are huge in size, detailed, and breathtakingly executed.

On Sunday evening, May 19, Armando and his wife Rosa invited us to a concert at the Church of Santa Maria della Vita. Armando, who also composes music, had friends participating in this event, which featured a men’s chorale, the Schola Gregoriana, and a small orchestra, the Blumine Ensemble. The bold interspersing of Gregorian chants with striking modern compositions made for an unforgettable evening and a conspicuous high point of our time in the city.

The next day, we made a round-trip, high-speed rail journey to Florence, ruing the fact that the Uffizi Galleries and the venue showing Michelangelo’s original David were closed that day. (Unwisely, we had bought our tickets before learning that both places are ordinarily closed on Mondays.)

We also dealt with patchy showers, but still had a fine time, largely because, by prior arrangement, we rendezvoused with SF writer Luca Ortino and four of his friends for a classic Tuscan lunch: Walter Catalano and Gian Filippo Pizzo, writers and editors, and two brothers, Lucio and Vladimiro Noce. Two or three of these men at the Trattoria La Gratella on the Via Guelfa had read at least one Bishop novel in Italian translation – a happy but humbling discovery – and we wined and dined and chatted hilariously in their passing-good English and our pidgin-poor Italian.

Afterward, having already seen the Duomo and the Straw Market, we visited the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, a sculpture museum displaying early work of Michelangelo’s along with pieces by Giambologna (L ’Architettura), Giovanni Bandini (Bacchus with Barrel), Pietro Francavilla (Jason, or, in Italian, Giasone), and many others. In fact, our sightseeing exhausted us.

Bellaria and Italcon 39

As it turned out, our jaunt to Florence proved our only pre-convention venture away from Bologna. We used Tuesday to recover, and on Wednesday Armando’s friend Fabio Quarato drove Jeri and me to the Eden Hotel in Bellaria, where we had a first-floor room facing the Adriatic. (In Europe, “first floor” generally means the first storey above ground level.) Armando described Fabio’s contributions as “invaluable.”

We spent five and a half days in Bellaria, which is a delight to walk around in. Although we stayed in the Eden, a yellow building on the corner of a beachfront avenue and a street leading inland to the convention center (a walk of less than ten minutes), we took breakfast each morning in one of two hotels to the Eden’s right, the Hotel Piccadilly or the Hotel Foschi. All three have the same owners and shared employees.

Many convention attendees were Trekkies or Star Wars aficionados, and in the dealers’ room, Armando had an Elara Libri table beside that of Jeremy Bulloch, a British actor from the Star Wars franchise. Bulloch was selling photos of himself as Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and other Star Wars memorabilia. He and wife Maureen proved altogether companionable people.

So did David Prowse, who had the table to Bulloch’s right. Famous as the actor who plays Darth Vader in the first Star Wars film, Prowse, now 78, walks with crutches but still exudes bulk, power, and facetious menace. He told us that he had just released a commercial edition of his autobiography, From the Force’s Mouth, replete with pictures, although not so many as in its self-published predecessor.

Working at the Elara Libri table were Armando’s wife, Rosa (who makes a to-die-for tiramisu), and two young women, Sabina and Francesca, each of whom occasionally acted for us as translators. One item on sale was an Italian edition of my Nebula Award-winning novelette “The Quickening,” a pamphlet titled Dislocazione (“Dislocation”). Its inside back cover depicts the first cover of the new Italian edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which Armando Corridore is editing for Elara Libri.

I signed 150 of these and hand-corrected a mistake on the copyright page stating that the story’s original English title was “The Changeling.” I crossed out “Changeling” and inked in “Quickening.” Earlier, Armando had threatened to destroy the entire edition and reprint it with a corrected copyright page. My penned changes, which he approved, kept him from having to act on that threat.

My two program sessions went fairly well, insofar as I could judge. In the first, on Friday afternoon, I had an hour in the main auditorium. Armando asked his questions in Italian, and Paolo Attivissimo, a journalist and translator, deftly turned the questions into English and translated my answers for our Italian audience. Laughter and nodding heads I interpreted as approval. Frowners I earnestly courted with moronic grins.

In the interview, I spoke of fiction writing as an amusing way of creating empathy in readers, I recounted a story about a ten-year-old boy who had told me he liked to read novels because they were the only place he could learn exactly what another person was thinking, and I took mild issue with a questioner’s assertion that New Wave writers of the 1960s were “angry” with their more popular predecessors.

On Sunday evening, I had a smaller session in a downstairs venue, and Armando asked his questions in English and then translated them and my answers into Italian. He did this adeptly, minus the show-biz flair of Paolo, who was busy translating upstairs for such Star Wars or Star Trek stalwarts as Jeremy Bulloch, Dave (“Darth Vader”) Prowse, Robert Picardo, and Robert Duncan McNeil.

In this intimate (i.e., ill-attended) session, I compared my novel Ancient of Days, which has no Italian edition, with a later book, Brittle Innings, which does. Both books, I explained, deal with outsiders – a whip-smart specimen of Homo habilis and an immortal quasi-human, respectively – struggling some 40 years apart to assert their humanity in two different manifestations of American society, neither of which wants to concede that ostensible honor.

Italcon 39’s artist guest was Maurizio Manzieri, and its featured Italian writers included Donato Altomare, Luigi Cozzi, Giuseppe Lippi, Gianfranco De Turris, Gianni Montanari, author of the new novel Ismaele (whose two parts are printed back to back and upside down as in the Ace Doubles of yore, but much more handsomely), and Ugo Malaguti, an editor at Elara as well as a writer.

In the same downstairs venue where I held forth on Ancient of Days and Brittle Innings, my friends Luca Ortino, Claudio Chillemi, Gian Filippo Pizzo, Walter Catalano, and Francesco Troccoli, among others, discussed recent Italian SF anthologies that they had edited or in which they had published stories, if not both. To show our support, Jeri and I sat in on these panels, but grokked little of what was said. Even so, the participants’ enthusiasm for these projects made itself abundantly clear.

The convention wound down on Sunday evening with a banquet in the top-floor restaurant of Bellaria’s convention center, an expansive circular room with a panoramic view of the town and the surrounding countryside. It concluded with a ceremony in the center’s main auditorium.

At the banquet, white-shirted waiters served us, as they had at every midday and evening meal since Thursday, and the centerpiece of the evening was a huge rectangular cake decorated with the faces of the special guests for 2013, those of the Star Trek and Star Wars actors across the top and those of featured artists and writers in a smaller tier below. My face shone in icing there along with Manzieri’s, Malaguti’s, and Montanari’s, etc. It was my first time being frosted without feeling anger or outrage. Folks crowded in to take pictures, and when the cake was cut, I admired Gianni Montanari for finagling the only slice that let him devour his own visage.

At the closing ceremony, the screen above the auditorium’s stage showed a series of funny video blackouts and then a tribute to Alberto Lisiero, who died on Jan. 2, 2013, at age 48. The founder of STIC (Star Trek Italian Club) twenty-seven years ago, Lisiero also organized many earlier editions of STICCON, which Claudio Chillemi defines as a “large multi-convention, with room for Italcon, this year number 39.” I never met Alberto Lisiero, but his video tribute revealed a bearlike, big-hearted, good-humored man with an enormous appetite for life and endless affection for the Star Trek worlds created so many decades ago by Gene Roddenberry.

When the video ended, everyone in the hall stood and applauded. The lights came up, disclosing his long-term partner Gabriella Cordone in the projection booth at the rear of the auditorium. Alberto and Gabriella had married about a year past, but had not been fortunate enough to live together long as husband and wife.

Applause built and built, all of it directed toward Alberto’s widow. It would not stop. Gabriella sought to dampen it with wistful “down, down” gestures, but it continued, and despite our never having known this couple, Jeri and I were moved by the remaining fans’ heartfelt – indeed, insistent – love for STIC’s late founder and for his gamely coping life-mate.

The applause finally ceased, as it had to, and the convention ended with people expressing their bittersweet joy dancing on stage to up-tempo music from the hall’s PA system. Jeri and I, worn out, said our fond goodbyes to everyone we could and walked back to the Hotel Eden holding hands.

The aftermath

Our stay in Italy concluded with two bonus days in and around Catania. With writer Claudio Chillemi and his wife Rosaria, both natives of Sicily, Jeri and I, along with Armando Corridore, took in many of the city’s main sites (Castello Normanno, Castello Ursino, the Teatro Greco-Romano, the fish market, etc.) and ate shameful quantities of tasty local food, including even the arancino (which Rosi called “Sicilian fast food,” although done nowhere else as well as in Catania).

On our final day, May 30, Claudio drove us up Mount Etna (Aetna, in English), where the view was even more eye-exploding than it had been from the battlements of the Castello Normanno on the Mediterranean coast in the village of Aci Catello. Along the way, in the town of Pedara, he showed us the Basilica di S. Caterina d’Alessandria, a building with ornamental facings made of black volcanic stone. He also bought us some cookies from a nearby shop in Pedara.

Near the summit, where the temperature was at least 25 degrees F. cooler than it had been at sea level, we joined a host of open-mouthed tourists in walking down into a crater that has been dormant for a couple of thousand years. I even got up the gumption to “ski” down the granulated black-lava slope in my hiking shoes and to climb back out by slogging up that same previously unmarked route.

On our way back down, we stopped at the Trattoria della Nonna (Grandma’s Café), a place we had virtually to ourselves. Here we ate a variety of vegetables and pasta and then some meat dishes that Jeri and I had to forego. At the end of the meal, Claudio, using his smart phone, put through a skype call to Paul Di Filippo in Providence, Rhode Island, and shared with us the almost surreal technological experience of allowing Paul to talk to us from the screen of his palm-held phone. Although by far the smallest human being in the room, Paul still stole the show.

Back in Catania, we visited the Castello Ursino, now a museum featuring statuary and paintings, and at length returned to the Hotel Bellini for some rest before meeting at 8:00 p.m. for a last supper together. This group included, in addition to Jeri and me, the Chillemis, Armando, Antonino Di Mari, Enrico Di Stefano and his daughter and a friend of his daughter’s, Francesco Spadaro and his wife Paola Porto, Fabio Viglianisi and his wife, and Salvo Toscano and his adult son, Luigi.

After striking out at our first restaurant (because it was holding a karaoke evening and we wanted to hear our conversations with one another), we wound up at the Taverna dei Conti (the Count’s Tavern), where fresh seafood was our company’s preferred fare and where Jeri and I, still replete from Grandma’s Café, picked like preschoolers at the exotic chitinous entrees set before us.

Talk ricocheted among us. Some of it centered on a literary contingent in Milan that objected to Italcon’s affiliation with the media phenomena powering its attendance figures. They also objected to news that Italcon 40 would return to Bellaria in 2014 with its links to its current movie and TV partners intact. Other talk centered on books, food, travel, and people, either present with us or absent or deceased.

Frankly, I could not stop thinking that we had a 7:00 A.M. flight to Rome to catch and that to make sure we arrived in time to obtain our boarding passes and clear security, Jeri and I must get up at 3:45. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. Something midnight-ish this way came, and came inexorably.

Weary and anxious, I excused myself, wove my way among the clearing tables, and stepped outside. The heat of the trattoria gave way to a soft sea breeze. During most of the day, Catania’s one-way streets display their character in the vehicles parked hood to trunk along both curbs, often with their same-side tires on the sidewalks. Traffic must negotiate these narrow defiles with agility and caution, although some drivers inevitably dare collision to get through. But that night, that late, the facing sidewalks and the street between them had just about cleared. I could walk the wheel-smoothed cobbles with no fear of a crazy motorist cutting me off at the knees.

Like the traffic, my head began to clear. I exulted in the vibrancy of this living Italian city and in this chance to reignite my burned-out nerve ends. Then I heard music, wheels rolling, and a pod of mostly youthful Catanians came sailing up the street toward me. They came on rollerblades, in three or four intermingled flights, maybe thirty skaters in all. Even the clumsiest had grace, even the clumsiest floated, and so did I, for this was Sicily, and at that instant I, too, was Sicilian….

 – Michael Bishop

Small Blue Planet — Ep. 06, Philippines

This month we talk to two notables from the Philippines. Charles A. Tan and Dean Francis Alfar give us a tour of the speculative fiction authors working in their country right now.


Dean Francis Alfar is a Filipino playwright, novelist and writer of speculative fiction. His plays have been performed in venues across the country, while his articles and fiction have been published both in his native Philippines and abroad, such as in Strange HorizonsRabid TransitThe Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Exotic Gothic series. His literary awards include ten Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (Palanca Awards) — including the Grand Prize for Novel for Salamanca (Ateneo Press, 2006)— as well as the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Awards for the graphic novels Siglo: Freedom and Siglo: Passion, and the Philippines Free Press Literary Award.

Charles Tan is the editor of Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology, the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, and Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009. His fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre StoriesPhilippine Speculative Fiction and the anthology The Dragon and the Stars (ed. by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi). In 2009, he won the Last Drink Bird Head Awardfor International Activism. He is also a 2011 and 2012 World Fantasy nominee for the Special Award, Non-Professional category.


Roundtable on Space Exploration–Part 3, Cynicism and Cannibalism

Continued from Wednesday

Gardner Dozois

 It’s kind of sad how many of the SF writers, editors, and critics here don’t really believe that any real extended presence in space is possible.  No wonder we can’t convince anybody else.

Cecelia Holland

Gardner. You and me. Let’s shoot the Moon.

Rachel Swirsky

Well, I guess it depends on who the “we” is in that sentence? Obviously, those who don’t believe it aren’t really part of the “we” trying to convince.

I’m ambivalent, personally. Not my area. I’m more interested in the speculation bit.

And transporters, damn it. Those goddamn better be possible.

Ellen Datlow

I believe it’s possible, it’s just not someplace I’d like to spend a good chunk of my life.

Fabio Fernandes

Gardner, that’s exactly my thought. No wonder readers seem to be more inclined to fantasy or the so-called New Space Opera stories these days (that is, Alastair Reynolds rather than Stan Robinson). As a reader, I must confess I love both to bits, but Reynolds (I’m not thinking in Pushing Ice, but in the Revelation Space series) seduces us with a far more comfortable scenario than the down-and-dirty, rolled sleeves, let’s get things done we see in the Mars Trilogy, which is (at least from a 21st-Century POV) more plausible.

Cecelia Holland

There’s sf, and there’s fantasy


Read more »

Roundtable on Space Exploration–Capitalization

Continued from Monday

Gardner Dozois

 It’s impossible to predict what will be technologically possible a hundred years from now.  The way things are going, it’s impossible to predict what will be technologically possible five years from now.  Research is already underway into creating magnetic/electronic shields to protect ships from radiation; I read an article about it only a couple of days ago.

Starting from the state of technology and scientific knowledge when the Wright Brothers flew, a plane that could fly many times the speed of sound at almost the altitude of space and was invisible to radar (to what?) as well would have looked to be completely impossible. Let alone a vehicle that could fly to the moons of Jupiter and take photos of them.  And yet, a hundred years later, here they are.

Paul Graham Raven

It’s not a matter of technological possibility, though, is it? It’s political will.

And if there’s going to be another Cold War-esque pissing contest that leads to that sort of stuff happening again, I feel pretty confident that the States is unlikely to be one of the two sides of such; that particular empire is well into its sunset*. If anyone’s going to Mars, they’re probably going to be Chinese.

*Take this from a Brit; we know what a dying empire looks and feels like, and that you never realise it’s dying until long after it’s dead. Hell, half of us still haven’t realised it yet; that’s why our politics are so screwed.

Marie Brennan

But that’s what is so interesting to me about the development of space tourism: it starts opening up avenues for us to pursue the goal that aren’t dependent on the support of a national government. Early trans-Atlantic voyages were royally funded; later you got more involvement from private interests. We need the latter, for this to go anywhere in the long run.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

Which brings us back to Robert A. Heinlein and “The Man Who Sold the Moon.”

Paul Graham Raven

True, but until we break out of the rocketry paradigm, it’s going to stay very much the province of SilVal panjandrums and other terrifyingly wealthy folks. It’s all about cost-per-kg to orbit; doesn’t scale like, say, jet airplane travel.

Karen Burnham

I’ve long felt that’s true: given the structure of our economic development systems, we’ll really start expanding into space (as opposed to government subsidized exploration ala Lewis and Clarke) when people find ways to make real money off it. Until then, things will be pretty slow. After that, you won’t be able to throw a rock without hitting a private spaceship, I suspect. Look at Low Earth Orbit up to GEO: thanks to all the money in telecoms, it’s getting mighty crowded up there.

Gardner Dozois

I agree.  It’ll be money-making industrial processes that get us into space in a big way.  Space factories slowly gathering clusters of habitats around them, mines on the Moon with communities slowly growing up around them.  Once someone comes up with a way to make Big Money by going into space, it’ll be check-and-jowl with corporations up there.

Does it matter if it’s the Chinese who do it, as long as somebody does?

Read more »

Roundtable on Space Exploration

Space travel is still super rare and super expensive, but there’s some hope on the horizon that the costs may be coming down. If it were reasonably available to you, would you be willing to go into space yourself? For a day trip, weekend trip, months-long grand tour or into the up-and-out explorer? If you were willing to escape our gravity well, which of the sfnal portrayals of space travel would be most appealing to you?

Rachel Swirsky

I want implausible, humanoid, Star Trek aliens with whom we have easy communication who have profoundly different but fascinating cultures and who are excited to exchange ideas and knowledge.

I also want easy Star Trek space travel with absolutely no inconvenience at all.

I am not, I fear, the actual adventurer type. I don’t much like risks. Holodecks, though? Yes.

Brian Evenson

One of the biggest fights my ex-wife and I used to have involved whether we’d go to Mars or not if the possibility was available. My position was yes, definitely go to Mars, doesn’t matter if I have to be frozen for five years along the way or eat some sort of tasteless paste for months and months or go half-insane from being inside a cell-like metal shell for years. I have the attitude of an early adopter when it comes to space travel. I’d go in any circumstances.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

When I was in first grade in 1963, I owned a book entitled You WILL Go to the Moon. I loved the imperativeness of that title. It was a given, back in the early years of the space race (when NASA had deeper pockets), that eventually space travel would become as regular as travel by airplane.

If space travel were affordable, I would find it hard to turn down the experience of going into space, if only for the novelty factor (which would soon NOT be novel if everyone could undertake it). Mind you, I’m a nervous flyer, and it’s easy for me to be eager about something that I’ll likely never be able to avail myself of.

Which sfnal portrayal of space travel would be most appealing. That depicted in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury makes it seem like even the average Joe can build a rocket in his backyard and launch it. And when I touch down on a planet, I want to be able to walk around in a breathable atmosphere, unencumbered by a clunky space suit.

Jeffrey Ford

There’s a time in my life, about 40 years ago, when I would have definitely said yes to a trip into outer space, but now it seems like it would be, from what the actuality of space travel currently is, like getting stuck in an elevator for a weekend. No thanks. Hard driving space adventure is not my strong suit these days. If they had a spaceship with a porch and big rooms with comfortable furniture, I might go for it. Just the training, though, being spun around at a thousand miles an hour till I puke? I can think of better ways to kill an afternoon. That paste shit they serve in outer space, like something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe, holds no allure. I’ll take a ray gun, though, or sit on my porch and shoot the breeze with ass head aliens from the planetoid Valshavar in the Oort Cloud, no sweat. To those more adventurous, I wish them safe travels with many startling discoveries. I’ll hold things down on Earth while they’re gone.

Paul Witcover

Like Brian, I would go in a heartbeat. What sort of experience would I most enjoy as a traveler? The Douglas Adams universe, without question . . . as long as I don’t get blown up too soon!

Read more »

Jay Lake and Austin Sirkin in Conversation

A podcast recorded live at ICFA this past March, this conversation focuses on steampunk. With author Jay Lake and scholar Austin Sirkin, we discuss the international steampunk scene, the history and amorphous definition of the genre, amazing scientific heroes of the past, and nerfpunk, among others.


Small Blue Planet — Ep 05, Israel

In this episode of Small Blue Planet we visit Israel with translators Gili Bar Hillel and Didi Chanoch.


Among the interesting bits mentioned:

Conventions: Icon, Utopia, Olamot, Meorot, Bydion
Magazines: Once Upon a Future
Publishers: Graff Publishing
Current writers: Lavie Tidhar, Yir Naniv, Guy Hasson, Vered Tochterman, Gail Hareven,
Etgar Keret, Assaf Gavron, Asaf Ashery
Abigail Nussbaum’s review of With Both Feet in the Clouds: Fantasy in Hebrew Literature

Five Golden Things — Tobias S. Buckell

Five books that really evoke ship life

I grew up on a boat. Tight quarters, sparse living. It wasn’t living aboard a spaceship, and it wasn’t military naval service, but it was a taste of what it’s like to keep your own environment with you. I also spend time working around crew on other ships of various sizes. And one thing that resonates with me are books that give me a taste of crew-life.

Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh

Probably one of my favorite crew-life books, I encountered the Science Fiction Book Club edition of this 1980′s SF novel in the back of a storage room I was cleaning out for someone when I was a teenager in the US Virgin Islands. I lifted it for myself at lunch and it somehow found its way home with me.

The depictions of merchant crew life aboard the future’s version of aging tramp steamers grabbed me by the eyeballs and didn’t let me go. Cherryh thinks through the issues of watches, varying personalities, relationships, and the constant struggle of the little guy against larger corporations and military conflicts.

My biggest complaint? You can’t buy it as an ebook right now. Which is just criminal. I’d buy a copy in a split second.

Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks

With a weird title and an over-the-top James Bond-like opening chapter, there’s a lot to like about this introduction to the Culture series by Banks. Criminally under-rated over here in the US, the series is dynamite, imaginative space opera. And while the Culture series is a favorite of mine, what I really enjoyed most about Consider Phlebas, and what converted me to a fan when I first read it, were the depictions of crew life.

The grubby, mercenary crew of the ship Clear Air Turbulence are messy and complicated. And the dynamics between Horza and the crew he comes to lead as they adventure through some of the incredible scenery that makes up the Culture universe were fraught and engaging. And the intensity of emotion that can build up between people cooped up in a small space, to the point of hatred, is embodied totally in Horza and Kraiklyn’s feud.

The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Warrior’s Apprentice is the first book in the Vorkosigan Saga featuring the famous Miles Vorkosigan. The Saga is well known within the SF community, the latest novel in the series is up for a Hugo. The Warrior’s Apprentice features a young Miles Vorkosigan, washed out of military academy, getting his hands on a freighter and slowly building up a crew. Using brain, not brawn, Miles ends up the commander of a mercenary fleet and a smuggler.

While not filled with quite as much crew authenticity as the previous two books recommended, it still captures that sense of a tight crew of personalities bonded in the small confines of a ship, navigating a larger universe full of potential hostile surprises. Which makes for a good read.

Leviathan Wakes by James Corey

It’s space opera, but on a planetary, near-ish future scale. James Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) has put together another team of tight misfits all stuck together in a tin can ranging its way through space, and an exceptionally explosive universe just outside their airlocks. Grizzled blue collar tramp steamer types pick apart solar system-wide conspiracies, fall in love, get angry, and just try to stay alive long enough to keep the ship going. Everything you want in a ship oriented science fiction novel.

Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds

A lot of Reynold’s Revelation Space features crew life (Chasm City for example, hooked me with its personalities and exploration of that fantastic world building), but Pushing Ice gets the nod for ship life examination. The crew of a comet-miner gets caught up in the expedition of a lifetime when they go chasing after an alien artifact in the solar system and get caught up by it and taken far out beyond the ship’s ability to return to Earth. The crew are forced to build a life in a strange environment. Again, it’s about personalities who are trapped together. That can build deep bonds, or lead to life-altering hatreds and fights. There’s nothing halfway about being stuck in a small space.

Born in the Caribbean, Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author. His novels and over 50 short stories have been translated into 17 languages and he has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. He currently lives in Ohio.

ICFA 34 – Adapting Shakespeare

This is one of the panels I recorded at the most recent ICFA conference. The participants (in order of appearance) were Jim Casey, Sharon Emmerichs, Kevin Crawford, Neil Gaiman, and Conor McCreery. How do you adapt Shakespeare? Is there any such thing as a single true, definitive “Shakespeare”? How do the plays adapt into different media, different costumes, different generations? A very thoughtful discussion on the malleable Bard.


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