Open Road Media and Genre-Bending Novels (and a Book Sale)

Open Road Media is running a sort of awareness campaign / sale for novels which essentially defy categorization.  There are quite a few interesting books on the list, so in case you're interested in that sort of thing, here are the details:
Jonathan Carroll. Edward Whittemore. Robert R. McCammon. James Morrow. All of these authors have written novels that defy our understanding of conventional genres. More than just literary fiction, these novels rejoice in the fantastic and the sublime.

Since their initial publication, many of these stories have been categorized as science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and “other.”

This week, Open Road Media is celebrating these tales of the in-between. Novels that, for one reason or another, refuse to be categorized.

We encourage you to take a look at the ten ebooks we’ve selected and expand your conception of genre fiction. The titles with the asterisk* will be on sale for $3.99 or less until August 20th.

1. The Summer Isles* by Ian R. MacLeod
2. From the Teeth of Angels by Jonathan Carroll
3. Black Light by Elizabeth Hand
4. Sinai Tapestry* by Edward Whittemore
5. The Eighth Square* by Herbert Lieberman
6. Expiration Date* by Tim Powers
7. Mine by Robert R. McCammon
8. The Broken Land* by Ian McDonald
9. The Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
10. The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti by Stephen Graham Jones

Cross genre boundaries and join the conversation this week. Feel free to share your thoughts on your site, or contribute to ours. Even our authors are speaking out. “The real reason I write across genre lines,” explains Stephen Graham Jones,” “is because I want to see cool stuff.”
You can find details about the books on sale here.

There's an interesting question behind all of this:  what are some of your favorite genre-bending stories?  And so that's the question I'll leave you all with:
What are some of your favorite genre-bending novels, short stories, or films?

Week of Joy (Day Six): Heart of Fire by J. Damask (A Mini Interview)

J. Damask (a.k.a. Joyce Chng) was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book, Heart of Fire, which hits digital shelves in September.  The book comes from Masque Books, a digital-only division of Prime Books, a notable small press genre publisher (notable most recently for releasing the absolutely amazing Yoon Ha Lee collection, Conservation of Shadows -- check out the Skiffy and Fanty interview here).  In other words, Heart of Fire is sure to be damned good!  Though you'll have to wait for a little while, you should bookmark this page and remember to buy it in a couple months!

Now for the mini interview:

If you had to describe your novel to someone who doesn't read a lot of genre fiction, how would you describe it?

It is set in Singapore, has a lot of mythological animals and creatures and Singapore food. And oh yes, it has werewolves.

What do you think makes fantasy such a compelling genre for so many readers?

I think it’s compelling, because it allows readers to slip into other worlds. You know, make-believe world. It’s like Narnia!

How would you say Heart of Fire fits in with the rest of your work?  Does it share certain sensibilities or thematic concerns?

It does, come to think of it. I tend to examine tropes of transformation and transfiguration, as well as motifs like family ties and relationships.  To me, the family is central and it does appear in many of my stories.  I often wonder if this is an Asian thing, to feature the family as an important motif/theme.

As a Singaporean author writing in English, what would you say are your greatest challenges in terms of reaching audiences abroad (particularly in other English-speaking parts of the world -- not just "the West," mind you)?

Authenticity?

(Then again, what is authenticity?)

I am Singaporean Chinese. So, I sometimes feel that people would want me to write in Mandarin Chinese (no, I couldn’t – and my last (and only) Mandarin spec fic story was written when I was a kid as a school composition). I think people want to see an “authentic” voice, so to speak.

I think there are no such things as authentic voices.

What one thing that you know now do you wish you'd known when you first started treating writing as a professional endeavor?

That it couldn’t be a full-time job.

That it won’t be easy for people from Southeast Asia?

(Wait, that’s two things…)

And, last, for a silly question:  If you had to choose an animal to write your next book for you, which animal would you choose and why?

A wolf.

Because it’s cool.

(But hey, it doesn’t have opposable thumbs…)

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About the Book:
Jan Xu, wolf and pack leader, faces more dangers when she saves a foreign male wolf in love with one of her ancient enemies, a jiang shi, a Chinese vampire. Throw in a love-struck drake—and Jan finds her situation suddenly precarious, with her reputation and health at stake. How much is a wolf going to take when everything is out of control again and her world thrown into disarray? How is she going to navigate the complexities of Myriad politics while keeping her pack and family intact without losing her mind? The third book of the Jan Xu Adventures will see Jan Xu’s continual fight as pack leader, her clan’s Eye (seer) and mother of three young children. Her mettle, courage and love for her family will be tested to her utmost limits.

2012 Nebula Awards Winners (w/ Brief Thoughts)


Last night, the SFWA folks hosted the 2012 Nebula Awards.  I didn't get to watch the live stream because I was trying to recover from the episode we recorded for The Skiffy and Fanty Show on Friday night (I'm still sort of recovering).  However, now that the awards have been announced, I see fit to talk about the winners.

Here they are:

Best Novel
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

I like Robinson more than a lot of my friends.  I'm not sure why.  Most people I've talked to can't stand his Three Californias series, while I find them fascinating (especially The Gold Coast).  Regardless, I honestly had hoped to see Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed or The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin take the award.  Both will probably appear on this list again, though, so maybe it's just not their time yet.

Best Novella
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)

I love Nancy Kress, and this collection really was quite good.  Granted, de Bodard, Lake, and Liu were also on the finalists list, each them worthy of awards too.  Still, I'm satisfied with this selection.  Besides, Tachyon is bloody amazing.

Best Novelette
“Close Encounters”, Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)

Honestly, I have no real opinion here.  I'm sure Duncan's story is great.  I am, of course, a Liu fan, so I will always be partial to his work.  But Liu can't win everything, right?  I did get to hear Duncan read/speak at ICFA, and he's not bad.  So I'm OK with this selection.

Best Short Story
“Immersion“, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)

The right choice.  End of story.  Moving on.

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight )

I'm really trying to understand why this film is so loved.  Everything I've seen from it looks awful.  Am I missing something?  To be fair, the rest of the finalists list was painfully predictable.  There was no Cloud Atlas, so as much as I would have liked to see Chronicle win...oh, right, that was not on the list either.  So it goes...

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF/F
Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)

Honestly, this is probably the right choice.  I've heard nothing but good things about Fair Coin and I'm sure I'm not the only one who didn't think Railsea was Mieville's best.  So kudos to Myers!

2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award
Gene Wolfe

Yeah.  It was time.  Good.  A+

Solstice Award
Carl Sagan and Ginjer Buchanan

Nod.  Yes.  Perfect.

Kevin O'Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award
Michael H. Payne

Alright.  I have no idea who this is, but since I'm not part of SFWA, that's probably expected.  Good for Mr. Payne.

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And that's all I've got to say.  What say you?

Hugo Awards Finalists (Plus Preliminary Commentary)


I'm too lazy to offer a proper introduction, so I'm just going to dive in (give me a break; I walked over five miles today).  The only thing I will say is that most of these are preliminary, most-likely-haven't-read-it thoughts.  For the most part, I will have nothing to say about a work except why I didn't pick it up during hte year.  The sad truth is that most of the stuff I nominated this year (my first nominating year) didn't make it.

Here goes (Hugos):

Best Novel

  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

Nothing I loved last year made it on the list.  The only book I'm particularly excited about is Ahmeds, but that's based on what others have said.  I haven't read anything on this list and probably won't read at least two of them (nothing interests me about Scalzi's nostalgic book and I just can't bring myself to read Mira Grant's novels, even though I probably should -- I blame that on people frequently telling me to read something, which turns me into a rebel).  But since I'll get copies of all these books in my Hugo voting package (right?), I'll probably read them anyway.

Overall, I'm sort of "meh" about this particular category, though.  It's too...familiar.

Best Novella

  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • "The Stars Do Not Lie" by Jay Lake (Asimov's, Oct-Nov 2012)

I'm pleasantly surprised to see Nancy Kress on the list.  I quite like her work, though I must admit to having missed the work in this category.  I'm already rooting for her and Aliette de Bodard, who is another one of those really good writers currently, well, writing.  I'll profess complete ignorance about Lake's new story, though his recent work has greatly impressed me.  Grant and Sanderson?  The one thing going for Sanderson is that Tachyon published The Emperor's Soul.  I feel mostly the same about the Grant as I did in the previous category.

Best Novelette

  • "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
  • "Fade To White" by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • "In Sea-Salt Tears" by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • "Rat-Catcher" by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

Aside from the excessive number of nominations for Seanan McGuire on this ballot (she is also Mira Grant), I quite like this list.  I've not heard of Heuvelt, but Postcripts is a damned good publication.  I've also quite liked some of Valente's work and I am pleasantly surprised to see Pat Cadigan making an appearance.

I should note that I don't actually have anything against Seanan McGuire.  I've not read most of her work.  I'll probably change my tune in a few months.  As a rule, though, I am skeptical about any author who appears more than twice on a ballot.  There is so much good work out there that I find it a little weird that one author could suck up so many votes in one nomination cycle.  But what do I know?  I'm a curmudgeon who likes to complain...

Best Short Story

  • "Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • "Mantis Wives" by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • "Mono no Aware" by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

Now this is interesting!  I quite like Ken Liu's work, and I did nominate de Bodard's "Immersion" (happy).  I've not read Johnson's newest story, though I'm told by fellow literary curmudgeon Adam Callaway that it is one of her best.

I am, however, disappointed that the votes were so divided among various stories that these three were the only ones to pop out of the crowd.  It's not right...

Best Related Work

  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
  • Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
  • Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

In order:
1) Cambridge Companion = wonderful!
2) Chicks Dig Comics (same folks who did that other one, I think)
3) Chicks Unravel Time (bored of Doctor Who appearing on everything; yeah, it's really great, but it's really not the greatest science fiction TV show EVER -- it just happens to be the only good one on the air right now, one which I happen to like, of course)
4) I Have an Idea for a Book (never heard of it; sounds interesting)
5) Writing Excuses (yeah, it belongs here and I'm happy to see it get nominated in the proper category)

What?  No VanderMeer or what not?  Pah!

Of course, I would laugh my toosh off if this list were dominated by academic books.  It will never happen, but my pretentious side is plotting and cackling...

Best Graphic Story

  • Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
  • Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
  • Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

Honestly, I don't follow comics enough to have any opinion on these.  So I'll pass...

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
  • The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
  • The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
  • Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

In order:
1) I nominated it.  It belongs here.  It's a shoe-in, methinks.
2) Again, it belongs here.  I'd call it a shoe-in if #1 weren't already there...
3) Oh come on...I know that this community has a massive hard-on for Tolkien and The Hobbit, but let's just admit that Lord of the Rings was better as a movie than this 2+ hour monstrosity.  It's bloated, confused, and mostly style over substance.  It's really not that good.  Watch it again.  It's like looking at what Michael Bay would have done if they'd given him the helm.  I love Peter Jackson, but he desperately needs someone to tell him "no."  He's becoming George Lucas...
4) Sure.  OK.
5) Eh, whatever.

I didn't honestly expect this community to nominate Cloud Atlas.  Most people didn't see it, and most of those who did pretty much didn't get it.  Not surprising, really.  But no Chronicle?  Whatever...

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • Doctor Who:"The Angels Take Manhattan" Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who:"Asylum of the Daleks" Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who:"The Snowmen" Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
  • Fringe:"Letters of Transit" Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
  • Game of Thrones:"Blackwater" Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

Completely predictable list.  Doctor Who dominates.  Yawn.  To be fair, I only nominated Game of Thrones stuff.  Not much to love in TV in 2012.  I think we should scrap the category and just nominate shows, and then promptly kick DW out into its own category.  The Annual Best Doctor Who Episode category.

Best Editor - Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Good names.  I like it.

Best Editor - Long Form

  • Lou Anders
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Toni Weisskopf

Ditto.

Best Professional Artist

  • Vincent Chong
  • Julie Dillon
  • Dan Dos Santos
  • Chris McGrath
  • John Picacio

Sure, I like it.

Best Semiprozine 

  • Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
  • Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

No Interzone.  Not happy.  Bored, in fact.  Clarkesworld deserves to win this year, though.

Best Fanzine

  • Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
  • SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

Now this is interesting.  Three zines we expected, one blog we also expected, and one we didn't.  Well, I didn't, anyway.  Interesting.  To be fair, I still think this list is too much like the Dramatic Short Form.  Too...repetitive.  Such is life.

Best Fancast

  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
  • SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Coode Street should win.  That is all.  I'm just sort of bored with SF/F podcasts these days.  Popularity always beats quality.  Curmudgeon Shaun strikes again... (No, I'm not mad that I didn't make it on the list.  Disappointed?  Sure, but I didn't really expect us to receive enough votes to make the final ballot.  I just thought the field would look...different.  But it doesn't.)

Best Fan Writer

  • James Bacon
  • Christopher J Garcia
  • Mark Oshiro
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Steven H Silver

Same problem as the previous few categories, though TRR is here, which is nice.

Best Fan Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles

I know nothing about any of these people.  No comment.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
(It's really just a Hugo Award and I'm sick and tired of people saying it isn't.  If it's not a Hugo Award, then give it a completely different ceremony.  Otherwise, let's get over ourselves and admit that whether the Campbell is officially a Hugo, it is a de facto Hugo.  We vote on it via the same exact form.  It is presented at the same awards.  It is, for all intensive purposes, a normal part of the whole process.  It's a Hugo.  Accept it and move on.)

  • Zen Cho *
  • Max Gladstone
  • Mur Lafferty *
  • Stina Leicht *
  • Chuck Wendig *
Stina Leicht.  That is all.  She will win or I will burn all of fandom to the ground...

And that's that.  I hope you enjoyed the incoherent rambles.  Don't hate me too much...


Zoo City by Lauren Beukes Sells Film Rights

I just broke the news over at The Skiffy and Fanty Show, but I figure you all should know about it too!

Lauren Beukes, South African author of Moxyland and Zoo City, has sold the film rights to her Arthur C. Clarke winning novel, Zoo City to Helena Spring, a renowned South African filmmaker.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:
Helena Spring, widely regarded as one of South Africa’s most accomplished motion picture producers, has just been awarded the highly sought-after film rights to Zoo City, the Sci-Fi thriller penned by South African author Lauren Beukes – who garnered the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction novel. In the wake of whopping sales figures, multiple awards and critical acclaim Beukes’ book generated fierce interest from numerous bidders in the entertainment industry, putting Spring alongside major US and UK producers eager to tell Beukes’ unique tale. 
And:
Spring’s career in the entertainment industry spans nearly three decades, during which time she has produced over twenty motion pictures – including the first ever South African film to receive recognition at the Academy Awards®: Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday earned a Best Foreign Picture nomination in 2004. 
Spring, who has worked with some of the foremost filmmakers in the world – such as Paul Greengrass who helmed the box office smash hits The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, and Academy Award® winner, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), will soon be putting the project out to a select party of directors, while Beukes has first look as screenwriter to adapt her novel for the screen. “Lauren is perfectly placed to do this. The characters are alive inside her,” says Spring.
This is huge news!  Congrats, Lauren!

You can read my review of Zoo City here and the Skiffy and Fanty interview with Lauren here.


RIP: Anne McCaffrey

It seems that Anne McCaffrey, one of the great science fiction writers, has passed away.
Needless to say, the genre community has suffered some big losses in the last few years.  McCaffrey will be remembered for a long time to come, if not for being a great writer (she was), then certainly for helping shape genre fiction (she did).  She'll be placed along side E. E. "Doc" Smith, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Joanna Russ, and many more.

We'll miss you, Anne.


Weird Tales: The Editorial Fiasco

There's something troublesome about what is going on with Weird Tales.  Yesterday, Ann VanderMeer, the current-(no-longer)-editor of the magazine posted an announcement that she would not longer be editor.  More disturbing was the news that Weird Tales had been sold to another editor who seems to have purchased it in order to edit it himself (this fellow being Marvin Kaye).  The entire staff has been dropped, without much in the way of warning or transition.  Poof.  Done.  Over.  I'm sure there was something going on behind the scenes that we don't know, but it doesn't seem all that relevant when you consider the lack of professionalism going on here.

To add insult to injury, apparently the first thing Kaye intends to do is launch a Cthulu-themed issue of Weird Tales, taking the magazine backwards many decades.  It's almost as if they don't care what Ann did for Weird Tales -- dragging it out of the shadows of its past.  To be honest, I find myself agreeing with much of what Jason Sanford has already said on this issue:
Which brings me back to what I mentioned earlier about Ann's vision. Without a strong editorial vision a magazine can easily founder in the marketplace. Unfortunately, my take on Kaye's vision, which is based on the type of stories he's published in his anthologies over the years, is of someone in love with storytelling as it used to exist. The fact that his first issue as editor of Weird Tales will be "Cthulhu-themed" supports this view.
I'm not alone in this thinking. On Twitter, John Joseph Adams was asked what he knew about Kaye and replied "Not much, but I would expect WT to revert to the magazine it was 30-40 years ago." Warren Ellis echoed this by saying that Kaye is "clearly very retro in his tastes."
I simply don't get why we need more Cthulu stuff.  There are so many anthologies already out there, and more hitting shelves every day.  I get that Cthulu is fun and classic, but isn't the point of Weird Tales as it currently stands to get beyond rehashes of Lovecraftian thematics into other visions of the weird, macabre, bizarre, and downright strange?  And isn't going back to Lovecraft and Cthulu and all these classic forms of horror and weirdness taking things in the wrong direction?

It seems, to me, like a mighty dickish move.  I don't know Kaye, so perhaps he has good intentions and things got out of control.  But a lot of readers of Weird Tales are already talking about cancelling their subscriptions and many others are practically in boycott mode.  If the last few years have taught us anything about the genre community, it doesn't like it when someone else takes a dump on someone they like, even if the perception itself is inaccurate.  We just don't like it.
I guess this is farewell.  Sad, but true.  Ann will be greatly missed.  Maybe she'll start a Weird magazine of her own one day.  That would be mighty cool, no?  (Hint hint to any company wanting to start a magazine and in need of a staff...)
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P.S.:  I linked to Jeff VanderMeer's blog primarily because I don't know how long Ann's post will remain up on Weird Tales considering how dickish it makes Kaye's move seem.

You all might also be interested in Warren Ellis' take.

An Anthology Idea: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Homophobia

In the last twenty-four hours, I have been having a very interesting discussion with Fabio Ferndandes, Charles Tan, and others on the subject of homophobia and science fiction.  Our talk stems from a post I wrote a few days ago on that very subject and has sparked serious consideration of queer-related anthologies (at the time of this post, many were discussing the possibility of a queer military SF anthology, of which I would love to be a part).  I suggested early on that it would be interesting to see an anthology of SF/F stories which deal with homophobia.  A number of people thought that was a good idea too, and so I am writing this post as a way to further test the waters (and have something concrete on "paper").

The anthology would obviously serve a social/political purpose:  to help spread knowledge about the issue of homophobia, discrimination against LGBT people, and so on within the SF/F community.  How could it not have a purpose if it is on that very subject?  I think an anthology dealing directly with these issues would have an impact on the SF/F community (and, perhaps, outside of it).

In terms of the actual theme, it has occurred to me that diversity in content is essential.  Nobody wants to read a collection in which every story is about a gay man or gay woman being treated like garbage by heterosexuals.  Such stories are important and would be welcome, but I think it's also important to explore the boundaries of political engagement for LGBT people in a variety of settings, extrapolative (science fiction) or imagined (fantasy).  This might mean looking at how LGBT people navigate heteronormative cultures in future settings (dystopian or optimistic) or medieval worlds, but it might also mean delving into the finer points of civil rights arguments, religion and dogma, and so forth, whether through direct engagement or clever uses of allegory and metaphor.  In a way, I think the topic should be focused on the struggle of LGBT life in SF/F settings rather than specifically on homophobia.  In my opinion, it is just as crucial to find good stories as it is to find stories that shy away from blatant point-making (i.e., message stories).  Homophobia plays a role in a variety of situations beyond the most obvious, and I would like to see stories that play with these more subtle boundaries suggested above.

The last thing I want to cover is the issue of genre.  I like the idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, but I wonder how loosely we should take those genres and whether it is a good idea to keep the two together.  Would it be more effective to have an anthology of SF stories on this topic?  Should the term "SF" be taken loosely?  Should fantasy be taken loosely too (so as to include literary forms such as magical realism)?  My initial tweets kept to the SF/F merger, but I wonder if that would post problems for editorial cohesion.  Then again, because of the specificity of the theme, narrowing the genre even further could pose serious problems for acquiring good work.  Maybe I'm worrying over nothing.

I'll leave the rest of the discussion to others.  I don't want to overload this idea with too much of my own opinions, preferences, and so forth.  With that in mind, here are a few questions to consider:
  • Would you be interested in an anthology on this subject?  What would you change?
  • Who would edit it?  I have some experience editing, but not for something of this scale or specificity (or so I think).
  • Who would like to contribute, and who should one ask to contribute (i.e., who would be a good writer to consider approaching)?
  • How would such an anthology be run?  Suggestions have been made about putting the anthology on a website, with an ebook version sold through Smashwords.  Are there any serious publishers who would be a good fit for the anthology?  Or should the project, if it were to be put together, stay in the indie realm?
  • Would authors be paid?  If so, how would we acquire the funds to do so?  Kickstarter?  Would proceeds go to a related charity, the authors, or the "publishers?"
  • What would we call the anthology?  Something tells me "Homophobia X:  An SF/F Anthology of LGBT Stories" would not be appealing to readers.
I am open to any ideas, suggestions, and thoughts that you might have.  If you could also spread the word, that would be great.  I'd love to get as many opinions as possible on this idea.

Anywho!

Literary vs. Genre Fiction: The Line? (Part Three)

[And now for part three. You can read parts one and two here and here.]

3. What are some common myths people have about fantasy and/or science fiction?

The interesting thing about Delmater's response is that she offers a myth held by genre readers as a myth held by general readers. She says that the reason few people come to science fiction is because they assume it is "very hard to understand—too scientific—or that it is all about robots and ray-guns, and that it is best suited for children or the simple-minded." There are a lot of problems here (other than the odd contradiction).

According to Terry Jones,
this is how migraines start.
First, people don't not read SF because they think it's too hard to understand (double-negative!). That's a myth transplanted from at least thirty years ago, if not farther. If this part of Delmater's response were true, then one would not expect to find Star Wars or Michael Crichton books on the bestseller list.  After all, pretty much everyone who gives a flying fig about categorizing genres in the loosest sense believes Star Wars is science fiction, and Michael Crichton writes the closest thing to hard science fiction that you're going to find from a bestselling author today.  More importantly, Star Wars is just one franchise with a book series that seems to sell quite well (it's probably the most successful, but I don't have sales numbers to confirm that).  The issue isn't that people think SF is hard to read.  There's something else going on.

Captain Flashypants says, "Gotcha!"
Second, I agree that people do associate SF with its tropes (or furniture).  And you know what?  That's not a reason why people don't read SF.  If it was, then it would also be a reason used to avoid SF movies.  But guess what?  SF movies are often the top grossing movies every year, and it has been that way, more or less, for a decade, if not longer.  The reality:  people like ray guns and spaceships and aliens and explosions and all that stuff that is often associated with SF in all its forms.  Again, the problem has to be related to something else.

Third, the idea that people still look at SF as simple-minded is somewhat unfair to how people view SF.  Yes, people still consider SF to be a less serious genre, but that's largely because most SF movies are meant as pure entertainment.  And you know what?  There's nothing wrong with that.  I may not like those movies, but a hell of a lot of people do; good on them.  SF as a literary genre is somewhat more sophisticated, certainly, but it is only more sophisticated in the sense that literature almost always is in relation to its film counterpart.  People aren't reading SF because they see it as simple-minded, though.  There are certainly individuals who think it is just that, but, again, for the third time, I think the problem is something else entirely.

(To be fair to Dalmater, I think she's right that people view fantasy in a derogatory light, but I also don't think it matters.  Fantasy isn't struggling to maintain a readership.  People can think ill of it all they like, but it's not going to stop people from writing fantasy or publishers from releasing four-thousand trilogies a year.)

The thrill of discovery...
The nude kind...
The problem I see with readership in SF is that there has not been enough of an effort to transplant media tie-in readers and genre movie watchers to the general literary field.  Some of that has to do with marketing and the community, and some of that has to do with the fact that so much of the SF that gets attention seems to be of the more serious variety.  The problem?  That's not true of other genres.  There are serious fantasies, sure, but most fantasy is on the lighter side.  The plots might be dark, there might be evil and dark magic, and perhaps some political intrigue, but overall, most fantasies that get attention are rip-roaring good fun, with some exceptions.  You can even look to other genres, such as romance or mysteries, with the same lens.  The titles that often sell the best are the ones that give readers the thrill they're looking for.  The reality is that most people read books to be entertained, and that's it.  They're not necessarily interested in deep themes, complicated prose, convoluted plots, and other such things.  They want that thrill, and they want it fast so they can move on to the next thing.

This is a good movie.
SF is having a hard time meeting that demand, and that's likely because there has not been enough effort to dispel the myth that SF literature can be just as fun as SF movies.  Remember, people loved District 9, generally speaking, and I think it's clear that films like Inception and The Matrix remain fan favorites.  Hell, I'll even throw Avatar into the mix (it's hard to avoid talking about it anyway).  All of these films have one thing in common:  they are immensely entertaining, generally speaking (not everyone agrees, but that's like saying that not everyone likes licorice).  Three of the aforementioned films are also "serious" SF films (you can define that word "serious" if you so choose; I'm not going to).  SF literature isn't snatching up these folks for one reason or another.  Maybe they've simply lost them to the film engine, or maybe we as a community aren't doing enough to point out to lovers of films that there are great books that would be right up their alley if they'd just give them a shot.  Meanwhile, SF readers who have been reading since H. G. Wells and Jules Verne had their literary child are concerned about the "coming end."

I'm not one of those individuals who thinks that SF literature is dying.  I don't think it can die.  But I do think that it will continue shrinking until it becomes excessively niche if something isn't done soon.  SF is in need of a marketing campaign that transcends the publisher package.  Publishers aren't going to do that for us.  They have no real investment, generally speaking, in maintaining genres.  If SF wains, then they'll publish less of it, and it's no sweat off their back.  Why?  Because publishers will simply move on to the next thing.  They respond to market pressures.  They do their best to control the market (and let's be fair here, publishers certainly push certain kinds of nonsense on the rest of us that they damn well shouldn't if they expect us to see them as agents of integrity--just look at all the political books released in the last decade).  At some point someone is going to have to put up a call to action in the community, and the community will be given a choice (in the words of Robert Zubrin) :  "we either muster the courage to go, or we risk the possibility of stagnation."

Brief Thoughts on The Apex Book of World SF 2 (Table of Contents)

The fine folks over at Apex recently released the table of contents for their upcoming second book in the Apex Book of World SF series.  Before I throw in my thoughts, here is the list:

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines)–Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life
Ivor W. Hartmann (Zimbabwe)–Mr. Goop
Daliso Chaponda (Malawi)–Trees of Bone
Daniel Salvo (Peru)–The First Peruvian in Space
Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina)–Eyes in the Vastness of Forever
Chen Qiufan (China)–The Tomb
Joyce Chng (Singapore)–The Sound of Breaking Glass
Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary)–A Single Year
Andrew Drilon (Philippines)–The Secret Origin of Spin-man
Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro (Cuba)–Borrowed Time (trans. Daniel W. Koon)
Lauren Beukes (South Africa)–Branded
Raúl Flores Iriarte (Cuba)–December 8
Will Elliott (Australia)–Hungry Man
Shweta Narayan (India)–Nira and I
Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)–Nothing Happened in 1999
Tade Thompson (Nigeria)–Shadow
Hannu Rajaniemi (Finland)–Shibuya no Love
Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico)–Maquech
Sergey Gerasimov (Ukraine)–The Glory of the World
Tim Jones (New Zealand)–The New Neighbours
Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/US)–From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7
Gail Har’even (Israel)–The Slows
Ekaterina Sedia (Russia)–Zombie Lenin
Samit Basu (India)–Electric Sonalika
Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)–The Malady (trans. Wiesiek Powaga)
Jacques Barcia (Brazil)–A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades
That's one heck of a diverse list, don't you agree?  The thing that I love about it is that it brings in countries that even by World SF standards are usually not represented (Malawi, for example, although this is based on my admittedly limited exposure to world SF).

I only have one suggestion for future editions.  While I understand that the project is to bring works by people who are traditionally ignored by Western magazines, I do think it would be interesting to see a U.S. and a U.K. story in the mix, not because I want such an anthology to be "fair," but because I think seeing the contrast between all of the cultures presented above would be fascinating.  This is, after all, an anthology of World SF, which says to me that it is occupied by an incredibly broad view of SF across various cultures and perspectives.  One could illustrate a very interesting point by showing the differences and similarities between all of the cultures that have participated in SF, now and in the past.

But that might be a trivial point to bring up, since one could say that Western SF is readily available to those of us in the West (and elsewhere).  So be it.  I just want everything in one convenient package, and I would be willing to pay extra for such a book.

Otherwise, this anthology looks amazing.  I will likely purchase it when it comes out in 2011.  For now, I'll have to look at the first edition!