Thursday, July 2, 2015

Excerpt Link: The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The Annihilation ScoreThe Annihilation Score is the sixth book in Charles Stross's Laundry Files series, which will be released this coming week. In my "Editing in Process" blog post of March 26, I detailed some of my work on The Annihilation Score as well as the previous five books in the series.

The Laundry is a supersecret British intelligence agency that protects and defends Her Majesty's Government, and the people of England, from occult incursions from beyond space-time. In the books, we follow two agents: Bob Howard and Dr. Dominique "Mo" O'Brien. Up to this point, the Laundry Files stories have all been from Bob's point of view, but The Annihilation Score turns the storytelling on its head, and we now get to experience Mo's pov; her story begins at the end of the events in The Rhesus Chart. Here's a bit of an introduction, courtesy of the author and Tor.com.
Dominique O'Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they're boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty's government, they're operatives working for the nation's occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.

Mo's latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the super-powered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing super-pranks instead of super-heroics. The Mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they're currently separated because something's come between them—something evil.

An antique violin, an Erich [Zahn] original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo's proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled...
In anticipation of the release of The Annihilation Score on July 7, Charles Stross and Tor.com have posted the first two chapters of the novel for your advanced reading pleasure. Chapter One is entitled "Prologue: the Incorrigibles" and Chapter Two is "Morning After." Read the excerpt from The Annihilation Score on Tor.com

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Editing in Process... Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong
Cover art by Liliana Sanches
So, what does 148,000 words of short fiction physically look like? A stack of manuscript pages 2¼ inches high; or 530 pages, to be exact!

That's the size of the manuscript "for the best of" short story collection Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong, forthcoming in September from Tachyon Publications.

Now, I haven't read a lot of Kelley Armstrong's fiction. Just a few stories, no novels. I'm not an "urban fantasy, werewolves-vampires-zombies" kind of guy. During my years working with Night Shade Books[1], I worked on a couple Kelley Armstrong stories: "Twilight" in By Blood We Live (2009) and "Last Stand" (also included in Led Astray) in The Living Dead 2 (2010), both anthologies edited by John Joseph Adams. And one other story, "A Haunted House of Her Own" in The Urban Fantasy Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale, from Tachyon Publications (2011)[2].

To say I was surprised when I began working on the stories in Led Astray would be an understatement. I'm still not an "urban fantasy, werewolves-vampires-zombies" kind of guy, but I will definitely be reading more Kelley Armstrong stories in the future. What I discovered is that a number of the stories are written within Ms. Armstrong's existing series' universes -- actually only ten of the collection's twenty-three stories are "standalone"; all the rest fall within her existing series. So I would read a very cool story like "Learning Curve," and then six stories later I would encounter some of the same characters in "The List." The characters are so deftly written that when I came upon them again in another story it was like meeting up with old friends already.

One of my favorites, albeit a standalone story, is "Last Stand" -- unexpectedly, at least for me, a zombie story! It's a typical zombie story, in one sense: following a virus outbreak, soldiers in a fort must fight for their survival against the "Others." The well-drawn, strong female protagonist, Monica Roth, was a chemistry teacher before the outbreak, and now serves as commander, doing her best to keep the "last band of resistance fighters" alive. Here are a couple excerpts:
Before [Gareth] could say a word, she lifted her hand.
"Objection noted, Lieutenant."
"I didn't say a word, Commander," he said.
"You don't need to. You heard we're bringing in a fresh lot, and you're going to tell me—again—that we can't handle more prisoners. The stockade is overcrowded. We're wasting manpower guarding them. We're wasting doctors caring for them. We should take them out into the field, kill them and leave the corpses on spikes for the Others to see."
"I don't believe I've suggested that last part. Brilliant idea, though. I'll send a troop to find the wood for the poles—"
She shot him a look. He only grinned.


[. . .]


The H5N3 virus had started in Indonesia, with sporadic outbreaks downplayed by authorities until they could announce a vaccine.
Their salvation turned into their damnation. Some said the vaccine had been deliberately tampered with. Others blamed improper testing. They knew only that it didn't work.
No, that wasn't true. If the goal was to ensure that people survived the flu, then it worked perfectly. People were vaccinated, they caught the virus, they died, and they rose again.
Even before they rose, though, they'd carried a virus of their own, unknowingly spreading it through lovers, drug use, and blood donations. By the time officials realized the problem, a quarter of the population was infected. After the vaccinations stopped, another quarter died from the influenza itself. Both viruses continued to spread.
That was the Great Divide. The human race sliced in two, one side fighting for supremacy, the other for survival.
How "Last Stand" differs from the typical zombie story is...well, let's just say if I tell you, then I will completely spoil the experience of reading this story. You're just going to have to trust me on this one: go order Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong from Amazon or wherever you prefer to purchase books, and read this story -- and the twenty-two others in the collection -- and be amazed. Of course, if you are already a fan of Ms. Armstrong's work then I'm not telling you anything you don't already know!


This is the table of contents as it appears in the manuscript, with the respective universes noted where applicable. Of the twenty-three included stories, two are original to this collection.

Rakshashi (standalone)
Kat (Darkest Powers universe)
A Haunted House of Her Own (standalone)
Learning Curve (Otherworld universe)
The Screams of Dragons (Cainsville universe)
The Kitsune's Nine Tales (Age of Legends universe)
Last Stand (standalone)
Bamboozled (Otherworld universe)
Branded (Otherworld universe)
The List (Otherworld universe)
Young Bloods (Otherworld universe)
The Door (standalone, original to this collection)
Dead Flowers by a Roadside (standalone)
Suffer the Children (standalone)
The Collector (standalone)
Gabriel's Gargoyles (Cainsville universe)
Harbinger (standalone)
V Plates (Otherworld universe)
Life Sentence (Otherworld universe)
Plan B (standalone)
The Hunt (Cainsville universe)
Dead to Me (standalone)
Devil May Care (Cainsville universe, original to this collection)
Seventeen of these stories have been reprinted from anthologies, so I suspect even avid readers of Kelly Armstrong's fiction will not have seen most, if not all, of these stories. So no need to purchase seventeen other volumes...you can read the best of Kelley Armstrong in Led Astray.


---------------
Footnotes

[1] You can read my diatribe "Doin' Hard Time at Night Shade Books," which includes a complete list of the more than 100 books I worked on during my time with the press.

[2] I just realized that I have now worked for Tachyon Publications for more years than I did Night Shade Books -- I believe my first project was in 2002; and considering it has all been contract work through the years, I have no complaints. The working relationship has been one of the best, and I hope it continues for many years to come. Led Astray is my most recent copy editing project; Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds was my most recent editorial project, which you can read about in detail here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Links: "How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner"

"There's an element of searching and an element of matching. You're looking for people you can share a piece of your creative self with, for people you want to spend time on, for people who can help you become a stronger writer—a tribe or community. So a good fit is important."

The above is from Brooke McIntyre, founder of Inked Voices, a site where writers workshop in small, private online groups. She has a guest blog post entitled "How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner for You" (June 10, 2015) on JaneFriedman.com.

I have to admit, it's one of the best posts I've read in recent memory on critique/partner groups. And what makes this post even more valuable is that Ms. McIntyre links to networking opportunities, online critique sites, review communities, and more.

Here are the topics covered in the post:

A. What to Look For in a Partner or Group
1. Shared Direction, Similar Stage
2. A Workable Pace
3. People Enjoy the Writing and Feel Comfortable Critiquing It

B. So, How Do You Go About Actually Finding One of These Groups?
1. Writing Associations
2. Conferences and Retreats
3. Meetup
4. Participate in a "Mo"
5. Other Networking Opportunities
6. Online Critique Sites
7. Review Communities
8. Email and WordPress Groups

Even if you already participate in a critique group, I suspect you'll find some worthwhile tidbits in this post. So check it out on JaneFriedman.com. One caveat, however: Both Jane Friedman and Brooke McIntyre are in the editor-for-hire business (Aren't we all?) so they do tend to mention their own products when the opportunity arises.


Monday, June 8, 2015

"The pace of the novella is never less than breakneck": a review of Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Slow BulletsIf you are unfamiliar with the various works of author Alastair Reynolds, then Slow Bullets would be the perfect starting point. If you read Alastair Reynolds already, preferring his longer novels and series work -- still, don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading this story, as Slow Bullets has more ideas than some novels that are twice its length.

If you have any hesitations whatsoever about reading this story, read Richard Dansky's review in The Green Man Review:

Wars do not end neatly. While treaties may be signed and victories declared, there's always room around the edges and in the grey spaces away from cameras and central command for those more interested in brutality than resolution.

Such is the starting premise of Alastair Reynolds' novella Slow Bullets, which puts protagonist Scur in the entirely illegal clutches of a brutal enemy soldier. The ancient war the two have been fighting on opposite sides of is over, but on the ground that doesn't matter—Scur is captured, tortured, and left for dead with the ticking time bomb of a second "slow bullet"—a combination internal hard drive and dog tag implanted in every soldier—injected into her. Tougher than her captor thinks, Scur cuts out the second bullet, but that merely sets up the real conflict.

Scur later awakens onboard a giant transport vessel, prematurely awakened from hibernation, or so she thinks. The ship itself is in trouble, filled with a mix of war criminals, soldiers from both sides, and confused and terrified crew. It's also arrived a little late, as the green and lush planet it was supposed to arrive at after the war—now a dim and distant memory—appears to be undergoing an ice age, the sort of development that rarely occurs overnight.

The story has all the components of a classic disaster scenario, especially once Scur spots the man who captured her among the faction-riddled passengers. In lesser hands, that's perhaps what it could have been, with Scur and her nemesis pursuing each other across the wounded ship until there was some sort of climactic confrontation, preferably backlit with explosions. But Reynolds doesn't take the easy way out. Rather, the obvious conflict is contextualized, with the bigger problems—what's wrong with the ship, what can be done about it, how can groups of people for whom war is still fresh in their recently unfrozen minds be drawn to work together—taking center stage and the personal conflict viewed more as a threat to bigger, fragile solutions.

The pace of the novella is never less than breakneck, even if the incidents being discussed don't fit neatly into conventional action beats. Reynolds sketches the evolution of this unconventional, highly combustible society with a sure hand, eliding unnecessary detail while laying out the key components in stark detail. There's no wasted space here, no digressions into pointless technobabble or infodump for the sake of showing off the world building. Indeed, even the slow bullets of the title get described as much by implication as by exposition, which can lead an unwary reader to assume they've stumbled into a segment in an ongoing series. The fact that the ideas of the book are so big—the source and implications of the untimely ice age, the scale of the just-ended war, the questions of faith and memory and society that drive the action onboard ship—that it seems impossible for them to be given their due in something novella length. And yet Reynolds manages it while effortlessly sidestepping the more conventional questions one would expect him to have to answer—what happened to the ship, the larger details of the war—remain thoroughly sidelined. It is enough that things have happened, and Slow Bullets looks resolutely to the future instead of shoring up its universe's past.

At its core, Slow Bullets is a hopeful book, a cry against the darkness of seeming inevitable destruction. Scur and her shipmates, against all odds, manage to create something in the midst of a scenario primed instead for bloody destruction, and they give freely of themselves to do so. The greater good is ultimately affirmed as something worth striving and sacrificing for, even if the personal cost is high. But that doesn't mean it's a happy or cheerful book, rather just an eminently worthwhile one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Shirley Jackson Award Nominee: The Children of Old Leech Anthology

The Children of Old Leech tpbThe Children of Old Leech was the brainchild of editors Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele, and published in hardcover by Word Horde in July 2014 (and recently reprinted in trade paperback). The subtitle to this anthology is the key to its content: "A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron" -- stories written in the worlds and playgrounds of dark fantasy/horror author Laird Barron.

When I wrote about my work on TCoOL (April 14, 2014, blog post), I stated (and I quote): "I am confident that some of these stories will make their way onto the list of finalists for next year's Bram Stoker Awards and/or World Fantasy Awards." What I hadn't anticipated at the time was that the anthology itself would be nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. My congratulations to all the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award nominees; you can read the list of all the finalists, and categories, on ShirleyJacksonAwards.org.

As I said, TCoOL was originally published in a hardcover edition. In fact, if you ordered the book direct from Word Horde prior to publication -- and were willing to spend a few bucks more -- you would have scored the deluxe edition, which came with a limited edition goodie (July 5, 2014, blog post). Which brings me to the fact that if you read -- and collect -- quality fiction, particularly dark fantasy and horror, then follow, friend, and stalk Word Horde because you'll want to get in on any future deluxe editions the press publishes.

Here is the contents list for The Children of Old Leech:
Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers — Justin Steele
The Harrow — Gemma Files
Pale Apostle — J. T. Glover & Jesse Bullington
Walpurgisnacht — Orrin Grey
Learn to Kill — Michael Cisco
Good Lord, Show Me the Way — Molly Tanzer
Snake Wine — Jeffrey Thomas
Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox — T.E. Grau
The Old Pageant — Richard Gavin
Notes for "The Barn in the Wild" — Paul Tremblay
Firedancing — Michael Griffin
The Golden Stars at Night — Allyson Bird
The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of
  Yesterdays — Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Woman in the Wood — Daniel Mills
Brushdogs — Stephen Graham Jones
Ymir — John Langan
Of a Thousand Cuts — Cody Goodfellow
Tenebrionidae — Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay
Afterword — Ross E. Lockhart

As part of the promotion for TCoOL, Word Horde published mini excerpts from each of the stories over a span of several weeks. The first story excerpt is "The Harrow" by Gemma Files; at the bottom of the page you will find a link to the next story excerpt, and so on, through the entire contents list. So if you are unfamiliar with this anthology, then take advantage of these mini excerpts and give them a read.

Lockhart and Steele collect 17 original stories from some of the shining stars of modern horror, constructing a worm-riddled literary playground from elements of the fiction of horror maestro Laird Barron. The results come across with a coherent feeling of dread, without feeling derivative of the source. The Broken Ouroboros comes up in an academic study of a rural cult in Molly Tanzer's "Good Lord, Show Me the Way." The worms crawl in as tiny silkworms in J. T. Glover and Jesse Bullington's "Pale Apostle." Old Leech appears in the context of a hippie revival retreat in T.E. Grau's "Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox." In Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.'s "The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays," the pages of the Black Guide become material for a golem built by a Jewish man driven insane from a childhood witnessing Nazi magic. A doppelganger of Barron himself features in a wonderfully creepy introduction by Steele. Hopefully Barron will enjoy this tribute; his fans certainly will. (July)
Publishers Weekly, 05/19/2014

The 2014 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at Readercon 26, in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Alastair Reynolds on the Genesis of his story Slow Bullets

Slow BulletsJust the other day...well, actually, three days ago...I posted that the new novella by Alastair Reynolds -- Slow Bullets -- was now available for purchase. (The ebook should be available tomorrow, June 2, on Amazon, according to publisher Tachyon Publications.)

As I've previously written (here and here), I first approached Al Reynolds about a novella for Tachyon Publications in April 2013. And now, just a bit over two years later, Slow Bullets has been published. The book itself didn't really take two years: Al had to first write the story, then the story had to be accepted and agreements signed, and then the work on editing and publishing the story begun. What I didn't know, until yesterday, is that this story had actually been in process, so to speak, for years.

On his blog Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon, the author explains how two completely separate story ideas that had been gestating for years finally came together to form Slow Bullets.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Now Shipping: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds



On April 2, 2013, I contacted author Alastair Reynolds via email (I live in California, Al resides in the U.K.): I mentioned Tachyon Publications and that I had personally worked on some of the press's recent award-winning novellas (Nancy Kress's After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall and Brandon Sanderson's The Emperor's Soul). I knew that Al was in the middle of a trilogy of novels, but I also knew that in between novels he enjoyed writing short fiction (to cleanse the palate, as it were). So, I told him that should he find the time and inspiration to write a stand-alone novella, to please keep me and Tachyon Publications in mind.

Al responded the very next day, stating that he was about 20,000 words into a new novella that as yet had no home. Al also told me that he had not set himself any deadline for the completion of the novella, but when he did complete the story he would be sure to let me see it.

The rest, as they say, is history.

My comp copies of Slow Bullets arrived this past week. As I said, this project officially began on April 2, 2013, with that email to Al Reynolds -- and to finally hold the published book in hand provides me (and I'm sure Al himself and the folks at Tachyon Pubs) with a great sense of completion, of accomplishment.

You can read the details of how Slow Bullets came to be in my February 9, 2015, blog post entitled "Editing in Process...Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds." If you would like to request an ebook review copy of Slow Bullets, please read my March 16 blog post.


Here are a pair of blurbs for Slow Bullets from a pair of Michaels, just to whet your appetite:
Slow Bullets is classic science fiction, a space opera, a puzzle story, a character study, visionary science fiction, and a prayer for peace. I see no reason why you should not love it.
~ Michael Swanwick

Alastair Reynolds' new novella Slow Bullets has the scope of a much longer work (Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, say), the literary speed of the most rapidly hurtling bullet, and so many provocative scientific and/or philosophical ideas that even Stephen Hawking’s head might well spin with them. Moreover, Reynolds artfully compresses all these disparate elements into a portable trade paperback or a weightless e-file, the better to accommodate our busy reading habits and the more fully to entertain us.

Let me also note that Slow Bullets posits a far-future situation akin to the one that we confront on planet Earth today, but leavens this fictional crisis with a hard-won grasp of human psychology and a down-to-the-ground optimism that bestows on its readers reasons for supposing our "damned human race" nimble enough to overcome our demanding real-world crisis du jour. A fine example of the true science fictionist's art..."with a bullet," as the editors at Billboard Magazine used to say.
~ Michael Bishop

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Received: Michael J. Sullivan's Hollow World

Hollow WorldWhen I complete work on a project, I store a file box copy of the marked up manuscript (and yes, I still work on hardcopy) until I have a physical copy of the published book in hand. Up to that point, the author and/or the publisher may have a question or issue with one or more of my edits and, if necessary, I can refer back to the marked up manuscript. However, once I have a copy of the published book, any question or issue at that point is moot, and I will then recycle my copy of the marked up manuscript. The only exception to this would be if the book were part of a series -- and I plan to (or at least hope to be able to) work on subsequent volumes. I then retain the marked up manuscript for reference in my commitment to maintain consistency throughout the entire series.

So a while back I was going through stacks (and I mean stacks -- I work on a lot of series!) of manuscript boxes and I came upon the marked up manuscript for Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan.

I recalled a dinner meeting with Jacob and Rina Weisman, of Tachyon Publications, on Saturday, July 6, 2013, while attending Westercon 66 in Sacramento. It was during this dinner meeting that Jacob brought me up to speed on the forthcoming Hollow World project. So I checked my notes/invoice and found that I had completed work on this 385-page, 107,000-word novel in October 2013. I then checked the book's pub date on Amazon.com: April 15, 2014 -- and here it is a year later!

Since Tachyon Publications has never not sent me a comp copy of a book I worked on, the book must have been lost in transit -- and being busy with project after project, and stacks, as I said, of manuscript boxes -- I hadn't realized that I never received a copy of the published book, until recently. So I sent off an email to Tachyon requesting a copy of Hollow World...and the book is now in hand.


Hollow World is a time travel novel -- but it is not a novel about the science of time travel. In fact, as Sullivan states in his Author's Note at the beginning of the book:
In the classic The Time Machine, H. G. Wells's high-tech explanation for how his device was able to skip through years was: "Now I want you to clearly understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into the future, and this other reverses the motion." That's pretty much the extent of his hard science. Of course his story, while named The Time Machine, really wasn't so much about the machine or the science behind it, but rather speculations on the future of mankind.

So is Hollow World.
The author goes on to state in his Author's Note:
I did research into time-travel theory, and I drew inspiration from a handful of sources, most notably Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time by renowned astrophysicist J. Richard Gott. Mr. Gott provided a plausible explanation for how a stationary object could move significantly forward in time by overcoming the g-force restriction of linear travel by moving interdimensionally.... That's the theory, but as I said, time travel of the sort required for this story isn't possible—at least not in an urban garage.... I felt providing a good reading experience superseded an adherence to strict probability.

So, if Hollow World isn't about the science of time travel, then what is the story about? Here's an excerpt from a fairly lengthy review by N. E. White on SFFWorld.com:
Hollow World begins with Ellis Rogers being told he is going to die of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and he laughs. No, he's not a crazy old man. He just knows something his doctor doesn't: he's got a time machine sitting in his garage. Thus begins Ellis' journey into a future that is both frightening (to him) and awesome (in the true sense of that word).

...

While the story in Hollow World may seem deceptively simple and some may find Ellis naive in his attitudes towards sexual alternatives and deities, Mr. Sullivan has painted very realistic characters. Characters that ring so true, they reminded me of colleagues and neighbors who abhor the very idea of tolerating an open society, let alone living in a world where the very morals they uphold simply wouldn't make sense. With surprisingly familiar, clear, and poignant (sometimes even funny) language, Mr. Sullivan shows us a world where many of the problems we face today have been eliminated – showing the absurdity of our views. But he also shows us why we hold those views so closely to our hearts.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Received: Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
The colophon on the last page of this book reads:
This limited edition of 2,000 copies has been bound for Tachyon Publications by Maple Press. The cover illustration is a re-creation of Lius Lasahido's "Raturion," which was commissioned from Lasahido specifically for this edition by the publisher.
The point here being that if you wish to add a hardcover edition of Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction to your library, you had best make haste with that order because 2,000 copies won't be available for very long. To put 2,000 copies in perspective: Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) to be held in Spokane, Washington, on August 19-23, 2015, currently has over 8,000 members.

So, if you don't score a hardbound copy, don't say I didn't warn you....

You can read my February 18 blog post in which I write about my work on Rajaniemi's Collected Fiction. The collection contains nineteen stories and approximately 80,000 words. Three of the stories are original to the collection: "Ghost Dogs," "The Haunting of Apollo A7LB," and "Skywalker of Earth."

"Nano-jacked super-beings, carnivorous emergent technologies, the doors of perception yanked wide and almost off their hinges….Hannu Rajaniemi has a deserved reputation as the very hardest of Hard SF writers, but his range is far wider and far warmer. From stories of tech-driven future nightmare to eerie Finnish mythscapes rewired, quirky surreal mood pieces and experimental fiction genuinely worthy of the name, Rajaniemi writes fiction coded for the bleeding edge of modernity and yet rooted in age-old human imperatives; at the beating heart of these tales is a single concept—the ache of the human heart and the courage it takes to live with it, in this era or any other. So if you thought Hard SF was sterile stuff, lacking in human affect, think again—put the barrel of Rajaniemi’s fiction in your mouth and blow your mind."
—Richard Morgan, author of Altered Carbon and The Dark Defiles

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Locus Award Nominees: Daryl Gregory and Nancy Kress

We Are All Completely FineThis past Monday, May 4, the finalists were announced for the 2015 Locus Awards -- and I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the nominees in all categories. You can review the complete, Sad/Mad/Rabid Puppies-free list of nominees online at LocusMag.com.

However, amongst all those nominees are two authors, in the "best novella" category, whom I especially wish to acknowledge: Daryl Gregory and Nancy Kress. I was involved in the production of these two books from Tachyon Publications, and I have to hope that my work had, even in some small way, contributed to this success.

In my February 27, 2014, blog post, I wrote of my work on Daryl Gregory's novella, We Are All Completely Fine. When I wrote that blog post more than a year ago, I wrote (and I quote): "...we'll be seeing this sharp-edged story on many awards lists beginning in early 2015." And, as I had predicted, We Are All Completely Fine has been nominated for the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, in addition to the Locus Award. (And I won't speak any further about the Hugo Awards.)

Here's an excerpt from the fairly lengthy Publishers Weekly review:
"This complex novel—scathingly funny, horrific yet oddly inspiring—constructs a seductive puzzle from torn identities, focusing on both the value and peril of fear. When enigmatic Dr. Jan Sayer gathers survivors of supernatural violence for therapy, she unwittingly unlocks evil from the prison of consciousness....Blending the stark realism of pain and isolation with the liberating force of the fantastic, Gregory makes it easy to believe that the world is an illusion, behind which lurks an alternative truth—dark, degenerate, and sublime."
Publishers Weekly Starred Review


Kress-Yesterday's KinThe second novella is Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress, which I wrote about in my April 1, 2014, blog post. As with the Gregory novella, more than a year ago, I wrote: "So when I was called upon to copy edit the new, forthcoming novella, Yesterday's Kin, I knew that I would be working on another potential award-winning story." And, once again, Yesterday's Kin has also been nominated for the Nebula Award as well as the Locus Award.

Now you might be thinking that I say this about every project that I work on, but if you read this blog regularly, you would know that that's not true. In fact, I rarely boast about my projects being award worthy. In addition to these two novellas, the only other project that I recall making such a prediction was for the anthology The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron, edited by Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele and published by Word Horde. The anthology, by the way, is also a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, but that's for another blog post. So, for 2014, I'm three for three.

Nancy Kress and Tor.com have graciously posted an excerpt from Yesterday's Kin. The story is told from two alternating points-of-view, that of geneticist Marianne Jenner, and her youngest son Noah. This excerpt is from Marianne's POV.

And here's a snippet from the lengthy Kirkus review:
"The political turmoil created by Kress' aliens is a warning for the reader to pay more attention to how modern-day conflicts are handled.
Science-fiction fans will luxuriate in the dystopian madness, while even nonfans will find an artful critique of humanity's ability to cooperate in the face of a greater threat."
Kirkus Reviews

Last, but certainly not least, a few words from a Hugo Award-winning editor:
"Nancy Kress delivers one of the strongest stories of the year to date…. As with all of Kress’s work, this is very nicely crafted, with well-paced prose that carries you through the story, complex human characters, a compelling and conflict-driven human story, a clever twist partway through, and an even cleverer twist at the end."
–Gardner Dozois, editor of The Year's Best Science Fiction series


Update June 2, 2015: I neglected to mention that the winners of the Locus Awards will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle, June 26-28, 2015; Connie Willis will MC the awards ceremony.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Editing in Process: In the Stars I'll Find You by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Lest Our Passage Be ForgottenIn late 2012, author Bradley P. Beaulieu (pronounced "Bowl-yer") launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to self-publish a short story collection. The collection, entitled Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, was successfully funded by the end of January 2013 -- and I had the pleasure of working with Brad on the editing of this collection. You can read my blog post of April 22, 2013, on this project, if you wish.

Two years later, on December 1, 2014, Brad and five other authors launched a new Kickstarter campaign -- "Six by Six: A New Kind of Spec-Fic Anthology" -- in which six authors each provided a collection of six stories. This Kickstarter was a rather unique idea involving, as I said, six authors (including Will McIntosh and Martha Wells), and was fully funded along two stretch goals by the end of December.

After Brad met his "Six by Six" Kickstarter goals and rewards, he then combined those six stories with four additional stories -- and put together a second collection of short stories: In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic, which he also plans to self-publish.

Brad was fortunately satisfied with my work on Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten (You can read the author's acknowledgement in the first collection here.) because I was given the opportunity to work on this second collection as well.

As with the first collection, I performed a developmental review of the four new, previously unpublished stories:
"And a Girl Named Rose" (5,100 words)
"Born of a Trickster God" (16,900 words)
"Compartmentalized" (6,400 words)
"In the Stars I’ll Find You" (9,400 words)
Then, after Brad had reworked these stories as necessary, he pulled together the full collection of ten stories -- approximately 83,000 words of fiction -- and I did my line and copy editing thing. Even though I had already reviewed the four new stories, including them in the overall copy edit allowed me to catch any new errors that might have been introduced during the rework, plus I could then ensure consistency in word usage and such throughout the entire collection.

So, in addition to the four new stories above, the collection includes these six published stories (also in alphabetical order):
"Bloom" - first published in Realms of Fantasy, June 2008

"Chasing Humanity" - first published in Man vs. Machine, November 2006

"Flashed Forward" - first published in Help Fund My Robot Army, edited by John Joseph Adams, 2014

"No Viviremos Como Presos" - first published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, October 2007

"Quinta Essentia" - first published in Clockwork Universe - Steampunk vs. Aliens, edited by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier, 2014

"Upon the Point of a Knife" - first published in The Crimson Pact, Volume V, edited by Paul Genesse, 2013

The original sources for these six stories are quite varied -- anthologies and magazines -- and since most readers don't have access to such a variety of publications, a collection of Brad's short fiction is the best way to read these stories. In the Stars I'll Find You will be published in both print and electronic editions later this year.

With these two collections, I've now read twenty-seven stories...and what continues to impress me with each new story is the breadth of content -- and the storytelling: from a medical procedure on a man's brain so he can control individual actions and memories ("Compartmentalized") to the relationship between a ship's AI and a young girl ("A Girl Named Rose") to unlocking the secrets of the fifth element ("Quinta Essentia").

I would recommend that you connect with Bradley P. Beaulieu: the author's website has links to Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. so that you can stay informed of his activities, as I know he'll let his readers know when the new collection will be officially released.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thurgood Marshall

"We cannot play ostrich. Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better."

Thurgood Marshall
Former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Excerpt from Acceptance Speech for the Liberty Medal
July 4, 1992
Independence Hall
Philadelphia, PA

Friday, May 1, 2015

Selected Links and Things

Two years ago -- and for a few years prior to that -- I did a monthly "Links and Things" blog post, in which I would recap relevant publishing news and info from throughout the previous month. If you look through the Tags list in the right column below, you'll find that I published 47 "Links and Things" blog posts (actually, 48 now, counting this one).

Unfortunately, trying to keep up on publishing-related news, newsletters, blogs, twitter feeds, etc. -- and then reading, recapping, and posting the details each month simply overwhelmed my time and energy.

However, over the past few weeks I've come across a few resources that are just too good to pass up:


1. If you are a hardcore Twitter user, then this link is just for you: The Best Hashtags for Indie Authors in 2015

The article is written by Gary McLaren, who runs PublishYourOwnEbooks.com. He provides charts, graphs, and statistics on a number of Twitter hashtags, including #amwriting, #writetip and #writingtips, #wrting, #indiepub and #indiepublishing, and more. He also provides info on Twitter groups -- #iartg (Indie Author Retweet Group), #asmsg (Author Social Media Support Group), and #ian1 (Independent Author Network) -- including links to each group's guidelines.

So, read up and tweet on....


2. Author Toni Morrison on Failure: "Write, Erase, Do It Over" from NEA Arts Magazine.
Talking to Toni Morrison about failure is a bit like talking to Einstein about stupidity: it's incongruous, to say the least. At 83, Morrison is one of the world's best-known and most successful novelists, her awards list crammed with the heavyweights of literary prizes: among them, the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award for Beloved; the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 (the last U.S. author to receive it); the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012; and most recently, the Ivan Sandroff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle....

Obviously, to be a writer, you must write, but how often do you get to read writing tips from an author such as Toni Morrison? In this NEA article, Ms. Morrison discusses the following topics: a) Defining Creative Failure; b) Getting Started; c) Success in the Morning; d) Recognizing When Something Isn't Working; e) Responsibility to Characters; f) Learning Not to Overdo It; g) Failures in Contemporary American Literature; h) Stumbles Along the Way.


3. I've saved the most fun for last: Kindle Cover Disasters

Some of the most outrageous, ostentatious, horrendous, jumped-the-shark book covers you will ever see. And some of the book titles are pretty freaking ridiculous, too. (Did I use enough adjectives here?) And what's even more fun is that often the links to the actual books are also provided, so you don't even have to search -- you can just click on over to the book if it intrigues you and add it to your library!



Note: Links 2 and 3 were courtesy of GalleyCat, and I strongly suggest you subscribe to their newsletter, delivered directly to your inbox daily.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Courtney Schafer's The Shattered Sigil Trilogy



Earlier this year, author Courtney Schafer launched a Kickstarter campaign for her fantasy novel The Labyrinth of Flame, book III in The Shattered Sigil Trilogy. Books I and II in this series were originally published by Night Shade Books. Ms. Schafer then made the decision to self-publish volume III, and thus the Kickstarter campaign was born. At the time, she had a complete draft of the novel and had also commissioned the book cover (art and layout) -- with artwork by David Palumbo, the same artist who had done the covers for the first two volumes. So there was little risk for those who contributed to this Kickstarter project.

The Kickstarter was, in fact, fully funded -- and then some: the campaign achieved 284% funding and unlocked three stretch goals.

The Whitefire Crossing
I've been reading the mobi editions1 of books I and II in The Shattered Sigil Trilogy. I completed The Whitefire Crossing a week or so ago, and I'm now about one-third of the way through The Tainted City.

All this in preparation for my next project: I will be working with Courtney Schafer on book III, The Labyrinth of Flame, performing a full copy edit of the final manuscript prior to publication.


The Tainted City
On her website, Courtney Schafer has provided a sneak peak at the novel, with chapters one through three available online. And, if you missed out on the Kickstarter but would still like to add this third volume to your library, the author will accept "late pledge" pre-orders until August 1; contact her directly at courtney(at)courtneyschafer(dot)com.

For those completely new to this series, the author provides sample chapters as well for both book I, The Whitefire Crossing (chapters one through six), and book II, The Tainted City (chapters one and two), on her website.

Now, as I said, I haven't finished reading the second volume, but the story has demanded my attention -- a new take on the apprentice mage (Kiran) and thief (Dev) -- with just enough twists and surprises to keep me intrigued. And, if you are a mountain and/or rock climber who enjoys reading fantasy, then this series is an absolute must read.

"Courtney Schafer has the gift of bringing this reader up to the brink, heart in my throat as I think--no! she's not really going to do that, is she?--and then ruthlessly dropping me over the cliff. That's why I love her books."
~Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker trilogy

---------------
Footnotes

[1] I read ebooks primarily on a Nexus 7-2013 using the Kindle for Android app. I do have access to an older Kindle, but prefer the amenities provided by an actual Android device.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Editing in Process: Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

The title of this collection comes from my love of Cordwainer Smith's writing, especially his "Instrumentality of Mankind" stories. I loved his imagination, style, the poetry of his writing, his compassion. Loved his sensibility in writing about a racialized, manufactured underclass and telling some of the stories from their context. I'm black and female. I was born and for many years raised middle/creative class in the Caribbean, a region of the world which has had to be keenly aware of issues of race, class, gender, and privilege....These are such human issues. I love and am fascinated by human beings....
~ Nalo Hopkinson, from the Foreword

Falling in Love with Homonids
Cover art by Chuma Hill
This is but a brief excerpt from the more than 700 words that comprise the foreword to Falling in Love with Hominids, Nalo Hopkinson's forthcoming collection of short stories from Tachyon Publications.

When you read the full text of the foreword, you will realize that this collection is more than just a book of short stories: science fiction, fantasy, and a hint of Afro-Caribbean folklore throughout... These are stories of the human condition. Each story has a soul of its own.

Falling in Love with Hominids was my first opportunity to work on stories by Nalo Hopkinson. Her first novels, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) and Midnight Robber (2000), sit prominently on one of my book shelves. So when Tachyon Publications informed me that this project was next on the "to do" list for me, I was anxious to get to work on it.

The collection includes 18 stories totalling nearly 80,000 words; here's the contents list:
The Easthound
Soul Case
Message in a Bottle
The Smile on the Face
Left Foot, Right
Old Habits
Emily Breakfast
Herbal
A Young Candy Daughter
A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog
Shift
Delicious Monster
Snow Day
Flying Lessons
Whose Upward Flight I Love
Blushing
Ours Is the Prettiest
Men Sell Not Such in Any Town
The one story, "Flying Lessons," is original to the collection.

I found it difficult to select just one favorite story, as so many of these were special -- but if I must, it would have to be "Message in a Bottle." This story was originally published in 2005 in Futureways, an anthology published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver. So unless you are a hardcore fan, this story will undoubtedly be new to you, as it was for me. And I found it even more difficult to write about this story without yielding any spoilers, so beware....

"Message in a Bottle" is about a young girl, Kamla, who suffers from "Delayed Growth Syndrome," officially Diaz Syndrome after the doctor who first identified it. At ten years old, Kamla looked like a six-year-old, yet had a fully grown head: all the bones in her skull were fused and she had a full set of adult teeth. "Researchers have no clue what's causing it, or if the bodies of the kids will ever achieve full adulthood. Their brains, however, are way ahead of their bodies. All the kids who've tested positive for DGS are scarily smart."

Kamla is of this world, but not of this time. In a somewhat clandestine meeting with Greg, a friend of the family, an artist, and the protagonist of the story, Kamla reveals her secret: "They grew us from cells from our originals; ten of us per original. They used a viral injection technique to put extra-long tails on one of the strands of our DNA. You need more telomeres to slow down aging." She goes on to talk about "viable blastocytes," "womb donors," and wanting to "make the journey," and "implanted memories from my original." And for Greg, who is hearing all of this for the first time: "The scientific jargon exiting smoothly from the mouth of a child could have been comic. But I had goose bumps...."

Kamla has confided in Greg all for the sake of a found object, an artifact, that Greg used in an "installation piece" on exhibit in a gallery. She asks Greg to keep this artifact safe for her....


Falling in Love with Hominids is scheduled for publication in August; the book can now be preordered from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

Early praise for Nalo Hopkinson:
"Hopkinson is rightly lauded for having one of the more original new voices in SF, and the brilliance in her fiction shines equally from her evocative voice and the deep empathy she displays for her characters. Adding to the fun is the fact that Hopkinson's prose is a distinct pleasure to read: richly sensual, with high-voltage erotic content and gorgeous details."
—SCIFI.com



Friday, April 10, 2015

Editing in Process / Book Received: Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

Cover art by Dalton Rose
Jeez...or is it Geez? (Actually, I believe one is a variant of the other.) I'm so far behind on blog posts that I haven't even written about my work on this book -- and the book itself just arrived in the mail! I'm talking, of course, about Molly Tanzer's first novel, Vermilion, from the indefatigable publisher Word Horde and Ross E. Lockhart.

But let me clarify...I'm not really that far behind on blog posts: I finished work on Vermilion the first week of February, and the trade paperback edition is now in my hands. That speaks more to the quality and effort of the publisher, working with my line and copy edits on this 380-page novel in early February, to distributing the book about nine weeks later.

So let me tell you a bit about Vermilion -- it's a weird western, it's steampunk, it's about Chinese families and traditions, and it's about ghosts, and magic. The story takes place in the Western US around the time work had been completed on laying tracks for the railroads. A lot of Chinese laborers were unable to find work, and consequently many had become desperate.

Opening the book to the full title page enables you to read the subtitle: "The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp." So, who is Lou Merriwether and what is a psychopomp?
Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise "Lou" Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she's too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It's an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well...they’re not wrong.
When Lou learns that a number of Chinatown boys have gone missing deep in the Colorado Rockies -- ostensibly to work on the railroads -- she takes it upon herself to find them, if not to bring them home alive, then to help their troubled spirits cross over. And Lou does indeed set out on an adventure. She tracks the boys to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth. She encounters humanoid bears and desperate men, and a very undead villain who runs the sanatorium and has built a flying machine -- actually, a flying train!

I haven't had this much fun working on a project since, well, since a very long time. Vermilion reminded me of the Detective Inspector Chen stories by Liz Williams, and even a bit of the Laundry Files by Charles Stross (but without all the geekery/neepery, of course). If weird western steampunk magic vampire ghost stories is your thing, then hurry aboard Vermilion: the train is about to leave the track, and you won't want to miss this great ride! And I'm hoping the book is indeed successful, because this novel is just screaming for a sequel.

If you are strictly an ebook reader, then Vermilion is now available in Kindle format from Amazon. However, if you prefer the feel of a real book, but like the advantage an ebook provides when you're traveling, then go for the Vermilion bundled package direct from Word Horde: the trade paperback, a bookplate signed by Molly Tanzer, and the ebook format of your choice (epub, mobi, or PDF) -- all for $16.99.


Book Received: Angels & Exiles by Yves Meynard

Angels & Exiles
Cover by Vince Haig
While attending FOGcon here in the Bay Area over the March 6 weekend, I managed to pick up a copy of short story collection Angels & Exiles by Yves Meynard.

To be honest, I'm not familiar with any of the stories in this collection: one story, "The Song of the Mermaid," is original to the collection; the thirteen other stories were published in what appear to be mostly Canadian publications. Canada is Yves's homeland.

But my interest in this book, and these stories, stems from my previous work with Yves. He contributed the story "Good News from Antares" to my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers). At the book release event at Readercon in July 2010, Yves was on hand to read from his story, as was Paul Di Filippo and James Morrow. (Read my recap of Readercon 2010.)

Yves also contributed a story to my 2003 co-edited anthology Witpunk (with Claude Lalumière). But if you scan Witpunk's table of contents you won't see Yves's name. That's because he writes under the name Laurent McAllister, a symbionym for his collaborative efforts with writer Jean-Louis Trudel. Their story is "Kapuzine and the Wolf: A Hortatory Tale," a stunning, albeit sorrowful, tale -- and one of my absolute favorites in the anthology -- which is why Claude and I chose to close the anthology with this story. Kirkus concluded it's review of Witpunk with the phrase "ringingly brilliant..."

So, Angels & Exiles will definitely fill my need to read more of Yves Meynard's very fine short stories. You might want to check out this collection, and Yves's stories, as well.

And the retro stack of 25¢ paperbacks cover art by Vince Haig is an added bonus.