Tuesday, September 15, 2015

[Ended] Alien Contact Ebook $1.99

Alien ContactThe ebook edition of my Alien Contact anthology is currently on sale for $1.99. I've verified the price on Amazon, and I understand that iBooks also has the price currently set at $1.99. (I'm not an Apple kind of guy so I can't verify.) I'm also hoping that if you purchase your ebooks from other than these two sources, the price will be the same as well.

How long this price will last, I have no idea. I'm just the book's editor. In fact, I didn't even know the price had dropped to $1.99 until I received a web mention on my name, via email, earlier today.

So, if you read ebooks and you've been on the fence about this anthology, now is the time to buy, as this is probably the cheapest ebook price you'll find (that's not a pirated copy!) for these 26 stories and 170,000 words of hand-picked fiction. [1]

Here's the complete table of contents:
Marty Halpern -- "Introduction: Beginnings..."
Paul McAuley -- "The Thought War"
Neil Gaiman -- "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"
Karen Joy Fowler -- "Face Value"
Harry Turtledove -- "The Road Not Taken"
George Alec Effinger -- "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything"
Stephen King -- "I Am the Doorway" [1]
Pat Murphy -- "Recycling Strategies for the Inner City"
Mike Resnick -- "The 43 Antarean Dynasties"
Orson Scott Card -- "The Gold Bug"
Bruce McAllister -- "Kin"
Ernest Hogan -- "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song"
Pat Cadigan -- "Angel"
Ursula K. Le Guin -- "The First Contact with the Gorgonids"
Adam-Troy Castro -- "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl’s"
Michael Swanwick -- "A Midwinter’s Tale"
Mark W. Tiedemann -- "Texture of Other Ways"
Cory Doctorow -- "To Go Boldly"
Elizabeth Moon -- "If Nudity Offends You"
Nancy Kress -- "Laws of Survival"
Jack Skillingstead -- "What You Are About to See"
Robert Silverberg -- "Amanda and the Alien"
Jeffrey Ford -- "Exo-Skeleton Town"
Molly Gloss -- "Lambing Season"
Bruce Sterling -- "Swarm"
Charles Stross -- "MAXO Signals"
Stephen Baxter -- "Last Contact"

As I said, the anthology contains 26 stories -- and 26 weeks before the book was published, back in April 2011, I began a blogging project that entailed writing about each of the stories, at the rate of one story per week, for 26 weeks. I made my target, too, except for the week my mother passed away -- but I caught up the very next week. During those weekly blog posts, I talked about the original publication of the story, my relationship (if any) with the author, how I came to choose the story, and I typically included some excerpts from the story itself. Except, for those stories that I published in their entirety.

Now, more than four years later, you can still follow -- and read -- those weekly blog posts on Alien Contact by beginning at the "Beginnings..."

Or, you could simply click on any of the links above in the table of contents.

[1] After posting this, I remembered that in my endeavor to secure rights for the Stephen King story I had to wave ebook rights. So, the print copy includes 26 stories and 170,000 words of fiction, whereas the ebook edition does not include the Stephen King story, which clocks in at approximately 4,900 words. So aside from the fact that it is a Stephen King story, you're losing less than 5,000 words from the overall total. Sorry for any issue/confusion this may have caused.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Received: Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

Led Astray: The Best of Kelley ArmstrongOne of the best aspects of my job is receiving the finished product -- the published book -- after having worked so hard on the project, either as the editor, copy editor, proofreader, or all of the above.

This is how I began my June 30, 2015, blog post when I first wrote about my work on this collection:

* * *
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.
* * *
Well, September is now -- Tachyon Publications, unlike the majority of independent presses, always ships ahead of schedule -- my comp copies of Led Astray arrived this past week. And those original 2¼ inches of manuscript pages? They became 535 layout pages in the published trade paperback edition.

For those not acquainted with Ms. Armstrong's work, her novels have made her a #1 New York Times bestselling author -- and the stories in Led Astray are a great starting point for new readers, since you get a taste of her many worlds. And as for seasoned readers, these stories will add depth to those worlds you are already familiar with.

Here's an excerpt from one review, courtesy of Net Galley:
...This is how fairy tales used to be ― grim and harsh. In this collection of over 20 short stories, Ms. Armstrong demonstrates over and over again how she is a master of her craft... Many of the stories have no happily ever afters or even a happily for now. Instead, it seems the warning is clear ― be careful of what you wish for. For those who have never read a Ms. Armstrong book, this collection can be read as a standalone. A few of the stories do tie in to her different series. The tie-ins enhance the world-building for those hooked on the various series. For those new to Ms. Armstrong, it will cause the new reader to salivate and rush to read all her series. This first-rate [collection] could be devoured in one sitting. It's best to savour each story by itself. The deferred gratification by slowly consuming each story...makes this painfully pleasurable book last longer... It's tightly focused with nary a wasted word. The constant haunting gloomy feel keeps a reader on edge. The expressive descriptions of the places set the somber mood. The intriguing situations lure a reader into a bit of complacency before the trap is sprung. The endings to several of the pieces are gruesome and I reveled in it. Many times, it seems the villain wins the day. This is very different than most books and for this refreshing take, I applaud Ms. Armstrong. I particularly enjoyed the twists and turns in the stories... It makes the stories unpredictable...being off balance is exhilarating. There is a certain horror aspect to several of these stories... This book is highly recommended to those who enjoy darkness and things that go bump in the night.
~ La Crimson F

Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong can now be ordered from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Annie Proulx on Writing and Reading

You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.

(via Goodreads)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Received: The King's Justice: Two Novellas by Stephen R. Donaldson

The King's JusticeMy presence online has been quiet of late as I have been working on a 219,000-word novel -- Courtney Schafer's The Labyrinth of Flame, book three in her Shattered Sigil trilogy. This is the largest book I've worked on in a few years, and it's been quite the major project. I'll be talking about my work on this novel shortly.

When I wasn't working on Labyrinth, I was catching up on TV shows (Mr. Robot, Humans, Halt and Catch Fire, Defiance, Proof, and probably a few others. And, I've also been creating a database listing of all my vinyl albums using Discogs.com. I haven't played an actual LP in probably ten-plus years and, unfortunately, my turntable (a classic Concept 2QD) remained idle during all that time as well. The tone arm was frozen and thus the turntable had to be serviced: so, a huge shout-out to SerTech Electronics in San Jose, one of only three such service and repair centers in all the Bay Area. Their work queue is at least three weeks long, but by the end of the fourth week they had completed work on my turntable. Now all is right with the world.

Recently I received Stephen R. Donaldson's The King's Justice: Two Novellas. I actually won this book in a giveaway courtesy of SFSignal.com and the publisher, G. P. Putnam's Sons. If you are reading this blog, then I assume you are also a reader of science fiction, fantasy, and other genres, which also means you are probably familiar with SFSignal. (If not, then get ye mouse to that site immediately!) JP Frantz and John DeNardo have been running SFSignal since as far back as I can remember. The site is one of the best for news and reviews, cover reveals, interviews, mind melds, TOC listings, and more. And they do a lot of print and ebook giveaways as well.

I had quite the time reading the first six volumes in Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series, which I wrote about in my October 27, 2013, blog post. In that post I had received The Last Dark hardcover, the fourth and final volume in Donaldson's The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I still haven't read those final four books yet (I'm currently reading the equivalent of HBO's season 5 of George R. R. Martin's The Game of Thrones), but as you can see I'm a fan of Stephen R. Donaldson's work.

So go support SFSignal with your page views and Likes; and go read some Stephen R. Donaldson, too.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Received: Nalo Hopkinson's Falling in Love with Hominids

Falling in Love with Hominids Whenever a package arrives on my doorstep -- most often by the US mail delivery person, but occasionally after one hears the sounds of the UPS truck pull to a stop or, rarely, another delivery truck (FedEx, typically) -- there's a little hint of the feelings of childhood, the memories of Christmas -- and presents. Yes, even if I paid for it, a package arriving on the doorstep, for whatever reason, always feels like a gift!

The other day a USPS package arrived bearing my comp copies of Nalo Hopkinson's Falling in Love with Hominids, recently published by Tachyon Publications. And, indeed, it was a gift -- and in so many ways.

Here's an excerpt from Abigail Ortlieb's review for RT Book Reviews:
There is something especially exhilarating about Hopkinson's short stories. Her voice is fluid and always adds to the type of story she is telling, bringing to mind writers like Ray Bradbury ("The Easthound") or Toni Morrison ("A Young Candy Daughter"). Her Caribbean heritage is reflected beautifully in the prose, and each story is entirely distinctive. She prefaces each one with a dedication or tidbit about how or why that story was written, adding extra depth. If you haven't read any of her other works, you will be scrambling to after you read Falling in Love with Hominids. It’s a treasure trove of short gems by an immensely popular and talented writer.
~RT Book Reviews
You can also read my April 14 blog post in which I write about my work on Hopkinson's Falling in Love with Hominids; the post includes a list of the 18 stories (one original to the collection) included in the book.

Here's one final excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review:
The stories all share a common thread of magic, which is often woven, whether subtly or blatantly, into the fabric of everyday reality, allowing characters to react to the strange or the impossible as it crosses into their world. Hopkinson also draws frequently on her Caribbean upbringing and heritage, and her characters' voices are distinct and authentic, both in their speech patterns and in their ways of looking at their surroundings. Hopkinson's fans will be delighted by these examples of her wide-ranging imagination.
~Publishers Weekly

Falling in Love with Hominids can now be ordered from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Some readers may find themselves thrown off balance by the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness—"

Slow BulletsAs a follow-up to the Green Man Review of Slow Bullets that I posted on June 8....

Let me repeat a brief paragraph that I wrote at the beginning of that June 8 blog post: If 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.

And if you doubt, or question, my words, here's a few excerpts from the very lengthy review of Slow Bullets from the Los Angeles Review of Books. The review, by Stan Hunter Kranc, is entitled "The Persistence (and Failure) of Memory":

Alastair Reynolds's Slow Bullets opens with poetry and a war crime.

The poet is Giresun, the fictional poet laureate for the Central Worlds, one side in a bloody sectarian conflict. Although the novel's narrator, a former soldier called Scur, fought instead for the Peripheral Systems (where reading the enemy's "propaganda" was illegal), the poet was especially meaningful to her family and to the soldier herself as a link to long-lost loved ones.

The war crime is perpetrated at the conflict's end: Scur grimly reports her own capture and subsequent torture by a group of renegade soldiers, led by the infamous war criminal Orvin. Though the details evoke a rape, the instrument of Scur's torment is technological: the slow bullets that give the novella its name.

Readers unfamiliar with the larger body of the Reynolds's work — a dozen novels and an impressive number of short stories, novellas, and collections — may be startled by the prose, which is disarmingly clinical, punctuated by instances of visceral phrasing. Some readers may find themselves thrown off balance by the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness — or by the abrupt shift in circumstances that immediately follows: Scur awakens on an apparently derelict ship, surrounded by feuding soldiers from both sides of the conflict, and with no memory of how she came to be there. Readers familiar with Reynolds's work, however, will know that these two threads must be intertwined. Reynolds is practiced in tying together apparently unrelated elements, and by the end of the story, the text irrevocably links bullet and poet.


Slow Bullets, however, marks a development in Reynolds's writing. As a storyteller, we see him experimenting with both the form and manner of narrative. We come to understand that the text's "flaws" (that it is often repetitive and sometimes obtuse) are deliberate artifacts of its narration, a glimpse into the inner workings of Scur's mind and motivations. As a writer, we see a more overtly thoughtful work examining the philosophical, technological, and social issues of memory. Most immediately, Scur is haunted by memories of lost family, Giresun's verse, and Orvin's torment. The war criminal is hiding somewhere aboard the ship, and Scur's quest for vengeance quickly draws in others. However, Orvin is not the only such criminal. With the exception of the hopelessly outnumbered ship's crew and civilian population, all aboard are dressed identically, and although it is known some are honest veterans and some are prisoners, the ability to distinguish friend from foe and good from wicked is a separate problem of memory.


Like so much of Reynolds's other writing, the message of Slow Bullets is ultimately ambivalent. Although Reynolds excels at weaving different threads together, his knots are convoluted, difficult things. Again, were this an "old" space opera, Scur's exploits in unifying the crew and forging a tentative peace would be heroic. Instead, a twist or two at the end reminds the reader that Reynolds is too pragmatic to write anything so unequivocal. Slow Bullets is a story of revenge and redemption, high-tech problems and low-tech solutions, and the preservation of memory through surrendering the past — the failure to forgive but the possibility to forget.

Please read the full review at the Los Angeles Review of Books online. And, you can also read of my work on Slow Bullets in my "Editing in Process" blog post.

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.


[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.