Friday, December 31, 2010

Safety Check: The Antidote for Accidental Plagiarism

My last blog post for 2010.... As for 2011? Bring it on!

I was scanning my Facebook news feed last week, on Tuesday, December 21, when I happened upon a post by Nicola Griffith; her blog appears to be linked to her FB account, so when she publishes a new blog post it also posts to FB. The blog post is entitled "Accidental plagiarism: a terrifyingly narrow escape." The idea of "accidental plagiarism" totally intrigued me, so I clicked on the link; Nicola began her blog post with the following:

Last week I wrote a funeral scene that pleased me enormously. Wrenching, raw, powerful. Wow, I thought, I nailed that! I kept coming back to two images I'd used, one in dialogue, "mothers are such wingless things," the other in description, "lullaby, with elegy blowing through it." I couldn't stop thinking about them. I kept pulling up the paragraph and re-reading. I couldn't let it go. (This is not normal behaviour for me, FYI. I love beautiful prose, but I don't generally fall in love with my own. I'm a believer in prose serving story and character, not standing out from it.) Gradually, I grew unsettled. Then suspicious. These images didn't feel quite right. Good, yes; evocative, absolutely; perfect for the period, no doubt. But not right.

I tried to trace their origins back through that labyrinthine machine I call my writing mind, and the trail petered out.

After much worry and soul-searching, Nicola finally gave in and keyed those two wonderful text images into Google, and discovered that she had taken the words verbatim from a poem. She goes on to say:

I've never believed those sad sack writers who, when pilloried for plagiarism, wail, "It was accidental!" But now it's happened to me. Well, almost; I caught it long before publication.

But it feels like a very narrow escape.

This has always been a huge fear of mine, but from an editorial perspective, and I said as much in a comment to Nicola's FB post:

As an editor, one of my fears is that I will allow a book or story to get past me, one in which the author has knowingly plagiarized content with which I'm not familiar, but yet the content is just well-known enough that others will catch it -- too late!

As I've said previously (and probably on numerous occasions), I haven't read everything, certainly very little poetry (though I have read Ginsberg's "Howl," and the like, in a past life), so plagiarized content sneaking past me is always a possibility. Though the author is inevitably responsible for the content of his/her manuscript, allowing plagiarized content to see print certainly won't help my reputation as an editor.

Anyhow, my comment on Facebook led to some further comments from, among others, Kit Reed, Lee-Anne Phillips, Geoffrey A. Landis, and Ian Watson, as follows:

Kit Reed google is your friend in every event. Not the title, but type in a string and you'll probably find out who did what.

Lee-Anne Phillips The truly memorable phrases are probably the ones to watch out for, the words so wonderful you wish you'd written them. "Joe stepped into the bar and took a look around. The usual seedy characters were there..." is commonplace. Who'd bother to lift it? Who'd care? "There is a tide in the affairs of men," on the other hand...

Geoffrey A. Landis Frightening indeed. My mind is full of bits and pieces of things I've read, and half-remembered images and words; I just have to hope that my memory is so bad that I couldn't actually lift something in a complete enough form for it to be plagiarism.

Ian Watson Actually, I anticipated this problem in Interzone ("How To Be a Fictionaut: Safety Check", April 1996) :-) but I don't suppose I can add the complete 5 pages as a Facebook comment... Oh what the deuce, let's see what happens!

Monday, December 27, 2010

DI Chen Finally Turns 5 Redux

In my December 1 blog post, "DI Chen Finally Turns 5," I presented Reece Notley's cover art for the ebook editions of novel The Iron Khan by Liz Williams, and published by Morrigan Books. If you've been anticipating the fifth Detective Inspector Chen novel, and ebooks are your media of preference, you can purchase the Kindle edition directly through, and all other ebook formats (epub, LRF, PDF, and mobi, too, as well as others) from Smashwords.

The Iron Khan print editionBut if you prefer the smell of real paper, the feel of a real book in your hands (as opposed to cold metal, plastic, and glass), then your wait for the print editions of The Iron Khan will soon be over. So I'm taking this opportunity to showcase the new cover art (sans the typography) by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law for the print editions. On Ms. Law's website, you can click on the "Detail closeups" link, allowing you to take in all of the amazing details of this artwork. The art features one of the story's main characters, Raksha (recently reanimated!), flying atop her elegantly plumed blue crane, with the floating city of Agarta in the distance. If you are a fan of the DI Chen series and a collector of art as well -- or just a collector of art -- you can purchase an 8.5 x 11-inch print for only $15.00; or, if you just happen to have an extra $1,500.00 available, you can snag the original art itself, 12 x 17 inches, pen and ink. I'm simply amazed that the artist can work all this detail into only 204 square inches.

The Iron Khan print editions will be published in two states: a trade paperback edition and a limited hardcover edition. The trade edition will be available through Amazon; the limited hardcover edition will only be available (so I am told) through Mysterious Galaxy. I have purchased books from Mysterious Galaxy (probably the most recent was a first edition/first printing of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan); the store takes great pride in the quality of their books, as well as the quality of their packing and shipping. So should you purchase The Iron Khan from them you will have nothing to worry about.

And then we all get to anxiously await book six (the final volume?) in the DI Chen series: Morningstar, which should be available in late 2011. [Liz, if you're reading this, I hope you are furiously writing because I need to find out what impact Inari's child has on the world of Singapore Three.]

[Post to Twitter]Tweet This

Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing with Style (Sheets, That Is)

In my December 19 blog post I mentioned that I had completed my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, forthcoming from Night Shade Books in March 2011. One of the stories included in this volume is Theodora Goss's "Fair Ladies," which was originally published in the August 2010 issue of Apex Magazine.

As both a reader and an editor, I read a lot of genre fiction -- primarily short fiction -- but no matter how much I read (and, unfortunately, I read quite slowly), I still can't be expected to read everything. There are many authors whom I have not read at all; and of those I have read, there are seemingly an infinite number of worlds and realms that they have written about that I am not familiar with. Now, if I were editing a series of novels, it would be in the best interest of the author and the publisher to have me work on book one, and then continue through the entire series; I would thus be able to help ensure consistency with characters and characterization, place/environment, events, word usage, etc. throughout the series.1 But short fiction is entirely different: even related stories are published in different venues -- various online and print magazines and anthologies. Since each of these are edited by someone different, none of the editors can be expected to be intimately familiar with every world/realm about which the authors write. Nor should they be. Each story needs to stand on its own because each story will be read by different people depending on the venue in which it is published. Each magazine has its own set of readers, though of course there may be some overlap. Some readers may read only free online 'zines. Others may not read magazines of any sort, but may focus on original anthologies from specific publishers, or by specific editors.

Nick Gevers and I accepted Jay Lake's story "Permanent Fatal Errors"2 for our anthology Is Anybody Out There? (Daw Books, June 2010). This story is part of Jay's Sunspin cycle of stories; in Jay's December 19 blog post, he lists the six stories (so far) that make up this cycle, five of which have been sold, to five different venues (though two of those venues are published by Subterranean Press). My co-editor Nick Gevers was more familiar with Jay's Sunspin cycle than I was, but the story still had to work for me -- and be unique and intriguing and, of course, well written -- without any knowledge of prior stories or the series itself.

Which brings me back to Theodora Goss's story "Fair Ladies," set in her fictional world of Sylvania. It's a wonderful story that stands on its own quite nicely; but no editor, or reader, is going to have the background knowledge -- environment, religion(s), history, culture, etc. -- of Sylvania that Dora has, since this is her world. As a copyeditor, I have to do the best job with the content that I have in front of me, following the rules of grammar, punctuation, etc. while trying not to affect story content or the author's intent, or even the story's rhythm.

In "Fair Ladies," Dora uses the monetary unit "kroner." The word only appears twice, in two separate sentences on consecutive pages. (Actually, the word appears three times, but the first doesn't count, because it's used as a proper name, the Café Kroner.):

"That's Friedrich, the painter," said Karl. "I've never seen him talk to anyone since I started coming here four years ago. I'll bet you four kroners that she's a film actress from Germany."

The party had lasted long past midnight. The Crown Prince himself had been there. The guest list had also included the Prime Minister; General Schrader; the countess of the feathered hat, this time in a tiara; the painter Friedrich; the French ambassador, Anita Dak, the principal dancer from the Ballet Russes, which was staging Copélia in Karelstad; a professor of mathematics in a shabby coat, invited because he had just been inducted into the National Academy; young men in the government who talked about the situation in Germany between dances; young men in finance who talked about whether the kroner was going up or down, seeming not to care which as long as they were buying or selling at the right times; mothers dragging girls who danced with the young men, awkwardly aware of their newly upswept hair and bare shoulders, then went back to giggling in corners of the ballroom.

In the first sentence, we have the plural form "four kroners," and in the second sentence the singular form "the kroner." I knew the word "kroner," but looked it up in a list of world currencies to confirm: I found the currency "krone" (Danish and Norwegian) on the list, as well as "krona" (Swedish) and "króna" (Icelandic). The plural form of "krone" is "kroner." So, by definition, "kroner" is plural and no ending "s" is necessary. I marked the ending "s" for deletion in the first example in Dora's story; I see now that I should have marked for deletion the ending "r" in "kroner" in the second example, for the singular form, but I didn't. This would have been consistent with world currency. Unfortunately, I don't recall what my thinking was three weeks ago in this one example. Regardless, I eventually completed the project and submitted my copyedits to Night Shade Books. All was well and good. That is, until the following status appeared on Dora's Facebook page on Friday, December 17:

Does fantasy writing create particular problems for a copyeditor? For example, I just corrected a copyeditor on a detail about imaginary currency...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pat Cadigan's Story Is Again One of the Best

I am once again pleased to announce that Pat Cadigan's short story, "The Taste of Night," originally published in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, from Daw Books, June 2010), will be included in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection, forthcoming in July 2011 from St. Martin's/Griffin. The Dozois volume is available for preorder, but it's still too early in the publishing process and thus no cover art is as yet available.

"The Taste of Night" (along with five other stories from IAOT?) has previously been posted on this blog in its entirety. The following link will take you to the main IAOT? page, from which you can access all six stories as well as additional details on the anthology. If, however, you just wish to read Pat Cadigan's story at this time, you can click here: "The Taste of Night."

I do hope you'll take the time to read this wonderful story, if you haven't already done so.

tweet-this-smallTweet This

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Belated November Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of November's Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. Note, however, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these month-end posts, but the links that do typically contain more detail than Twitter allows, and often I include personal comments (as if that's important to you).

This post is a bit tardy as I have had two deadline projects over the past few weeks:

My November 9 post was on the sale, yet again, of Realms of Fantasy magazine to new publisher Damnation Books. The December 2010 issue had originally been made available online as a free download, since it was to have been the magazine's final issue. Now that the zine has been obtained by Damnation Books, the December issue has gone to press and should soon be shipping to subscribers. If you purchase RoF at stores/newsstands, please look for the December issue. As to my own deadline, on December 1, I completed work on the files for the February 2011 issue -- 10 nonfiction articles and 5 short stories – and submitted the formatted and copyedited files to editor Doug Cohen. So RoF will continue to be published on schedule, and subscribers/readers will not miss a single issue.

Regarding my second deadline, I completed my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and forthcoming from Night Shade Books in March 2011. This volume five is a monster: 536 pages and a nearly 250,000 words; to say the least, I was pleased when I finally finished this project and shipped it off on Tuesday to Night Shade's office. There are some very fine stories in this anthology; I think my three favorites are "The Sultan of the Clouds" by Geoffrey A. Landis, "Alone" by Robert Reed, and "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky. (I'm recusing myself from commenting on Pad Cadigan's "The Taste of Night" since it was selected from my own co-edited original anthology Is Anybody Out There?)

One final thing before I get into November's links: As I stated in my November 23 post, I will be editing an anthology tentatively titled Alien Contact, to be published by Night Shade Books in November 2011. I'm now reading stories for this anthology; since this is a "reprint" anthology, all stories must have been previously published. If you have a recommendation for a killer, not-to-be-missed alien contact story, please check my database of stories first; the database was initially sorted by author's first name, but new entries have been added to the bottom of the list. If you do not find your recommended story on the list, please add it to the database. An input form has been provided in the November 23 blog post, which you must use to enter the story information. The deadline for recommending stories is December 15, after which I will delete the input form in that blog post.

Now, on to November's Links:
  • Erin Underwood interviews Kim Richards Gilchrist, the CEO of Damnation Books, the new owner of Realms of Fantasy magazine. When asked: "What do you see as the greatest benefit that Damnation Books has to offer Realms of Fantasy magazine, its readers, and its contributors?" Kim responds: "There is a little cross over with genres between both Eternal Press and Damnation Books with Realms of Fantasy. In fact we took out ads twice in 2010 for our books in the magazine. The common elements mean some of our promotion points and distribution are the same and others are ways for both the magazine and books to expand...."
  • There was much discussion and hoo-ha on the web this past month regarding the theft of content that appeared in Cook's Source magazine. The subject made it to NPR,, The Guardian,, and more. The web's response to this theft/plagiarism literally brought about the demise of the magazine. For the source of this controversy, you'll need to read the original LJ post that started it all, from the plagiarized author, Monica. I don't know how many Comments there are to this post, since they aren't numbered, but they fill 23 blog pages! I'm not going to elaborate any further here, but if you haven't heard about this as yet (and if not, where have you been this past month?), just search online for "cook's source copyright" and that should keep you busy for a while. Bottom line: Content on the internet is NOT FREE, unless the author so states it is. Always ask for permission to reprint anything.
  • Tachyon Publications has recently published The Search for Philip K. Dick, a combination memoir/autobiography, and biography of PKD, written by one of his ex-wives, Anne R. Dick. The book was originally published by an obscure small press in the '90s, and then self-published by Ms. Dick earlier this year. The Tachyon edition has been fully edited and fact-checked making it the preferred edition. "Philip K. Dick's Masterpiece Years," an article that appeared in the November 22 New York Times, focuses on Anne R. Dick and her years with PKD, and includes additional details on this new edition of the book. From the article: "After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, 'everything changed,' she said...."
  • Ever wonder about common prefixes and suffixes in our English language? (Go ahead, admit it, you do wonder... it's okay, honest, you don't have to feel ashamed.) Here is a quick chart of English Language Roots; but it's just a small portion of the searchable 2,000 word root database on For example, "belli" means "war" and is used to form the words "rebellion," "belligerent," "casus belli," and "bellicose." (via @ebrenner)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Detective Inspector Chen Finally Turns 5

The Iron KhanAfter too long a delay, and a great deal of anticipation, Liz Williams's The Iron Khan, the fifth Detective Inspector Chen novel, has been published -- in ebook formats only, so far -- by Morrigan Books.

The Iron Khan was originally to have been published by Night Shade Books, as they had published the previous four Detective Inspector Chen novels: Snake Agent, The Demon and the City, Precious Dragon, and The Shadow Pavilion. Liz delivered the manuscript for Khan to me on October 26, 2008. By mid-November I was emailing Liz with questions and suggestions, and this back and forth between us carried over into 2009. By the time I approved the final book layout of The Iron Khan on November 11, 2009, Liz and I had worked through nearly 75 emails, which is actually a low number of emails compared to some of the other books I have worked on.

I believe there was a delay (or two), but the book was scheduled for publication in March 2010. As fans and readers of Liz Williams's work know, that date came -- and went. In April, Liz expressed some frustration on her LiveJournal with the status of the Chen series, then some behind-the-scenes action took place, and the rights to the Detective Inspector Chen series were eventually returned to the author.

Fast forward to August 20, 2010: Morrigan Books posted the following announcement, which I have condensed a bit:
Morrigan Books can now announce that it is to continue the successful series of Detective Inspector Chen novels, written by Philip K. Dick Award nominee Liz Williams....

Iron Khan is due for release this December and Morningstar will be published in 2011. The covers for both books are to be designed by award-winning artist Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

We are extremely excited by Liz Williams' choice to continue the series with Morrigan Books, and see this as a confirmation of the high standard we are setting in the independent press industry.

Though Stephanie Pui-Mun Law will be designing the covers for the print versions of each new book, the cover pictured above -- designed by Reece Notley -- is for the ebook editions only, which have just been released. The Kindle edition can now be purchased directly through; all other ebook editions (epub, LRF, PDF, and mobi, too, as well as other formats) are available from Smashwords.

Morrigan tells me that the print editions -- a trade edition as well as a limited hardcover edition -- of The Iron Khan will be announced soon. I also know that ebook editions of the first four Chen novels are also in process from Morrigan. And lastly, Liz is hard at work (don't tell her that I told you this!) on the next, the sixth, Chen novel, Morningstar.  After working with Liz on the first five Chen novels over the past five years, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to work with Liz on book six as well. Keeping fingers crossed. As I commented myself on Liz's LJ post back in April: "Working on these 5 Chen books, well, it's like Chen, Inari, Zhu Irzh, Jhai, Mhara, and Robin have become extended family!"

* * * * *

Update: December 27 blog post on the cover art for the print editions of The Iron Khan.

* * * * *

For those waiting for my monthly wrap-up, November's Links & Things, my apologies as there will be a bit of a delay yet. I'm under a hard deadline to complete my review and copyedit of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five, edited by Jonathan Strahan, for Night Shade Books. And since this volume is nearly 250,000 words (oy!), I'll need some time to complete this project. Cheers.

tweet-this-smallTweet This

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pat Cadigan's Story Is One of the Best

Strahan Best SFF 5I am pleased to announce that Pat Cadigan's short story, "The Taste of Night," originally published in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, from Daw Books, June 2010), will be included in Jonathan Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five (which, by the way, I will also be copyediting), to be published by Night Shade Books in March 2011.

"The Taste of Night," along with five other stories from IAOT?, has previously been posted on this blog in its entirety. The following link will take you to the main IAOT? page, from which you can access all six stories as well as additional details on the anthology. If, however, you just wish to read Pat Cadigan's story at this time, you can click here: "The Taste of Night."

If you haven't read this story yet -- and why haven't you? -- please take the time to do so. Now. Please.

[Pat: You are awesome! -- me]

tweet-this-smallTweet This

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Redux: Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention

In a previous blog post on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention, I made the following statement:
At the awards ceremony on Sunday, Michael [Moorcock] and wife Linda -- given their attire and the way they presented themselves -- reminded me of musicians John and Christine McVie. If you are familiar with the British rock band Fleetwood Mac, then you'll understand exactly what I mean. I intend no disrespect whatsoever with this comparison; I'm a huge fan of early Fleetwood Mac (before and after Peter Green), and I have great respect for Michael Moorcock, and I can always count on a good read whenever I pick up one of his stories. I realize this comparison isn't much in the overall scheme of things, but it gave me a good chuckle at the time and thus was a memorable moment at the convention, particularly when I shared my thoughts with those seated at the table with me. Anyhow, you be the judge:

John McVie and Christine McVie photographs courtesy of

I then went on to state that I was unable to obtain an actual photograph of the Moorcocks from that World Fantasy Convention and, unfortunately, I had to link to a photo from another time period, to include for comparison. Well, this lack of a photo has now been rectified. I received an email recently from Rachel Bloom, an editorial intern with Locus magazine. Rachel kindly provided me with a jpeg of a photo of the Moorcocks from the convention. The photo -- taken by renowned sf/f photographer Beth Gwinn -- originally appeared on page 35 of the January 2001 issue of Locus as part of the report on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention. The photograph appears here with the most kind permission of Ms. Gwinn.

As I said in that previous post, "the McVie photos are from decades earlier, but I still think the comparison is very cool."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Have Alien Contact

Well, sort of.... "Alien Contact" is the working title for my reprint short fiction anthology, which has been sold to Night Shade Books for publication as a trade paperback in November 2011.

The purpose of this blog post is to solicit recommendations of "alien contact" stories that were previously published within the last 30 or so years. The oldest story I've listed in the database -- link provided below -- is from 1971. (I know, I know, that's nearly 40 years ago, but, hey, it's Stephen King!) Stories must be a maximum of 40,000 words (novella length). Keep in mind, however, that few novellas will be included in the anthology due to word count limitations. Please, no novels.

I have been gathering stories for this project for quite some time; in fact, I began my initial inquiries more than two years ago. If you have previously responded to my queries regarding this project, then hopefully you will find that your entry(s) is in the database already. The list numbers more than 100 stories -- so please check the database first to see if your story recommendation has been added before entering any data below.

I have far more stories already than I can possibly include in the anthology, so the purpose of this solicitation is to find those uniquely intriguing alien contact stories I may have overlooked. If you are a writer, you are welcome to recommend your own previously published work. As you can see from the current data, a number of authors have personally recommended their own stories to me.

I don't recall any Philip K. Dick stories that concern alien contact, but if you know of one, please comment below and add the story to the database. Thanks in advance.

Here is the link to the current listing: Alien Contact Reprint Story Database.

The listing was initially sorted by author's first name; new entries will be added to the bottom of the list.

If you don't find your recommendation in the existing database: Enter as much information about the story as possible. If all you know is the author and title, that's fine. Regarding the length of the story: if you don't know if it is a novella, novelette, or short story, just mark "short fiction" (this being the generic catch-all for those three categories).

On December 15, the entry form will be removed from this blog post. If you come upon this post on or after December 15, you can always leave a story recommendation within the Comment section below. I'm notified via email whenever a comment is posted to this blog.

(My thanks to John Joseph Adams for laying the groundwork -- at least for me -- for the use of Google Docs to create this response-gathering form and spreadsheet.)

* * * * *

If you want to read the classic "alien contact" stories -- such as Murray Leinster's "First Contact" (the story in which the term "first contact" was originally coined, I believe) or Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey," to name but two -- I direct you to The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964, edited by Robert Silverberg. Or any number of other anthologies of classic SF, because these stories have been widely reprinted over the years, and the volumes are easily obtainable, if not through your local library, then via or other secondary markets.

I'm hoping that a collection of contemporary "alien contact" stories will motivate readers new to this material to seek out more such stories, including the classics.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Realms of Fantasy Magazine Rises Yet Again

In true zombie-like fashion, Realms of Fantasy magazine -- thought to be defunct with the publication online of the December issue -- has found a new owner/publisher, Damnation Books, and will arise once more. This means that writers of fantasy fiction still have RoF as a pro market for their short stories. And I will hopefully be able to continue working for the magazine as I have for the past eight issues. Here's the official word(s):

Press Release

Warren Lapine
Kim Richards
(707) 543-6227

2:00 P.M.PST, November 8, 2010

Damnation Books LLC buys Realms of Fantasy Magazine

Warren Lapine, publisher of Realms of Fantasy Magazine and Kim Richards Gilchrist, CEO and co-owner of Damnation Books LLC announce the sale of Realms of Fantasy Magazine to Damnation Books LLC.

Fans of the largest fantasy magazine in the world will be pleased to know the December 2010 issue will go to print with the new ownership publishing the February 2011 issue. All subscriptions already paid for will be honored.

Future plans include continuing to produce the same quality fiction magazine in print and to expand digital editions for ebook and desktop readers. The April 2011 issue will be themed 'dark fantasy' to coincide with World Horror Convention 2011 where Damnation Books will be hosting a party, and a booth in the dealer's area.

The June 2011 issue is the 100th issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine. Plans for a larger 'birthday bash' issue are already in place to celebrate this milestone.

Effective immediately, the magazine is reopening to submissions. Information for submitting stories and art can be found on the Realms of Fantasy website at Advertising inquiries can also find information on the website or by writing to Realms of Fantasy.

The new mailing address is:

Realms of Fantasy
P.O. Box 1208
Santa Rosa, California 95402

Damnation Books LLC, publishes dark fiction as Damnation Books. They also own and operate Eternal Press, which is more romance and mainstream fiction. Please direct questions to Kim Richards Gilcrist at

Realms of Fantasy

Damnation Books LLC


Friday, November 5, 2010

Catherynne M. Valente: Remixing Prester John

The Habitation of the BlessedAt Readercon in July, I had the pleasure of meeting -- and chatting with -- Catherynne M. Valente. You might recognize her name as the author of the novel Palimpsest (a city that is also a "sexually transmitted disease"), a finalist for the 2010 Hugo Award. In Palimpsest, November, one of the four protagonists in the story, recalls briefly her favorite book as a child, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. After the publication of Palimpsest, in 2009, when income became a necessity, Cat turned that children's book into an actual full-length, crowd-funded novel, which she published -- one chapter a week -- online. The novel has since been acquired by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, for publication in 2011.

Meeting Cat Valente at Readercon turned out to be most propitious because shortly thereafter Night Shade Books assigned me the project to proof, line edit, and copyedit her forthcoming novel: The Habitation of the Blessed -- subtitled: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One.

In 1165, a Letter of Prester John appeared throughout Europe. According to Wikipedia [I know... I know....] the letter was supposedly written to Emperor Immanuel Comnenus of Constantinople by Prester John, "descendant of one of the Three Magi and King of India. The many marvels of richness and magic it contained captured the imagination of Europeans, and it was translated into numerous languages....It circulated in ever more embellished form for centuries in manuscripts, a hundred examples of which still exist. The invention of printing perpetuated the letter's popularity in printed form; it was still current in popular culture during the period of European exploration. Part of the letter's essence was that a lost kingdom of Nestorian Christians still existed in the vastnesses of Central Asia." Cat Valente's novel opens with this letter, and then the author expands upon, remakes, and remixes the essence of this letter into one of the more unique stories -- and uniquely written stories -- that I have had the pleasure to read in a very long time. The fact that I also had the opportunity to work with the author on this book made it doubly rewarding.

The kingdom of Prester John is inhabited by strange beings such as the amyctryae ("whose mouths jut from their skulls and provide a deep bowl in which they brew all manner of things"), the astomii (who "have no mouths, but eat scent from the air itself"), the blemmyae (who "carry their faces in their chests and have no heads as men do"), the cametenna (who "have hands like boulders, but their fingers are deft"), and the panotii ("their great and silken ears drawn over their bodies like mourning veils"). And a great tree that bears books as its fruit, and from the fragments and remains of this fruit, we learn the story of Prester John, as told by Brother Hiob von Luzern, who happened upon this land during his missionary work in the Himalayas in 1699.

In a recent guest blog post on John Scalzi's "The Big Idea," Cat Valente states emphatically that The Habitation of the Blessed "is a science fiction novel." Included among the many points she makes is this one, on science: "It is a story rooted in science -- just not 21st century science. The series takes as a given that every legend and folktale concerning Prester John was true, including the Fountain of Youth, which came into Western myth with this very letter, and the various grotesque monsters which may or may not have been allegories for human failings, but here are given serious considerations as races and cultures with their own deep histories. So too Ptolemaic cosmology is taken wholly seriously, with the Crystalline Spheres a hard fact of the world. How this world changes into and acquired the physics of our own is part of the long game of the series." You can read more on Cat's Big Idea, which also includes a video entitled "Prester John: International Man of Mystery" -- the legend of Prester John as told by action figures. The vid, and more, can also be found on Prester John Online.

I was going to provide a snippet from the Publishers Weekly review of The Habitation, and then point you to the review itself, but it appears that the review tends to shift pages, because the link I have no longer points to the correct page. So, I'll just quote the brief review in its entirety here:

The Habitation of the Blessed:
A Dirge for Prester John, Vol. 1

Catherynne M. Valente, Night Shade, $14.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-59780-199-7

In 1165, a letter ostensibly written by the distant Christian king Prester John describing a kingdom of wonders rocked medieval Europe. In this enchanting retelling of the legend, the first volume in a projected trilogy, Hugo nominee Valente (Palimpsest) imagines what might have been discovered by Rome's ambassadors if the letter had not been a hoax. Nothing is quite as fabulous as the pious priests had hoped. Prester John and St. Thomas the Twin married nonhuman women; the Fountain of Youth does not sparkle, but instead "oozes thick and oily, globbed with algae and the eggs of improbable mayflies." Three very different personalities narrate: the brooding Prester John himself; his carefree and openhearted wife, the blemmye Hagia; and maternal Imtithal of the elephant-eared panotii. Filled with lyrical prose and fabled creatures, this languorous fairy tale is as captivating as Prester John's original letter.(Dec.)

As the PW review states, The Habitation of the Blessed is the first volume of a trilogy, and I'm hopeful I'll have the good fortune to be able to work with the author on volumes two and three as well. The Habitation will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about novels in the months ahead, and will assuredly appear on multiple award lists next year.

tweet-this-smallTweet This

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Richard Bausch: The case against writing manuals.

Reading through my Facebook News Feed this morning, I came upon an entry from Bud Webster, who wrote: "This is one of the single ballsiest, most dead-on and cogent articles on writing (and how NOT to do it) that I've ever read." Bud linked to an article in today's The Atlantic, by Richard Bausch, entitled "How to Write in 700 Easy Lessons," and subtitled: "The case against writing manuals." Bud added this additional comment about Richard Bausch: "Amongst other things, he is the author of The Fireman's Wife and Other Stories, and [currently serves as] The Moss Chair of Excellence in the Writing Program at the University of Memphis. Trust me, this guy has chops like nobody else has chops, and knows whereof he speaks."

With an intro like that, I not only had to read the article, I also assumed it would be a great link to tweet and to include in my monthly Links & Things post. But, until I read the article, I couldn't fully appreciate what the author had to say about writing; this is an article that every novice writer, and even newly published writers, should read. I'm going to quote one paragraph from the lengthy article, but you won't understand the significance of this particular quote unless you read the entire piece.

"Finally, a word about this kind of instruction: it is always less effective than actually reading the books of the writers who precede you, and who are contemporary with you. There are too many 'how-to' books on the market, and too many would-be writers are reading these books in the mistaken idea that this will teach them to write. I never read such a book in my life, and I never will. What I know about writing I know from having read the work of the great writers. If you really want to learn how to write, do that. Read Shakespeare, and all the others whose work has withstood time and circumstance and changing fashions and the assaults of the ignorant and the bigoted; read those writers and don’t spend a lot of time analyzing them. Digest them, swallow them all, one after another, and try to sound like them for a time. Learn to be as faithful to the art and craft as they all were, and follow their example. That is, wide reading and hard work. One doesn’t write out of some intellectual plan or strategy; one writes from a kind of beautiful necessity born of the reading of thousands of good stories poems plays… One is deeply involved in literature, and thinks more of writing than of being a writer. It is not a stance."

— Richard Bausch

Monday, November 1, 2010

October Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of October's Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. But in these month-end posts, in addition to the links themselves, I include more detail and comments. Note, too, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these posts.

  • If you read short fiction, then you are most likely aware that, early last year, Sovereign Media ceased publishing Realms of Fantasy magazine. Warren Lapine and Tir Na Nog Press then purchased the rights to RoF and, after a few months hiatus, resumed publication with the August 2009 issue. I copyedited the next eight issues -- from October 2009 through December 2010, which has since become the magazine's final issue -- yet again, unfortunately. Warren Lapine has posted a Farewell Message explaining the magazine's demise. There are rumors of interested parties, one of whom may inevitably purchase RoF, but only time will tell if we will ever see another new issue. In the meantime, through the courtesy of the publisher, you can view/download the December 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy. If you're not familiar with this magazine, I think you'll be surprised at the quality of the material, particularly the short stories. Enjoy! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank editor Doug Cohen: he respects his staff, which is most important, and every other month I could always count on the next issues' files arriving in my inbox on the specified date.

  • Sheila Finch's novel Reading the Bones was the first major freelance project I worked on for Tachyon Publications. The book, published in 2003, was an expansion of Sheila's Nebula Award-winning novella of the same name, originally published in the January 1998 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The novella is part of the author's Xenolinguist (aka "lingster") series of stories. The online Oxford English Dictionary (OED), credits Sheila with coining the term "xenolinguist" in 1988. Read more of the Xenolinguist series in her recent blog post: "The Evolution of a (Fictitious) Universe."

  • During my one year as an acquiring editor for Fantastic Books, two of my acquired titles saw publication: Judith Moffett's long-out-of-print first novel Pennterra, and gonzo novel Fuzzy Dice by Paul Di Filippo, which had been previously published only as a limited edition by a British small press. [Note: I use the cover of FD as my icon for both Twitter and Fasebook.] John Berlyne has a review of Fuzzy Dice in the October issue of SFRevu: "Where he is most successful is in his depiction of abstract and/or abstruse ideas. He is able to convey these illustrative situations without straying into the surreal and it is a testament to Di Filippo's skill and imagination that he is able to share his visions with the reader with such extraordinary clarity."
  • Before you start whining about all your rejection letters, about the fact that you're not some hugely popular author, you just might want to read Robert "Bob" Weinberg's account of his experiences in publishing and why Hellfire: Plague of Dragons may just be the best damn dragon art book you will never see.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention

With this year's World Fantasy Convention quickly approaching [alas, I won't be attending....], I began to reminisce about past WFCs -- and concluded that possibly my most memorable WFC was in 2000 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on October 26-29. The Author Guests of Honor were K. W. Jeter and John Crowley, the Artist GoH was Charles Vess (whose wonderful art graced the cover of the convention book, pictured at the left), and the Toastmaster was Joe R. Lansdale hisownself.

But regarding these memories, I'm specifically referring to positive memories; my worst convention -- ever! -- was the World Fantasy Con in Montreal the following year. Let's just say it put me off toward Canada and I have never returned, nor do I intend to. But don't get me started on that con....[though maybe I will blog about it one of these days....]

When I think of WFC 2000 in Corpus Christi, a number of names come immediately to mind, and all for specific reasons for which I will elaborate: Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, John Picacio, Michael Moorcock, and Gordon Van Gelder.

Andy Duncan:

Andy's first short story collection -- and first book -- Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, was published by Golden Gryphon Press in time for the 2000 World Fantasy Con. Though at the time I was acquiring and editing for GGP, I wasn't involved with the publication of Andy's book. Nevertheless, I was intrigued with Andy's writing and made certain to attend his reading on Friday at 2:30 pm. Andy read from his story "Lincoln in Frogmore," about President Lincoln's visit to the town just after the slaves were freed, as told in 1936 by a man who remembers the event. [The story is available online courtesy of] As I listened to Andy read, I was amazed at how well he voiced a Southern drawl to portray the protagonist in the story. At the end of the reading, someone in the audience asked a question -- and when Andy responded I realized that his drawl wasn't simply for effect during the story: he really did talk that way!

By the way, at the WFC the following year, in Montreal, Andy was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, and a second award for best short fiction for "The Pottawatomie Giant." [Note: Since I did mention that the 2001 Montreal WFC was my worst con ever, I wanted to add that Andy Duncan's award wins were, in fact, one of the highlights of that convention for me.]

Jeffrey Ford:

In addition to wanting to meet Andy Duncan, I also attended this convention with the specific intent to meet Jeffrey Ford. I was already a fan of his fiction, having read "At Reparata" and "Pansolapia" online on Event Horizon, "Malthusian's Zombie" online on SCI FICTION, and "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant" in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Jeff's reading was also on Friday, though earlier in the morning, at 10:00 am. Jeff chose to read a new story, "Creation," which hadn't as yet been sold. What can I say? "Creation" -- particularly Jeff's reading of the story -- absolutely knocked me out. After listening to that story, I knew that he was a writer to watch, and I wanted to be the editor to snag his first collection. So after Jeff's reading, I introduced myself and complimented him on "Creation," and then told him straight up that I wanted to publish his first short story collection. I won't go into further details at this point other than to say that it took a few months for the collection to come together -- Jeff's New York publisher had "first look," so we had to wait for the publisher to pass on the collection.

The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories was published by Golden Gryphon Press in August 2002. FWA received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was later selected as one of PW's best SF/F books of the year. And, at the 2003 World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC, Jeffrey Ford, like Andy Duncan, was honored with a pair of matching bookends: a World Fantasy Award for best collection for The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories and a second award for best short fiction for -- what else? -- "Creation."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Anybody Out There? -- Recent Reviews

As I've posted previously, and you may have read elsewhere, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the SETI program: the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. And unlike movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. or Independence Day, scientists have as yet discovered no sign, good or ill, of extraterrestrial intelligence. But now that 50 years have passed with no such sign, these very same scientists are beginning to rethink their methodology.

"Alien hunters should look for artificial intelligence" is the title of an article by Jason Palmer, a science and technology reporter, for the BBC News. (via @daj42) The article includes an audio link to a 3-minute, 30-second recording by Dr. Seth Shotak on "what form 'aliens' may take." Dr. Shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and he "argues that the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence (AI) would be short....that the odds favour detecting such alien AI rather than 'biological' life."

This comment on "alien AI" brought to mind one of the stories included in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, from Daw Books, June 2010), which includes the story "A Waterfall of Lights" by Ian Watson. In the story, ophthalmologist Roderick Butler (who teamed up with an artist to create an experimental project at the Museum of Modern Art), says to the visitors on opening night: "...let me introduce you to the aliens in our midst, the super-intelligent evolved immortal creations of aliens from another cosmos which preceded ours! They are in your very own eyes! We don’t see the aliens in our universe because it is through those alien intelligences that we perceive!"

To paraphrase Walt Kelly's Pogo comic strip, "We have met the aliens, and they are us."

Last month, Ray Vukcevich (@rayvuk), one of the contributors to the anthology, sent me a link to yet another BBC News article, which revealed the Top 10 "unanswerable" questions. The data was based on approximately 1.1 billion queries made on the Ask Jeeves search engine since its launch in 2000. Amongst questions like "What is the meaning of life?" (#1) and "Do blondes have more fun?" (#4) and "What is love?" (#7), can be found question #5: "Is there anybody out there?"

* * *

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Howard Jacobson on Comic Novels

Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question -- a comedy about anti-Semitism -- won the $79,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today in London. Today's Washington Post has a lengthy article on Jacobson and his award-winning comedy and the Man Booker Prize. And thanks to Christopher Barzak's post on Facebook, I learned about an interview with Jacobson in The Guardian in which he speaks on "taking comic novels seriously." This is another instance where a quote was so poignant, so awe inspiring, that I just had to post it here. I'll leave the entire Jacobson interview for you to read if/when you choose, but for now there is this:

"Trawl through the world of blogs and tweets and you will find readers complaining when they stumble upon a word they don't recognise, an attitude that doesn't accord with their own, a passage of thought they find hard work, a joke they don't get or of which they don't approve. Anyone would think that the whole art and pleasure of reading consisted in getting helter-skelter through a novel, unscathed, unchallenged, and without encountering anyone but oneself. Once we wrestled with the angel when we read; now we ask only to slumber in his arms.

But the greatest novels won't let us. The novelist, at his swelling comic best -- a Dickens or a Dostoevsky, a Cervantes or a Kafka, a Joseph Roth or a Henry Miller -- goes where Hamlet dares the skull of Yorick to go, straight to my painted lady's chamber, rattling his bones and making her laugh at the terrible fate that awaits her. His comedy spares nothing and spares no one. And in the process asserts the stubbornness of life. Why would we want to read anything less?"

― Howard Jacobson

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

September Links & Things

My wrap-up of September's Links & Things is tardy, as usual. If you have been checking in here awaiting said post, I thank you for your patience. With my nine days in Southern Cal last month to look in on the mom, and some lengthy line/copyediting projects -- plus catching the start of a number of the fall TV shows -- well, this blog hasn't received the attention it rightly deserves. And, unfortunately, the remainder of October doesn't look to be any less busy -- for which I am grateful, in the overall scheme of things (because "busy" pays the bills).

Consequently, there are not many links this month given my schedule; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern -- but here, in addition to the links themselves, I include more detail and occasional comments. Though I do want to add that not all of my tweeted links make it into the month-end post.
  • In last month's Links & Things I encouraged you all to read Kathleen Bartholomew's blog Kathleen, Kage and the Company. To reiterate, Kathleen is Kage Baker's sister, and in between her fiction writing -- she is currently working on the sequel to Kage's The Women of Nell Gwynne's -- Kathleen tells many wonderful stories of growing up with Kage, the two of them living together in various locales, their travels, their hobbies, the food they loved, and more. Kathleen has tons of Kage's notes, and years and years of long discussions with Kage about her stories and characters. And some of the tales that Kathleen tells are simply wonderful to read, especially if you are a fan of Kage's Company stories in particular.
  • Lit agent Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford) posted this tweet on Wednesday, September 29: "Which book would prompt you to strike up a conversation with a stranger you saw reading it?" And it reminded me of an occurrence quite a number of years ago. In my recent blog post on Philip K. Dick and Rudy Rucker, I mentioned attending my first Armadillocon in Austin, Texas -- Armadillocon 10 in October 1988 -- in which K. W. Jeter was the Author Guest of Honor, and both Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock were on the guest list as well. I flew American Airlines from San Jose to Austin, with a plane change in Dallas-Fort Worth. I boarded the plane in DFW for the last leg of the flight; as I was walking down the aisle to my seat in the rear of the plane (I always sit toward the back of planes), I noticed a woman in a seat to my left reading a copy of K. W. Jeter's Infernal Devices (St. Martin's Press, 1987). [Note: Jeter is credited with coining the term "steampunk" to describe the types of fiction he and fellow authors Powers and Blaylock were writing at the time.] I stopped in the aisle and asked her if she was going to Armadillocon, to which she responded "yes" -- and I could see from the look on her face that she just might be wondering how I would know that, so I commented on her reading Jeter's book. We later saw one another at the convention, chatted a bit and exchanged names -- hers being Spike Parsons -- and since then, for more than 20 years, we regularly see one another at Bay Area and national conventions.
  • In my mini blog post on September 30, I quoted Christopher Mims from his article "The Death of the Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated" in MIT's Technology Review. In the article, Mims states that "Tech pundits recently moved up the date for the death of the book to sometime around 2015, inspired largely by the rapid adoption of the iPad and the success of Amazon's Kindle e-reader." He goes on to say that this prognostication is "the peak of inflated expectations" and that we need to "Get ready for the next phase of the hype cycle: the trough of disillusionment." Mims goes on to refute a lot of the book is dead hype, stating: "Finally, and most importantly, as a delivery mechanism, Ebooks are nothing like music or even movies and television, and the transitions seen in those media simply don't apply to the transition to electronic books." Excellent article with more than 25 Comments.
  • Colleen Lindsay (@ColleenLindsay), former genre literary agent and now a member of the business development team at Penguin Group (USA), has a blog post "On word counts and novel length" in which she presents a "comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre and sub-genre." Colleen writes: "Somewhere out there a myth developed -- especially amongst science fiction and fantasy writers -- that a higher word count was better. Writers see big fat fantasies on the shelf and think that they have to write a book just as hefty to get published....And the fact of the matter is, most of those 'big fat fantasy' books you see on the shelf actually only have a word count of about 100k to 120k." Word counts are provided for middle grade and YA fiction, and all types of genre fiction. And if you doubt the importance of this blog post, check out the more than 70 Comments.
  • Science fiction author Paul McAuley, whose blog Earth and Other Unlikely Worlds, has a recent post entitled "Plumbing": "the cardinal rule of world-building: details are useful only if they have some kind of interaction or intersection with the protagonist, which is to say, something to do with the narrative....It's plumbing. You know it's there, but unless it goes wrong you don't need to worry about it." A fairly brief, but no less important piece on world-building. (via @daj42)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Christopher Mims on Books

I was just sharing a link via Twitter for an article in Technology Review by Christopher Mims entitled "The Death of the Book Has Been Greatly Exaggerated" -- when I was so awe struck by his ending paragraph that I absolutely had to post it here, now. And as a book collector myself (more so in past years), I felt this quote -- and the entire article -- to be pertinent to the current and constant deluge of articles and discussions on how ebooks are taking over the world.

"Books have a kind of usability that, for most people, isn't about to be trumped by bourgeoisie concerns about portability: They are the only auto-playing, backwards-compatible to the dawn of the English language, entirely self-contained medium we have left."
— Christopher Mims

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Judith Moffett's Pennterra: Going Native

Pennterra During my one year as an acquiring editor for Fantastic Books, two of my acquired titles saw publication: Judith Moffett's long-out-of-print first novel Pennterra, and gonzo novel Fuzzy Dice by Paul Di Filippo, which had been previously published only as a limited edition by a British small press.

Recently Pennterra was reviewed by a British print magazine, H&E Naturist. Since the review is not available online, I've taken the liberty of entering the full review below for your reading pleasure.  I'm posting this review on More Red Ink because the author is currently involved in writing a memoir, to which she is devoting all of her writing time; thus her blog and website have not been updated for quite some time. If you don't know who Judith Moffett is, or you are curious what she has to write a memoir about, you may want to check out her Wikipedia entry: Judy is not your typical SF/F genre writer! You can also read my previous blog post about Judy's published work entitled "Aliens Have Entered Mainstream's Orbit."

Before posting the review, I would first like to reiterate the quote from Nebula Award-winning author Michael Bishop that appears on the cover (pictured above) of this reprint edition of Pennterra: "Stunning... the best first novel I have read in at least a decade... dangerous and breathtaking to behold."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tim Powers: Not So Strange Itineraries

I spent nine days in Southern California -- Orange County, specifically1 -- returning home in the early evening on Saturday, September 18. What with preparing for the trip, the trip itself, and then the necessary catching-up on business projects upon my return, well, that's why little has been heard from me for these past three weeks.

A wee bit of background (and I'll try not to bore you) on why I was in SoCal for those nine days: My mother had her knee replaced eighteen years ago. That knee had deteriorated, and it finally gave out on her about two and a half months ago. The knee was reset in the hospital, then my mother was carted off the next day to a rehab facility for two weeks (where I visited her during one of those weeks, as I previously reported in this blog). Unfortunately, four weeks later, the knee dislocated again, so the mum underwent full knee replacement surgery. The surgery went well, and she is now recovering in that same rehab facility yet again. I arrived just prior to her surgery on Friday, September 10, and stayed through the following week.

The rehab facility is on Old Tustin Avenue in Santa Ana -- just across the street and about a half-block away from Benjie's, a New York-style deli, and one of only two such delis (the other being Katella Deli in Los Alamitos) in the OC.

I have only eaten at Benjie's once before, and promised myself that I would make it back there for dinner at least once before departing SoCal this time around. I had three evenings from which to chose: Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday (September 15-17). I chose that Wednesday evening because, to put it bluntly, I was starving. By the time I had dinner at 7:00pm, it had been eleven hours since I had last eaten -- and you must be starving in order to consume completely one of Benjie's humongous "hot corned beef on rye" sandwiches.

The Stress of Her Regard So the waitress seats me, and I'm not paying much attention to the surrounding environment: I'm tired (sat with the mum in the rehab facility for eight straight hours), I'm hungry, I need to use the facilities, especially to wash my face and hands.

A short while later, my dinner is served. About the time that I've eaten nearly half the sandwich -- which, by the way, was wonderful -- motion to my left catches my eye. I automatically turn my head to look, and to my surprise, I recognize Tim Powers walking down the aisle toward the front of the restaurant.

I'm sitting in a booth; in the aisle next to mine (to my left), one booth back I now see Serena Powers, Tim's wife. When I had been seated, Tim's back was toward me, and he was sitting across from his wife, thus blocking my view of her.

So I waited for Tim to return, and then I stood and greeted him in the aisle before he reached his seat. Tim recognized me, but I was out of context and thus I had to remind him of where we had last seen one another, when we had last worked together.

Tachyon Publications released the long-out-of-print The Stress of Her Regard in August 2008. Toward the end of 2007 through February 2008, I scanned in that entire book -- 180,000 words! -- cleaned up said scan, and then copyedited the manuscript. The book that I had scanned had an inordinate number of typos and formatting errors, all of which I hope I caught. Tim also provided a dozen or so changes that he wanted included as well in this new edition, so I would say that the Tachyon Publications edition of The Stress of Her Regard is undoubtedly the author's preferred text. Tim did tell me that I did a "great job" on the book, so I'll simply take his word for it.
Strange Itineraries

A few months later, at BayCon 2008 -- in which Tim Powers was the Writer Guest of Honor -- we participated in a panel discussion2 entitled "Is the Short Story Dead?" on Friday, May 23, at 4:00pm (along with panelists Irene Radford and Tony Todaro). And as I'm sure you have surmised already, we all agreed that the short story is indeed not dead! In fact, even in 2008, the genre saw an increase in online magazines as well as an increase in anthologies, and though some  'zines (online and print) have ceased publication since then, there have been others to take their place.

Prior to these events in 2008, I copyedited Tim's short story collection, Strange Itineraries, also from Tachyon Publications. I completed work on this book in February 2005, and it was published in July of that year.

As I said, I could have chosen any one of three evenings to eat at Benjie's; but I chose that evening, Wednesday, which just happened to be the evening that Tim and Serena Powers were having dinner at the same restaurant. (They were also with a third person whom I didn't recognize.) It's just another example of how very small the SF/F community really is. I live in San Jose in Northern California, Tim lives in San Bernardino in Southern California, and there we were at the same restaurant in Santa Ana on this one particular Wednesday evening.


1 Orange County is one of my least favorite places. Though I spent a number of years growing up there (age thirteen through high school graduation), I got the hell out as soon as I could. I returned for a few years simply because of the booming job market, but then left (forever) when I was offered a job in Silicon Valley. Over the past twenty-five or so years, I visit the OC at most once a year, unless a family emergency or a business opportunity (e.g. the 2006 L.A. WorldCon in Anaheim) demands my presence otherwise.

2 Note to Tim Powers fans: Tim is a doodler! When he sits on a convention panel, and there is a notepad in front of him (typically one provided by the hotel), he will doodle. Page after page of doodles, on as many pages as the notepad has. And best of all, he always leaves the notepad on the table at the end of the panel discussion. So, feel free to snag said notepad once Tim leaves the table. You won't find any doodles as elaborate (or colored) as the one below, but this will give you an idea of what you can expect:

This sketch, entitled "Blackbeard Angry," appears on the half title page of my first edition copy of On Stranger Tides (Ace Books, 1987). Tim did the sketch itself at the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, Halloween weekend, in Monterey, California.  Upon completing the sketch, Tim told me that he would have colored it had he had some colored pencils. So, the following year, at the World Fantasy Con in Providence, Rhode Island, I accommodated Tim by providing him with a set of colored pencils! The colors in this scan, unfortunately, don't appear as bright and bold as they actually are.

tweet-this-smallTweet This