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.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

August Links & Things (Part Two)

Part Two of my "August Links & Things" blog post is of a more personal nature, primarily on authors with whom I have worked, books I have edited. 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.

  • [Romantic Times] has "Kage Baker Remembered" -- heartfelt memories of the author as seen "through the eyes of her younger sister, Kathleen Bartholomew." I would like to add that in all the years I've known Kage -- and through lunches, dinners, bookstore readings, convention panels, hotel lobby chats, etc. -- she and Kathleen were inseparable. Reading about Kage through Kathleen's eyes is a pure joy. [Note: I have written my own remembrance of working with Kage Baker.]

Kage Baker at 6
Kage, age 6, with her first typewriter,
and her godfather, Irish actor Sean McClory

  • And if you are a reader and/or fan of Kage's writings, then you'll want to be following Kathleen's blog: Kathleen, Kage and the Company, in which Kathleen is -- to use her word -- "channeling" Kage. In between her fiction writing, 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 Kathleen plans to write the novels that Kage was unable to complete. She is currently working on the sequel to The Women of Nell Gwynne's.

Friday, September 3, 2010

August Links & Things (Part One)

I'll begin with a quick status: I currently have three copyediting projects in process: 1) the December 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine; 2) Phil and Kaja Foglio's Agatha H and the Airship City (a novel based on the "Girl Genius" comic series) forthcoming from Night Shade Books in January 2011; and 3) Joe Lansdale's Crucified Dreams anthology for Tachyon Publications. And I have a couple other projects in the works that I hope to announce shortly. Until then....

Due to content, I'm splitting the "August Links & Things" wrap-up into two parts; hopefully Part Two will follow within a few days at most. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern -- but here in my blog post, in addition to the links themselves, I include more detail and the occasional comments.

  • If, like me, you're waiting for that Android tablet (because you simply don't like Apple and/or you are not satisfied with the iPad's features), then there is much to be pleased with in the world. Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy tablet at the IFA trade show in Berlin; the tablet will be released in Europe this month and in the U.S. "in coming months." has a features comparison between the Galaxy and the iPad.
  • Also in the news: According to, Google, Motorola, and Verizon are partnering in what may be the first Android 3.0 tablet. This is only a PR announcement, no real details, but enough to pique one's interest in the future of the Android tablet. (via @News4Android)
  • Best-selling author Seth Godin made headlines throughout the publishing industry when he announced on his blog: "Linchpin will be the last book I publish in a traditional way." Godin provides some background and thoughts on the current state of publishing, and concludes with: " mission is to figure out who [my] audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it's not a traditionally published book." (via @GalleyCat)
  • In fact, nearly all of the links in this post are concerned with non-traditional publishing. As I've mentioned in previous month-end posts, author Dean Wesley Smith is writing a series of blog posts entitled "The New World of Publishing." In the current entry, "Books Are No Longer Produce," Dean discusses how books were/are treated as little more than grocery store produce in traditional publishing, and he provides a bit of history on how this thinking -- and treatment of books -- came about. But, as Dean states: "books don't spoil." And because "books don't spoil" (Dean states this six different times in the course of the post.) traditional publishing must change if they are to survive. A well-written piece worthy of your time; and check out the more than 45 Comments as well.
  • And if the idea of self-publishing has even barely touched the outer fringes of your mind, then this next blog post is an absolute must read: "Self-Publishing and Subsidy Presses." If you've ever wondered what the difference is between self-publishing and vanity presses, this is the place to start. The post includes quotes from noted folks in the field, links to even more resources (SFWA, Writers Beware, Scribd, Lulu, etc.), breakdown in percentages of publishing costs, plus more than 30 Comments. I can't stress this enough: Before you consider the self-publishing route -- and more importantly, a self-publishing press -- you need to do your homework.