Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grasping at Aliens

Alien ContactIn previous blog posts I've mentioned the significant role that book review bloggers play in today's publishing wars -- by bringing titles that aren't always reviewed by the mainstream press to the attention of book readers and buyers. Take Alien Contact for example: it's an all-reprint anthology from independent press Night Shade Books, and even though the book contains stories by such "name" authors as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Ursula K. Le Guin, to name only three, it hasn't gotten a great deal of attention amongst mainstream publications, with the exception of Library Journal and The Guardian.

That's why book review blogs are so important to an anthology like Alien Contact and to a publisher like Night Shade Books. A typical reader doesn't have access to Kirkus Reviews or Publishers Weekly -- mostly because these publications are designed for libraries and bookstores and are far too expensive. But what a typical reader does have access to are the hundreds (thousands?) of free online book review blogs, such as John Ottinger's "Grasping for the Wind science fiction & fantasy news & reviews" blog.

I mention this blog specifically because John recently reviewed my Alien Contact anthology.

What I appreciate in particular about this review is that John addresses each of the twenty-six stories in the anthology. He doesn't necessarily like, or even understand, all of the stories, but he gives equal attention to each, which allows the reader to assess the overall content and quality of the book as a whole. As the book's editor, I'm gratified to see every author mentioned, not just the most popular or well-known authors.
Here are just a couple (well, maybe three) of Ottinger's individual story reviews:

Karen Joy Fowler's "Face Value" is a tragic story of a man and wife team sent to an alien planet to make contact with the moth-like intelligence found there. Taki is the xenobiologist and Hesper, his wife, a poet. Taki thrives, but Hesper becomes more and more depressed until even her poet's soul is lost. Fowler's sad story is about transcendence and the place where beauty comes from. It's about relationship too. Taki and Hesper's inability to understand one another has its echo in Taki's inability to communicate with the natives. There is a haunting beauty to Fowler's story that will leave you pondering long after you read it.

I have to admit that I don't really get "Guerrilla Mural of Siren's Song" by Ernest Hogan. The story appears to be about a street artist who encounters sirens deep in the winds of Jupiter. It's also a love paean to a dead woman. Art and experience combine in an experiential tale of whirling emotions and unreliable narration. It's likely to be the favorite story in the anthology of people with a less analytical and more artistic bent than myself, but for me it was rather confusing.

"If Nudity Offends You" by Elizabeth Moon is another story I have read before. In this one, a court secretary, living in a trailer park, finds that her neighbors have been illegally tapping into her electricity. Most of the story is about her confrontation with these odd foreigners who wear no clothes in their trailer, talk funny, and seem slightly off. The whole story builds up to a surprise ending that makes you wonder if these foreigners were not just from a distant land, but from a different planet entirely. It's a close encounter that is discovered only after the fact.

John concludes his review with the following observation:
Alien Contact is a title that might be slightly misleading. This is not an anthology of first contacts but rather a collection of encounters with the other, what we choose to call the alien, the ineffable, the different and unknowable. Halpern's anthology is an excellent collection of tales that share a theme in common, but that manage to postulate widely different scenarios

As I said, these are only three of the twenty-six individual story reviews; you'll find John Ottinger's complete review on Grasping for the Wind.

Redux: Another Alien Contact Giveaway

Just a reminder that this current giveaway [there will be yet another after the new year] ends in 4 days for a print edition (US residents) and ebook edition (non-US residents) of my Alien Contact anthology. To be eligible FTW you only need to send a very, very brief email -- no blog comment required, no Facebook "Like," no retweeting -- just an email with either your mailing address (US residents) or your country (non-US residents).

Click on over to Mad Hatter's Review blog for the details on how to enter the giveaway for a copy of Alien Contact. The deadline is midnight, December 31st.

Happy New Year everyone! And happy reading

The Meaning of "Going Home"

This is a different type of blog post for me: I'm going to promote a contest, but not one of my own. And the subject of this contest is contrary to something I firmly believe: that we shouldn't analyze fiction to death (as is done in typical high school English Lit classes... gag!) but rather to simply enjoy the totality of the reading experience. But with that said....

This contest is sponsored by two of my favorite authors: my friend, Bruce McAllister, whose Hugo Award-nominated story "Kin graces the pages of my Alien Contact anthology; and Barry Malzberg, who co-edited (with Edward L. Ferman) one of the best SF anthologies ever, Final Stage1.

First, the caveat: This contest is open to Facebook members only. If you are an FB user, then simply "friend" Bruce McAllister and you are good to go. If not, then just sign up for a free account and then search for -- and "friend" -- Bruce McAllister. FB is no big deal, it's not painful, and you don't have to use the app after you sign up -- other than for this contest, of course.

Bruce and Barry have co-written a story entitled "Going Home" that was published in the February 2012 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. Now I realize we're still in 2011, but this particular issue has already been printed. In fact, the Asimov's website currently features this February issue. You may be an Asimov's subscriber, or you can find copies on the rack at Barnes & Noble, and certainly at your favorite SF specialty store, and online as well, including ebook editions. And Asimov's has donated 15 copies of the issue to Bruce McAllister for readers who wish to participate in this contest but for one reason or another are unable to obtain a copy.

Here's the issue, and the reason for the contest: Even though Bruce and Barry have co-written "Going Home," they do not agree on the story's meaning. According to Bruce's Facebook post on December 16:
The Asimov's issue with "Going Home" is out and should hit the stands soon. After a brief email exchange yesterday, however, Barry and I discovered we're not at all in agreement about what the story means. (Yeah, you'd think -- co-authors and everything -- but no....) So a contest: FREE copies of my novel Dream Baby and Barry Malzberg's John Campbell Award winner Beyond Apollo to the three readers out there who can come up with the most creative (read: insightful and/or deranged) interpretations of the story. 500 words max. Deadline -- March 15 [2012]. FB members only, yes. Winning entries (or excerpts) will be posted here with much fanfare. This should be fun.

So here's a chance for you to put those interpretive skills you honed in your English Lit class to good use, and possibly score a free copy of the award-nominated Dream Baby from Bruce and the award-winning Beyond Apollo from Barry. And, I assume, the authors will gladly sign/inscribe their respective books for the winners, too.

Courtesy of the authors, here's the opening paragraph to "Going Home":

Arrogant as this sounds, I've decided I'm going to bring the Golden Age of Science Fiction back even if I have to do it single-handedly. It's been lost for a long time, and someone's got to bring it back, given what's happening. Yes, I know, Mitchell Litton has been known for three decades for his cynical, earthbound, ankle-biting, technophobic, earthbound novels—and I wrote them because they were my truth at the time (the alcohol, two divorces, Chiara's pregnancy at 16, my mother's and sister's deaths in the same year, the bankruptcy, and the awards nastiness), but I remember what it was like to be young and read those stories; and now that I'm facing, as we all are with the slow spread of this "Armageddon virus" that's taking the world, my own mortality, I see now that those stories held older and bigger truths than the ones I delivered. In any case, I want to be part of it again. Like going home, yes.

—from "Going Home" by Bruce McAllister and
Barry Malzberg, Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2012

As Bruce states on his Facebook page: "Finally, after 40 years, got to co-write a story with old friend and mentor Barry Malzberg."


1. If you should choose to track down a copy of the Ferman and Malzberg anthology Final Stage, be sure to seek out the reprint Penguin edition only -- not the original Charterhouse hardcover edition. There was some controversy regarding the hardcover edition because a number of the stories were revised and edited by the publisher's editor without Ferman's or Malzberg's -- or any of the affected authors -- knowledge or permission. The original texts of all the stories were restored in the Penguin reprint edition. Anthology historian Bud Webster has written a lengthy essay on the original Charterhouse edition entitled "Anthology 101: The (Non)Final Stage" that you'll find quite enlightening, with input from Ferman, Malzberg, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, and others.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Observed in the Wilds of San Francisco

I was hoping for a photograph or two from an indie bookstore, since the only pics I've seen so far of Alien Contact in the wild are at B&N stores....

So a special "thank you" to Jude Feldman at the best genre bookstore on the West Coast (and possibly even points farther):

Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street, San Francisco 94110

Note: When I asked Jude (via email) about the brown something in the top right corner of the photograph, she responded: "...the brown/black thing you're seeing in the background is a portion of a steampunk art piece that's mounted on the wall. It's called The Triparator and it was made by Dr. Alan Rorie."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another Alien Contact Giveaway

If you read my guest blog post yesterday on determining story order, posted on The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review blog, then you hopefully read at the end of the post that there would be a giveaway announced the next day for Alien Contact.

Well, today is that next day, and the giveaway has gone live. Please check out Mad Hatter's Review blog for a chance to win a copy of Alien Contact. The giveaway is open to both US and non-US residents, and the deadline is midnight, December 31st.

Happy New Year everyone! And happy reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Story Order (Or, Developing the TOC)

Are you the type of reader who picks a story at random to read in an anthology, or do you always begin at the beginning, and read the stories in the order that they have been presented? If the latter, have you ever thought about the actual order of the stories: Why did the editor begin the anthology with this particular story? Why is the longest story in the middle (or near the beginning, or toward the end)? Why are these other stories back to back, and why does the book end with this other story?

The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review blog invited me to write a guest blog post, which I gladly accepted. And for my guest post I wrote about the process I went through to determine the story order -- the table of contents -- for my Alien Contact anthology. I had 26 stories to work with, and I had to place them in an order that would both intrigue and motivate the reader to continue reading, to finish the book, and hopefully result in a positive reading experience.

Here are a couple excerpts from my guest post:

...the readers who begin at the beginning--the introduction--and then read the stories in the order they are presented, these are the readers I must be concerned with. For them, the story order--the overall experience of reading the book in its entirety--is what makes, or breaks, the anthology.


As a group, these criteria affect the flow of the anthology. Place a lot of dark, depressing, overly long stories together and quite possibly I'll lose a lot of my readers. Each story needs to encourage the reader to want to move on to the next story, and the next, and so on, until the reader reaches the end of the book.

I specify the five criteria I use to assist me in determining story order, and I also provide some thoughts on a few specific stories.

Story order is something I take great pride in....

And check back at Mad Hatter's Review for yet another Alien Contact giveaway.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Observed in the Wilds of Akron

Barnes & Noble, 4015 Medina Road, Akron, Ohio 44333.

This B&N staffer hamming it up in the pic just happens
to be my cousin, David Halpern.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Alien Contact Gets the Silver Treatment

Alien ContactWhen I posted the first review of my Alien Contact anthology, I noted the importance of online book reviewers/book bloggers and book review sites such as Goodreads: all critical resources to those who read and purchase books. There will be no shortage of reviews of Stephen King's 11/22/63 this holiday season. I even found copies of King's book at Costco. But what I want to learn more about are the lesser known indie/small press titles, and authors, and so I am especially grateful to those who review and support these types of books.

One such book reviewer is Steven Silver, who publishes his reviews under Silver Reviews, hosted online by SFSite. In Steven's most recent review, for Alien Contact, he writes:

...In 1898, H. G. Wells described that first contact as a Martian invasion of England's Horsell Common resulting in death and mayhem until the aliens are brought low. Murray Leinster wrote about a less dire alien contact in 1945, in which humans and aliens worked to ensure they wouldn't destroy each other. Editor Marty Halpern has now brought together twenty-six stories of alien contact in a book called, appropriately enough, Alien Contact.


Karen Joy Fowler is responsible for writing one of the strangest first contact stories ever published, the novel Sarah Canary, so the inclusion of her story "Face Value" is quite fitting, and quite different from her famous novel. In this story, as with so many other first contact stories, part of the puzzle that needs to be solved revolves around finding a means of communication between two different species, a theme which dates back to Leinster's "First Contact."


The stories Halpern has selected not only demonstrate the different slants authors can take on...alien contact, but also explore what it means to be alien in different ways and also depict numerous writing styles, with humor, drama, military, and nostalgia all playing a role. As these stories demonstrate, the science fiction genre provides a playground in which authors cane use the tropes and styles of a wide variety of other genres in crafting entertaining, as well as insightful, stories.

In his review, Steven mentions a number of other stories in the anthology, in addition to the story by Karen Joy Fowler. Please head on over to Silver Reviews for the full review of Alien Contact, which has been published by Night Shade Books.

Monday, December 5, 2011

November Links & Things

I've been rather quiet here of late, as I just completed work on a project for Penguin/Ace Books that I had been anticipating for a couple months. I'll provide a bit of a teaser here by saying that I've just finished "the laundry" -- neatly pressed. So, now that this project is behind me (and I hope to do a blog post about it soon), I plan on being a bit more visible here. Or, at least I hope to be a bit more visible here. One can never tell, especially these days. Regardless, please don't give up on me.

Onward: 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. Previous month-end posts are accessible via the "Links and Things" tag in the right column. 
  • Ernest Hogan (@NestoHogan), a contributing author to the Alien Contact anthology ["Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song"], has recently written a blog post on La Bloga, entitled "Chicanonautica: The Lone Sci-Fi Chicano?" in which he wonders if he may just be the only Chicano science fiction writer. If you are a Chicano SF/Fantasy author, or know of an author, please let Ernesto know by posting a comment to his blog post.
  • Author Andrew Fox has informed me that his novel, The Good Humor Man, or Calorie 3501 (which I edited for Tachyon Publications) has been released in a variety of ebook formats. The link here is to the Kindle edition, but you'll find the ebook at Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other online sellers. The novel was described by Kage Baker as "a Fahrenheit 451 for the post-millennium, told with Fox's magnificent evocation of place and twisted humor..." For more details, here's a link to my blog post from 19 February 2009 on the novel, and Tachyon Publications.
  • If you are a book reader and/or a book collector, then you undoubtedly are familiar with ABEBooks.com (@AbeBooks), which recently posted a concise history of Amazing Stories magazine. You can find lengthier, more detailed histories elsewhere online, but what makes this article special are the more than 25 full-color covers, including the first Amazing Stories Annual from 1927. The article falls short, however, by not mentioning that the "Amazing Stories" name has recently been acquired by Steve Davidson, who has formed an editorial board and commissioned cover art. Check out my September and October Links & Things posts for details.
  • Looking for fellow gamers for your game group? NeedGamers.com wants to help by being a registry for all flavors of gamer. (via @ProfBeard)
  • On November 7 I purchased the new Stephen King novel, 11/22/63. How could I not purchase a book in which time travel is used to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination? The week before the book was released, Wired Magazine featured an interview with King in which he set forth his "Rules for Time Travel." King and Wired discuss the "butterfly effect," alternate timelines, and more. At the end of the interview, when asked if he'll write about time travel again, King responds: "No, this is it. Absolutely not. No, that's done. It's like Apollo Creed says, 'Ain't gonna be no rematch.'" (via @io9)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Observed in the Wild

Alien Contact

Barnes & Noble, Eastridge Shopping Center, San Jose, California:

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Guardian Aliens

Alien ContactIf you happen to reside in the United Kingdom -- and if you were to read the reviews section in today's issue of The Guardian -- you would have seen Keith Brooke's review of Alien Contact.

Keith Brooke is the mastermind behind infinity plus. Though the site hasn't been active since 2007 (it was launched in August 1997), the archives remain online, and if you are a fan and/or student of science fiction and fantasy, you need to have this site bookmarked for reference. As the website itself states: "more than 2.1 million words of fiction, 1000 book reviews and 100 interviews." And now, under the infinity plus banner, Keith is publishing infinity plus singles -- "science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime ebooks for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers."

Of course, not everyone resides in the U.K, and even those who do don't necessarily subscribe to The Guardian. So, the Alien Contact review can also be found on The Guardian online. Keith's review is short, but sweet, and concludes with: "As with any collection, it's easy to debate the editor's choices, but in most cases the selections are spot on, making this an anthology which, restrictive as the theme might appear, serves as an excellent snapshot of modern SF."

I like that: "serves as an excellent snapshot of modern SF."

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Angel" -- A Visitor of a Different Kind

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

On July 21, nearly halfway into my 26-week project to blog about each of the 26 stories included in Alien Contact, I introduced Story #12 -- Pat Cadigan's "Angel."

When I posted my original blog about "Angel," I had Pat's permission at that time to reprint her story online in its entirety -- and I really wanted to do so, right here on More Red Ink. But io9.com had expressed an interest in a guest blog post from Pat, and, as a follow-up, I suggested they also post her story, "Angel," to which they agreed.

So, after much impatient waiting on my part, Pat Cadigan's very astute, very personal guest blog post -- entitled "Why Science Fiction Writers Love Meeting the Other" -- is now available on io9 for your reading pleasure.

In her guest blog post, Pat writes:
One of the first SF books I ever bought was an anthology called Invaders of Earth, edited by Groff Conklin.... Invaders of Earth was divided into three sections — invaders in the past, the present, and the future. I wish I could lay hands on that old book and name all the stories and authors.1 I do remember Mildred Clingerman's "Minister Without Portfolio," in which a grandmother fails to recognise green-skinned people as aliens because she's colour-blind; there was also a story by Donald Wollheim about an attempted invasion by alien weather, and "The Greatest Tertian," told by Martians who uncover evidence on a dead Earth of its greatest hero, Sherk Oms.

Times sure have changed.

They've changed so much that if you were to put Conklin's Invaders of Earth side by side with Alien Contact, edited by Marty Halpern, you'd be tempted to think they were books from different planets. Which, of course, they are. The past isn't merely a different country — it's a whole different world.

There are nearly 1,500 words to this guest blog post; and if you enjoy reading speculative fiction, and alien contact stories in particular, you'll find much to appreciate in her essay.

And then, much to my delight, a few days later io9 graciously posted the full text of Pat's multi-award-nominated story "Angel." I still wish the story was here, on my blog, but I realize that the io9 website gets thousands (and thousands) of daily hits, which will definitely bring "Angel" -- and Pat Cadigan -- to the attention of a wider audience. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I do!

P.S. One of the commenters to Pat's guest blog post included the following quote, which impressed me enough to include it here, just in case you don't read those blog comments:
Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?

The Prophecy, 1995, First Look Pictures



1 Courtesy of the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB.org), here are the contents to Groff Conklin's Invaders of Earth; sadly the listing isn't broken down in the three groups -- past, present, and future -- to which Pat refers. However, the online listing does include four additional uncredited essays having to do with the past and future. One other comment: I'm presenting the stories here as they are listed on ISFDB; you'll note that they are not in any particular order, so I'm assuming this may be the order (the Introduction aside) in which the stories appear in the anthology:

Invaders of Earth, Groff Conklin, editor, Vanguard Press, 1952.

"The Waveries" (1945) by Fredric Brown
"Tiny and the Monster" (1947) by Theodore Sturgeon
"Castaway" (1941) by Robert Moore Williams
"Not Only Dead Men" (1942) by A. E. van Vogt
"The Man in the Moon" (1943) by Henry A. Norton
"Impulse" (1938) by Eric Frank Russell
"Minister Without Portfolio" (1952) by Mildred Clingerman
"Crisis" (1951) by Edward Grendon
"Angel's Egg" (1951) by Edgar Pangborn
"Pen Pal" (1951) by Milton Lesser
"Pictures Don't Lie" (1951) by Katherine MacLean
"An Eel by the Tail" (1951) by Allen Kim Lang [as by Allen K. Lang ]
"Invasion from Mars" (1938) by Howard Koch
"The Discord Makers" (1950) by Mack Reynolds
"Child of Void" (1949) by Margaret St. Clair
"This Star Shall Be Free" (1949) by Murray Leinster
"A Date to Remember" (1949) by William F. Temple
"Will You Walk a Little Faster?" (1951) by William Tenn
"The Greatest Tertian" by Anthony Boucher
"Top Secret" (1948) by Donald A. Wollheim [as by David Grinnell ]
"Enemies in Space" (1907) by Karl Grunert
"Storm Warning" (1942) by Donald A. Wollheim [as by Millard Verne Gordon ]
"Introduction" by Groff Conklin

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Alien Contact -- Another Giveaway, Another Review

Alien ContactDuring the past three weeks, speculative fiction blog SF Signal has hosted a series of guest blog posts and interviews with some of the Alien Contact authors. I've been posting the links here on More Red Ink, but if you're just learning about this now, or you think you may have missed one of the guest posts or an interview or two -- SF Signal has graciously posted a recap, with links, of the entire series.

And, for the denouement, SF Signal is currently hosting an Alien Contact giveaway: a signed (by me) copy of the print edition for the winning U.S. resident, and a copy of the ebook edition (MOBI or EPUB) for the winning non-U.S. resident. The giveaway ends on November 22, so readers still have four more days to add their name to the proverbial hat. Details.

* * * *

Here's a recent review of Alien Contact that appeared in Library Journal:
Alien Contact. Night Shade. Dec. 2011. c.500p. ed. by Marty Halpern. ISBN 9781597802819. pap. $15.99. SF

From Paul McAuley's lyrically somber tale of zombielike aliens ("The Thought War") to Stephen Baxter's story of the last alien message to Earth ("Last Contact"), the 26 tales collected here demonstrate both the variety of alien-contact literature and the enduring popularity of this sf subgenre. VERDICT With strong stories from Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Mike Resnick, Pat Murphy, and other sf luminaries, this is a choice volume for sf fans and a good introduction to extraterrestial encounter stories.

Library Journal Reviews, November 15, 2011

I'm hopeful that, with this positive review, my anthology will find its way to a lot of library shelves throughout the U.S.

Alien Contact was reviewed in LJ with a gaggle of other science fiction and fantasy titles, including two other anthologies also published by Night Shade Books. The reviews can be read in their entirety online on Reviews.LibraryJournal.com.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What You Are About to See...And Read...Now

Alien ContactWhat seems like so many months ago -- April, actually -- I was plotting the best ways to introduce to readers the 26 stories included in Alien Contact, my then forthcoming anthology. I had contacted all the authors for their assistance in promoting the book, with hopes that their schedule would allow for such participation. I asked the authors if they would be open to being interviewed and/or write a guest blog post and/or allow for the online publication of the complete content of their story. More than half of the authors responded with a "yes" on one or more of the options.

Then I had to find homes for these interviews and guest blog posts and stories. I didn't want to limit all of this material to More Red Ink. I have my share of readers, but there are other, more popular sites with readers numbering in the many thousands -- and I wanted to bring Alien Contact to the masses. Hallelujah!

So that's why SF Signal hosted all of the interviews and all (but one) of the guest blog posts. And though the complete text of five of the anthology stories were posted here on More Red Ink, I had worked out plans to have two additional stories posted elsewhere.

On September 16, when I first introduced Story #20 -- "What You Are About to See" by Jack Skillingstead -- I wrote: "I've probably read the story at least four or five times now, and each time the story still leaves me in awe. This is one of those stories that slithers in behind your eyeballs as you read, and tweaks the hell out of your mind." Jack had given me permission to post the story online, but I refrained from doing so, painful as it was, because the publisher, Night Shade Books, had agreed to post the story in its entirety on their website -- but not until after the book itself was published. (This is me, waiting...waiting...waiting....)

Finally, that time is now: "What You Are About to See" is approximately 5,100 words in length; it's not an overly long story, and if you are prepared to have snakes slithering in behind your eyeballs, and your mind rearranged, well, you merely need to click here... and begin reading....

[Update April 7, 2014: Jack Skillingstead's story "What You Are About To See" is now hosted here on More Red Ink.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Concludes: Nov. 14

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact concludes with Pat Cadigan and this final "Alien Contact" interview.

On Tuesday, October 25, SF Signal began a series of guest blog posts and interviews with some of the contributors to my Alien Contact anthology. If you've missed any of these interviews/blog posts, you may want to start here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 10

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Bruce McAllister and the "Alien Contact" interview.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 9

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Jack Skillingstead and the "Alien Contact" interview.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 8

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Barbara Hambly, Executrix of the George Alec Effinger Estate, who chats about GAE and his talent for writing a story like "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything."

Monday, November 7, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 7

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Ernest Hogan and the "Alien Contact" interview.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Lenovo IdeaPad Z575

The new laptop has arrived. W00t!

And she is a beauty to behold: with 6GB DDR3 at 133MHz; an AMD A6-3400M at 1.4GHz; 750GB SATA Hard Drive; 15.6” HD LED Backlit Widescreen Display (1366x768); Integrated ATI Radeon HD 6520M Graphics; Blu-ray Rambo drive; SRS Premium Surround Sound, and 0.3MP Webcam -- to name but a few of the goodies.

Now, I just need to learn Windows 7 (after 10+ years of XP)....

Friday, November 4, 2011

October Links & Things

As a follow-up to my September 1 status: as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. (And it did, in fact, rain earlier today.) My mother, who had been under hospice care for a couple months, passed away on October 14; after spending a week away, I returned home on October 21, knowing that I would have to pack again in a few days for my trip to the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego. Then, on Sunday, two days after returning home, my laptop finally gave up the ghost. In previous years I had replaced the hard drive and the battery, and though the laptop had certainly paid for itself, I just wasn't ready to invest in a new machine, especially one running Windows 7. (I've been a die-hard XP user for more than ten years.) And then there was the work that had to be done on my mother's car: repair a window that wouldn't go up or down (and wouldn't stay up), and replace a burnt out horn. Anyhow, it was all of this or the World Fantasy Con; and all of this took priority. And, all of this was going on just prior to the release of my Alien Contact anthology, too. I was a bit overwhelmed. So, if you were looking for me at WFC, my apologies, but I simply had to bail on the con. Besides, after the week away, at the mom's funeral and dealing with the aftermath (which I'm still dealing with), I needed some time.... The next con I plan to attend will be FOGcon at the end of March, 2012.

So, finally, 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. Note, however, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these month-end posts. Previous month-end posts are accessible via the "Links and Things" tag in the right column.

  • With the publication of Alien Contact, there are a number of special "events" going on: my interview with Matt Staggs on Suvudu.com, and SFSignal.com's fourteen days of guest blog posts and interviews with many of the contributing authors, as well as upcoming events on io9.com and Night Shade Books. Also, don't forget to sign up for the Goodreads giveaway: 5 free copies of Alien Contact; and please check out (and "Like") my Alien Contact Anthology Facebook page. There are widgets to the right of this post for both Goodreads and Facebook.
  • I reported in September's Links & Things that Steve Davidson had been granted the "Amazing Stories" trademark. According to Digital Science Fiction, Davidson now "has announced the creation of an Editorial Advisory Board to assist in the re-launch of the world’s first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories.... Steve has also commissioned Frank Wu, multiple Hugo Award-winning artist, to create a re-imagining of Frank R. Paul’s inaugural cover illustration for the magazine. The cover art will be made available on a variety of different media and will be used as a fund raising and promotional vehicle."
  • Speaking of magazines, Realms of Fantasy, with which I have been involved since the October 2009 issue, has called it quits-- this now the third time in as many years, and publishers -- effective with the just-published October 2011 issue. Publishers William and Kim Gilchrist of Damnation Books, editor Doug Cohen, and fiction editor Shawna McCarthy have all written farewells on the magazine's website.
  • Larry Brooks (@StoryFix) on storyfix.com has a blog post from back in May -- which I recently just learned about -- entitled: Suffering Is Optional, Or, Ten Ways to Totally Screw Up Your Novel. He writes: "The best way to avoid a hole in the road is to see the hole in the road." -- 1) Never begin writing a story without knowing how it will end; 2) If you choose to ignore the previous tip, then you’d best accept this one....; 3) Don’t kid yourself about the critical nature – the necessity – of structure in your story; 4) Don’t take side trips; 5) Don’t write a "small" story without something Big in it; 6) If you can’t describe your story in one compelling sentence, you probably can’t write it in 20,000 compelling sentences, either; 7) Don’t save your hero; 8) Don’t for a moment believe that the things an established bestselling author can get away with are things you can get away with; 9) Don’t overwrite; and 10) Never settle. Each bullet point has the details. (via @BookBuzzr)
  • Author Kay Kenyon (@KayKenyon) shares her Secrets of the First Page in a recent blog post, which came about after Kay and Larry Brooks (see entry above) worked a "first page critique session." In the "Cut to the Chase" section, Kay writes: "Start with a scene. Where something is happening on stage. Put us in the middle of something interesting. The goal of the first page is to get the agent/editor to the second page. So your goal is not really to introduce the novel, but to introduce the scene... Last week Larry persuaded me that openings could be successful if not a scene. If your voice is strong...if you can deliver information that is dramatic...or if you can give us something else wonderful!" The blog post has 14 specific bullet points. (via Deborah J. Ross's FB page)

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 4

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Mark W. Tiedemann and the "Alien Contact" interview.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 3

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Jack Skillingstead's guest post on "Thermalling" -- those "rising columns of air called thermals [that] are like free gas stations." Read how Jack relates these thermals, and thermalling, to his short story "What You Are About to See" in Alien Contact.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gardner Dozois Investigates Alien Contacts

Alien Contact Writer, editor, anthologist, reviewer -- Gardner Dozois is all of these, and more. If you read science fiction, and short stories in particular, and you are not familiar with Gardner's many (many!) anthologies -- specifically The Year's Best Science Fiction series, now in its twenty-eighth year -- then I would be compelled to ask you: What planet are you from?

So I was thrilled to learn that Gardner Dozois reviewed my anthology, Alien Contact (along with other short fiction titles), in the November issue of Locus magazine.

The review clocks in at a brief 139 words (according to MS Word), but brief is good, as long as the review says what it needs to say, and mentions so many great authors and stories in the process.

There's no confusion about genre classification in Alien Contact, edited by Marty Halpern—it's just what it says that it is, stories about contacts with aliens, all of them science fiction, and all of them considerably more varied, subtle, and intelligent than the flood of shoot-'em-up Alien Invasion movies we got over the last year or so. This is another really solid reprint anthology, and another excellent value for your money. The best stories here are probably Bruce Sterling's "Swarm," Michael Swanwick's "A Midwinter's Tale," Bruce McAllister's "Kin," Molly Gloss's "Lambing Season," Pat Cadigan's "Angel," Paul McAuley's "The Thought War," and Nancy Kress's "Laws of Survival," but there are also good stories by Neil Gaiman, George Alec Effinger, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Baxter, Mike Resnick, Harry Turtledove, and thirteen others.... there's really nothing bad here.

— Gardner Dozois, Locus, November 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 2

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Paul McAuley and the "Alien Contact" interview.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Nov. 1

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Ernest Hogan's guest blog post entitled "Once Upon a Time in SoCal: The Making of 'Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song.'"

Monday, October 31, 2011

SFSignal's Close Encounters Continues: Oct. 31

Per my previous blog post, which provides the complete three-week schedule, and links to the first four entries:

SFSignal.com's close encounters with the contributing authors to Alien Contact continues with Nancy Kress and the "Alien Contact" interview.

The Alien Contact Anthology Table of Contents

For the past 26 weeks I have been blogging about each of the 26 stories included in my anthology Alien Contact, from Night Shade Books. That last story was finally unveiled on Saturday, October 29 -- and the anthology is on schedule for publication tomorrow, November 1.

So here is the anthology's complete table of contents, with links to each blog post that pertains to that story. In some instances, the entire text of the story was provided; in other instances, a link was provided to elsewhere online for the text and/or a podcast of the story.

Alien Contact anthology 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"
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"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Close Encounters with the Contributing Authors of Alien Contact!

Alien ContactThis was the headline as it appeared on SFSignal.com on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, a few minutes past midnight. Actually, the words "Starting Today" prefaced that headline, but that was Tuesday, and today is Sunday -- nearly a week later....

In support of the release this week of Alien Contact from Night Shade Books, SFSignal is hosting a series of guest blog posts and interviews with a number of the authors who contributed to the anthology.

World Fantasy Award nominee Charles Tan conducts all the interviews, in which the authors answer questions like: "What's the appeal of alien contact stories for you?" and "What was the first alien contact story you read that made a lasting impression?" as well as a question or two specific to their story. The authors also discuss their current projects.

The guest blog posts revolve around each author's story in the Alien Contact anthology. Readers will gain some insight into the genesis of each of these stories.

The blog posts and interviews will be posted at approximately 2:00 PM (Central time) each weekday (well, almost), from Tuesday, October 25, through Monday, November 14. Here's the schedule; links have been provided for the first four entries, which have already been posted:
* Tue, 10/25: Nancy Kress, Guest Blog post: "Building a Story from Fortuitously Nearby Construction Materials"
* Wed, 10/26: Mike Resnick: The "Alien Contact" Interview
* Thu, 10/27: Mark W. Tiedemann, Guest Blog post: "It's Not About the Buttons"
* Fri, 10/28: Adam-Troy Castro: The "Alien Contact" Interview

* Mon, 10/31: Nancy Kress: The "Alien Contact" Interview
* Tue, 11/1: Ernest Hogan, Guest Blog post: "Once Upon a Time in SoCal: The Making of 'Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song'"
* Wed, 11/2: Paul McAuley: The "Alien Contact" Interview
* Thu, 11/3: Jack Skillingstead, Guest Blog post: "Thermalling"
* Fri, 11/4: Mark W. Tiedemann: The "Alien Contact" Interview

* Mon, 11/7: Ernest Hogan: The "Alien Contact" Interview
* Tue, 11/8: Barbara Hambly, Guest Blog post: "George Alec Effinger and the Aliens Who Knew Everything"
* Wed, 11/9: Jack Skillingstead: The "Alien Contact" Interview
* Thu, 11/10: Bruce McAllister: The "Alien Contact" Interview

* Mon, 11/14: Pat Cadigan: The "Alien Contact" Interview

Remember, you can check in with SFSignal.com at approximately 2:00 PM every weekday -- that's 3:00 PM on the east coast and 12-noon on the west coast -- or, you could just check back here at More Red Ink each weekday for the next two weeks and I'll provide each forthcoming link in a new, albeit very brief, blog post.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #26 (the last story)

Story #26. This post ends my journey, so to speak, which began 26 weeks ago -- one-half year ago! -- to blog about each of the stories included in my anthology Alien Contact, forthcoming from Night Shade Books. The anthology is actually available this weekend at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, and should begin shipping, on schedule, November 1. I got behind only one week -- the week of August 28, due to a family emergency -- but made up for it the following week by blogging about two stories. I'm actually amazed that I've been able to maintain the weekly schedule, on top of everything else these past two months (more on this in my month-end recap). So let me get on with it already....

"Last Contact"
by Stephen Baxter

Solaris Book of New SF V1This story was originally published in 2007 in what has now become the first volume of The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, edited by George Mann and published by Solaris Books UK. The story is approximately 4,400 words in length.

I first read this story in December 2007: it was included in Jonathan Strahan's anthology The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Two, which I was proof reading and copyediting at the time for the publisher, Night Shade Books.

There are only two characters in this story (though other family members are spoken of) -- a mother and daughter -- that is, unless you want to count our galaxy as the third character. The daughter, Caitlin, is an astrophysicist, who discovered the Big Rip: "...the dark energy is pulling the universe apart, taking more and more of it so far away that its light can't reach us anymore. It started at the level of the largest structures in the universe, superclusters of galaxies. But in the end it will fold down to the smallest scales. Every bound structure will be pulled apart. Even atoms, even subatomic particles." The mother, Maureen, is a "search-for-ET-at-home enthusiast." The action, and dialog, all take place in Maureen's garden, when Caitlin comes to visit -- on three specific days: March 15, June 5, and October 14.

This is a minimalist story, yet powerful enough to stay with me such that, eight months later, shortly after proposing the Alien Contact anthology to Night Shade editor-in-chief Jeremy Lassen, I knew I wanted to include this story in the book -- and to make it the last story as well, the one that closes out the anthology. Here's an excerpt from March 15:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

eBook Editions of Alien Contact Anthology

Alien Contact Kindle EditionI'm pleased to announce that eBook editions of my forthcoming Alien Contact anthology are now available for preorder. Well, sort of...

The Kindle edition (MOBI format) can now be ordered on Amazon.com, and is currently priced at $7.99. Not too shabby for approximately 170,000 words of some of the best "alien contact" stories of the past 30-plus years.

The EPUB format -- for the Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo eReader -- has been submitted to the respective eReader stores, but is not yet available. If the EPUB edition is your eBook of choice, please keep checking back at your favorite eReader store.

I wish to thank the publisher, Night Shade Books, for making these eBook editions available simultaneously with the print edition.

The cover shown here is for the Kindle edition. If you carefully compare this particular cover with the print edition cover (shown everywhere else on this blog), you will notice one significant difference between the two covers. If you discover the difference please comment below, at which time I would be happy to confirm said difference, and explain why.

One final comment: If you are a book blogger/book reviewer and you would like to review this anthology, I can provide either the EPUB or MOBI eBook editions, or a PDF of the print edition. The caveat: Please contact me via email only at FirstContactStory[at]gmail.com -- and state your request, including a link to your book blog/review site. And feel free to highlight any previous reviews you are particularly proud of. I'd like to give them a read.