Tag Archives: books

A Dream Come True

Some kids dreamed of growing up to be dancers or doctors. I dreamed of being an anthology editor. (Not even kidding. I practically had an altar to Terry Carr and Judith Merril.) Now that dream might come true.

The anthology in question is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. As we all know, history is written by the victors, and that includes historical fiction. The goal of this project is to focus on and amplify the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins. What was it like to be a Mayan laborer when the conquistadors showed up? to be a newly freed slave trying to start a business after the U.S. Civil War? to be transgender in Elizabethan England? Stories like these will be told in Long Hidden, each with a speculative twist. We have an incredible group of authors lined up to send us stories, including Beverly Jenkins, Victor LaValle, Tananarive Due, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. We’ll also be open to submissions, so if you’re a writer, start thinking about sending us a story!

The publisher is Crossed Genres, a fabulous small press that’s known for taking chances on unclassifiable and niche books that would otherwise never see the light of day. They do this by raising money through Kickstarter; advance fundraising means we can pay the authors well and be confident that there’s a market for the book. Here’s the Kickstarter page for Long Hidden. We’re over two-thirds funded already, which is tremendous for our first weekend and has me really hoping we make a few of our stretch goals, like interior illustrations or an audiobook edition. I’m obsessively refreshing the page like an author checking their Amazon ranking on launch day (which I’m sure I’ll do too when the book is actually published next year).

When I was a kid, people who knew my parents (both novelists) would ask me when–not whether–I was going to write a novel. Many of the PW staff have written books, and a year or two back, someone asked when–not whether–I would do one. But really, I will probably never write a novel. I’m not a writer; I’m an editor. So I’m pleased as punch to find my own editorial way to get my name on a book jacket, especially in service to such a great cause and in the company of such a great people. I really, really, really hope we can make this happen as splendidly as the subject matter deserves.

Scary Numbers

As PW just reported, 2012′s science fiction unit sales as tracked by Nielsen Bookscan were down 21% over 2011′s numbers. Fantasy wasn’t mentioned in that article, but fantasy sales were down 28%. Here for your convenience are the trends in SF and fantasy, again as tracked by Nielsen (which tracks only print sales, and only from some outlets), since 2006:

Looks a bit dismal, doesn’t it?

Before we all despair, I think it’s worth emphasizing the absence of e-book sales from these numbers. Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s year-end letter noted that “At this writing 26% of [Macmillan's] total sales this year have been digital…. Just as in 2011, the percentage of e-book sales has remained consistent week by week through the year for the most part…” So the raw numbers, at least, look a lot less dismal when we consider that Nielsen is probably not picking up at least 25% of sales (a very thoroughly lowballed number).

The percentage change from year to year is more worrying, because the story is pretty much the same in every genre except romance, where the stats were wildly skewed by the Fifty Shades books. Are those former book-buyers now only borrowing from libraries and friends? buying from tiny independent outlets that Bookscan doesn’t track? pirating e-books? playing video games? hanging out on Twitter? I’ve heard any number of theories but not seen any convincing evidence one way or another.

Conveniently, the absence of data frees me to solicit anecdotes. If you bought fewer print books (in any genre) in 2012 than in 2011, why do you think that was?

Books I Loved in 2012

Time for that year-end shout-out to books I loved in 2012. I can only select a few for the official best books list, and it always breaks my heart to pick and choose, so here’s a much broader overview of the books I personally really enjoyed this year.

Please note that these are my personal opinions, not PW reviews. Published PW reviews are linked from the book titles below. Please don’t quote this post without permission.

Daniel José Older’s debut collection, Salsa Nocturna, is raw in that wonderful way that debuts have, rough like the casing of a seed that’s going to burst into glorious bloom before you know it. The world needs more New York immigrant spooky sexy lyrical fables. If you loved the first twenty pages of Brian Francis Slattery’s Spaceman Blues, read Salsa Nocturna. (Disclaimer: Daniel and I met at Readercon in July, got to be Twitter friends, and are now scheming on a joint project–but I read and enjoyed his book long before any of that happened.)

Michael Flynn’s Captive Dreams scratches the medical SF itch I’ve had for years; it contains only six stories and I desperately wish there were more. Medicine is no harder to write about than any other science, yet very few SF authors do it well or at all. Flynn does it very, very well. These are deeply human stories, as every medical story has to be in the end. The only comparable works I’ve encountered recently are Maureen McHugh’s stories exploring Alzheimer’s and dementia; where McHugh’s protagonists are helpless in many ways and forced to focus on coping with terrible circumstances, Flynn writes people who deliberately make hard, reckless, foolish, loving, desperate, passionate choices about medical matters and are then stuck with the consequences. PW‘s reviewer called it “melancholy”, which I think is exactly the right word.

Ekaterina Sedia’s Moscow but Dreaming shows a writer at the top of her game. Who else could turn a story about a “419″ scam into something beautiful about what it means to be deposed and dispossessed? I found this collection to be a small-bites reading experience rather than an all-in-one-gulp sort of thing; it’s too intense to devour quickly. Instead, I pick it up and read one or two stories whenever I’m in the mood for that richness of flavor and atmosphere.

Haikasoru’s The Future is Japanese is a fascinating mix of insider and outsider views of Japan and Japanese futurism. I’m a white American who knows very little about either Japan or Japanese futurism, so reading it felt to me like listening in on a few hours of someone else’s really fascinating conversation. I happen to like eavesdropping on experts in things I know nothing about, so I found this both enjoyable and educational, but I also feel like I’m not really the target market. I would love to know what the experience of reading it is like for someone who has closer ties to Japan than I do.

Yes, these are all books of short fiction. I like short fiction a lot. I also think this wasn’t a great year for novels. There were a few standouts, but the crop was small. Still, in addition to the ones on the best books list, I really enjoyed Benedict Jacka’s Fated, Cursed, and Taken; the plots and writing put them in the top echelon of this year’s urban fantasy debuts and series launches (and there were a LOT). My reading log for Fated calls it “candy-like and delicious.” No idea why they haven’t gotten more press. I also thought Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon was tremendous fun and I’m looking forward to the sequels (though–predictably!–I like his short fiction even more and am desperate for him to bring out a collection). I was also enthralled by the opening of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl but can’t speak to anything after that because Kiernan’s treatment of faulty memory and mental illness was so powerful that I had to put the book down and go get some fresh air. In case it’s not clear, that’s a recommendation! It’s clearly a masterful work; I just couldn’t handle it. Some art is like that. (I felt the same way about the movie Spirited Away. It’s incredible. I will never watch it again.)

Finally, I got a few rare chances to read outside my genres, which mostly meant picking up YA. China Miéville’s Railsea knocked my socks off. I haven’t had that much sheer fun with a book in ages. It’s one of those audacious conceits where you just roll with it or don’t; I did and had a great time. I enjoyed Nalo Hopkinson’s The Chaos in an entirely different way. Baba Yaga, duppies, synesthesia, surrealism, and a wheelchair-wielding Sri Lankan lesbian poet musician–what’s not to love? And Rae Carson’s The Crown of Embers left me itching for her to finish the series. I tolerate very few cliffhangers, but her writing is so good that I’m willing to be patient. Barely. (Rae, send me a manuscript? Please?)

Missing from this list: horror. That’s not a deliberate oversight. I just didn’t read any horror novels, anthologies, or collections this year that really grabbed me–unless you count Ted Kosmatka’s The Games, which is about half thriller and half horror (and all excellent). This makes me sad, because I’m a big fan of horror. I hope there will be more good horror writing in 2013.

What did you love reading in 2012? And what are you looking forward to reading in 2013?

Link Roundup

More Encyclopedic Digital Goodness

Graham Sleight writes to inform me that the 1997 edition of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy has gone live online in much the same format as the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. From the announcement:

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy was edited in the 1990s by John Clute and John Grant. It’s resided for a while in the same electronic format as the Sf Encyclopedia. As we updated the Sf Encyclopedia, we became aware that in several places there were overlaps between the two. (Tolkien, for instance, is surely much better thought of as a fantasy than an sf writer.) There were also cross-references between the two that we had to leave un-linked, and that nagged… So, with the kind permission of editors Clute and Grant, our technical magus David Langford set about seeing if that could be resolved.

The current implementation is thanks to an enormous amount of work from David. The FE has been added to the site in much the same way as the SFE: one entry per page, with the usual facilities to go to next/previous entries etc. Probably the best place to start is the introduction to the online edition. You can also browse a list of all entries, or just of entries by category (for instance, author, artist, theme…) You’ll see the usual search box in the right-hand sidebar. Cross-references between the SFE and FE should now work smoothly, but please contact us if you see any that don’t.

We are not updating the Fantasy Encyclopedia, at least for the moment. Getting the Sf Encyclopedia complete and accurate remains our priority.

Both works are tremendous resources, and deliciously addictive in that “hours of fascinated clicking” sort of way. Highly recommended.

 

In an unrelated administrative note, Genreville is being hammered with comment spam, so I’ve turned off commenting on all posts more than 14 days old. If you have something to say about an old post, or if your comment has been held in moderation for a million years and you think I might have flagged it as spam by accident, please feel free to email me.

Books for the Long Weekend

Many of us have four consecutive days off work coming up, and will want to spend some of that time reading. Consider this an open recommendation thread, with an emphasis on books by and about Native Americans and indigenous peoples. I’ll start by recommending Grace Dillon’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, which was on my shortlist of books to consider for this year’s Best Books. PW‘s review calls it “superb”. Check it out!

PW Names the Best Books of 2012

We still have no work email. Our office is still dark. But a weekly magazine is a weekly magazine, and my tremendously dedicated colleagues have found a way to get our Best Books issue live on time. I am so proud to be part of this team.

I will let the selections speak for themselves:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall my agony as I tried to whittle the SF/F/H list down to five. It couldn’t be done, so I petitioned for an extra two titles. I really could not have left any of those books off, not in good conscience. This genre is big! We need the big-six novels and the small-press collections, the SF thrillers and the ethereal fantastic. I’m pleased as punch to be able to give these books their due.

As soon as I get back to the office I’ll post my personal, unofficial “honorable mentions”. In the meantime, I’m off to start reading 2013 starred books in hopes of getting a head start on next year’s list!

The Future of Medicine

As I mentioned in my writeups, I felt like I spent a lot of Worldcon talking with people about medical SF or the surprising dearth thereof. It’s still on my mind for two reasons.

First, I’m looking at this year’s starred-review books as I begin to build the Best Books of the Year list, and that led to me reading Michael Flynn’s Captive Dreams, a dense and chewy collection of medical SF stories. Some were written many years ago, but the hypothetical medical science is still relevant and really interesting, and Flynn does a wonderful job of looking at the intersection of the scientific and the social, talking about hope as well as horror. I feel like this book landed in my lap at just the right time, so that I can shove it into the hands of anyone who claims that medical SF is too hard to do well or that technology is advancing so quickly as to make speculation obsolete.

Second, I spent last night in the ER with my girlfriend, who was presenting all the symptoms of appendicitis (though fortunately her appendix is fine and the culprit turned out to be something a lot less scary, with no surgery needed). At one point she suggested to the doctor that while he was taking our her appendix, he should implant a GPS tracking device so that I know where she is even when she forgets to charge her phone. ”Don’t joke about that,” the doctor said. “We’re nearly at the point where we can do it for real.” Of course I was immediately reminded of Maureen McHugh’s “Oversite” (in the superb collection Mothers and Other Monsters, which you can download for free), and once again I felt a brief surge of gratitude to the authors who make me think about the ethics and ramifications of medical technology.

So once I’m done reading all these amazing starred books for the Best Books, where should I look for more good medical SF?

Viking Says Yes to #YesGayYA Book

Rachel Manija Brown reports that she and Sherwood Smith have sold their post-apocalyptic YA novel Stranger to Sharyn November at Viking, for publication in winter 2014. This is the novel that set off the #YesGayYA storm almost exactly a year ago, when Brown and Smith reported that an agent had offered them representation on the condition that they make their gay protagonist straight or remove all references to his orientation (and his boyfriend). Intriguingly, Brown’s post on the sale makes no mention of an agent–but the sale is certainly proof that major houses are not averse to publishing YA with major non-straight characters, so hopefully the agents who believed the book unreppable will reconsider their approach to similar works.

EDIT: Brown has updated the post to reflect that Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group were the agents for the sale; she says they came on board after Brown and Smith had begun discussions with Viking.

Back from Chicago

And boy are our arms tired: Josh transcribed 6500 words of interview and I wrote 3500 words of article and blog post on Monday (holiday, shmoliday) and we’re still recovering! But it will be worth it when the SF/F focus issue comes out this coming Monday, September 10, and you can read the profile of Seanan McGuire, the feature article on genre-blending, and the nifty little sidebar on Christian inspirational epic fantasy, plus a Q&A with Iain M. Banks. PW subscribers get instant access; the rest of you will have to wait three weeks.

In the meantime, some links to tide you over:

  • Justine Larbalestier is brilliant on “Racism in the Books We Write”. If there’s been a theme for this year in my part of the world, it’s taking responsibility; Justine’s post is a great example of how to do that without defensiveness.
  • Aliette de Bodard is equally brilliant on the scale and scope of engineering projects.
  • ChiZine is launching a YA imprint, ChiTeen. Agented subs only at this time. First books will come out in 2014.
  • There are some complaints that Worldcon could have done a better job with accessibility, even given a convention center that was an absolute maze (and probably not ADA-compliant).
  • Ustream apologizes for cutting off the Hugo ceremony; apparently once the automatic ban went into effect, they couldn’t turn it off, but it could all have been avoided if the Hugo administrators had just paid for the service. Apparently that post got a number of angry comments before commenting was turned off altogether.
  • PW reviewer John Ottinger III is part of the movement to make September 7 (today!) National Buy a Book Day in the U.S. Will you #buyabook today?

Worldcon Breaking News

Josh and I are hard at work on turning Worldcon news and interviews into articles for the SF/F focus issue of PW (September 10! Mark your calendars!) but here’s some breaking news for you in the meantime.

Worldcon-related:

  • The Hugo Awards results, of course.
  • During Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (for his Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”), he let it slip that he’s on the third draft of another Doctor Who script. Cue much squeeing.
  • …except from those people who couldn’t see his speech because Ustream cut off the awards ceremony webcast, citing copyright violation. That would presumably be because the broadcast included clips of the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees; the clips had been provided by the studios and were used and streamed legally, but that didn’t stop some DRM-hound program from blocking the transmission. Cue much outrage.
  • The London in 2014 team won its unopposed bid to host the 2014 Worldcon, which will be called Loncon 3 and already has a sterling line-up of honored guests. Josh and I promptly upgraded from “friend of the bid” to full membership. I have so far dodged all attempts to get me to volunteer, though I did offer to make myself available as a consultant on programming matters. That’s totally different from volunteering, right? Anyway, I expect it will be an excellent convention and I’m really looking forward to it.
  • The 2015 bid is hotly contested by Orlando, Spokane, and Helsinki, plus a Phoenix AZ bid for the 2015 NASFiC if Helsinki gets the Worldcon the 2014 NASFiC. (Apologies for the error.)
  • LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio TX, has announced that it will have a Spanish-language programming track–presumably not just about Spanish-language work but actually conducted in Spanish. That would be very exciting.

Publishing news:

  • Harper Voyager is “actively seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines” to submit manuscripts for consideration for a new digital-first line. Submissions will be open for two weeks only, October 1–14, at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com (link not live because the site isn’t up yet). Distribution for accepted, published titles will be worldwide (world English rights). Executive Editor Diana Gill says they’re looking for “novels, novellas, short stories, interstitials.” Get those manuscripts polished up!
  • Patty Garcia of Tor Books tells me that Harry Harrison turned in the manuscript of his memoirs just two weeks before his death in August. “We had originally scheduled it for spring but we are trying to move it into late fall,” she says.
  • A source I cannot name informs me that Jim Butcher is supposedly about to turn in the manuscript for Cold Days, the 14th Dresden Files novel, currently slated for a November 27 release. The series pub dates have been creeping later for a while, from a year-long gap between volumes to nearly a year and a half since Ghost Story came out last July. Fans will be very relieved to see this one hit the shelves.

Speaking of the Dresden Files, I’ve been quite enjoying getting to walk around Chicago, but it is a little disappointing to encounter neither mobsters nor monsters. Any suggestions for Dresden-related landmarks to visit before we head home?

Weird Tales: From Frying Pan to Fire

At the end of the previous episode of Weird Tales: A Sad Decline, publisher John Harlacher had taken down editor Marvin Kaye’s offensive editorial, made an announcement that Revealing Eden would not be excerpted in WT, and said that Kaye was traveling but would “make his own statement shortly”.

Instead of doing so, Kaye is apparently responding directly, and defensively, to subscription cancellation requests. Lisa A. Grabenstetter reprints one such email, which addresses her criticism of Hamlet’s Father (first published in Kaye’s anthology The Ghost Quartet, as longtime Genreville readers will recall from this blow-up last year) as well as Revealing Eden:

Your wishes will be respected; I believe the publisher will handle that, I regret your decision, and can only say that after reading the book, I found it a powerful attack on racism, just the opposite from the charges leveled at it. However, I only recently saw the marketing of this book, and find it in terrible taste; had I seen it, I would not have read the book. As it is, we have decided not to publish the story.

Regarding Scott Card’s story, I did not see any homophobia in it, or I would have objected, but for the record, I did not want to buy anything from him; the publisher, Tor Books, made it clear that if I did not include his story, they would not publish the book at all.

MK

(While the ethics of reprinting personal emails are debatable, I would consider this a corporate response to a business-related request–though obviously Kaye is taking it on himself to inject the personal into the professional–and I see nothing wrong with sharing such a response with the business’s current and potential customers.)

Kaye had previously made similar statements about Tor bearing responsibility for the Card novella, but here he gratuitously takes the additional step of saying he “did not see any homophobia” in a book that has the blatant premise of a gay man molesting boys and turning them gay and/or insane. The homophobia in it is precisely as obvious as the racism in Revealing Eden–which, as Debbie Reese points out in this article, is extensive and continues throughout the book (h/t to Grabenstetter for that link). Kaye also clearly hasn’t read the many comments on Harlacher’s statement asking why there’s all this focus on the marketing materials for Revealing Eden when the book itself is so obviously problematic.

Like many people, I continue to await Kaye’s official public statement, but at this point I’m not really sure why. It doesn’t seem likely that he’s going to realize just how oblivious he is, or how tragic it is that he’s turned a reputable publication into a laughingstock.

Link Roundup

Some fun things for the weekend:

  • At every convention I’ve ever gone to, rule #1 is “don’t freak the mundanes”. However, some mundanes are very good at freaking themselves. (h/t Andrew Porter)
  • Chicon and Dragon*con will be doing some joint programming, connected by two-way video links. I’ve looked into doing this sort of thing at Readercon, mostly to bring in guests who can’t travel to the convention for one reason or another, and there are a really astonishing number of ways for it to fail even if you have substantial infrastructure and experience with videoconferencing. Not all the problems are technological: if you’re a speaker, for example, do you face the live audience or the camera? If you’re a moderator, you rely heavily on body language; how can you tell whether your long-distance panelists are fidgety and bored, or itching to say something but too polite to butt in? It’s very complicated. I will definitely be going to some of those program items to see whether they can pull it off.
  • Speaking of Worldcon, if you want to meet up there, drop me a note! It’s a working vacation for me, and I’d especially love to connect with small-press publishers who don’t often come to New York.
  • At long last, Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction series will have digital editions. These books are excellent reading as well as priceless snapshots of how SF has changed over the years. Not mentioned in that press release, but hopefully included in the digitization project, is The Best of the Best, Volume 2, an anthology of superb SF novellas from the past 20 years. That book is probably my third-favorite anthology of all time, and I have read many, many, many anthologies. (The first two in my personal pantheon are Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year #14 (1984) and Spider Robinson’s The Best of All Possible Worlds. It’s a close call, but I think Best of the Best, Volume 2 edges out Judith Merril’s The Year’s Best S-F: 11th Annual Edition (1967) and Arthur W. Saha’s The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 13 (1987) for third place. Barely.) Some of the very best work in the field has been done at novella length, going back to the days of skinny pulp paperbacks that really did fit in your back pocket. If you haven’t hunted down Dozois’s homage to the SF novella, do; you won’t be disappointed.

Finally, my friend Rachel Silber kindly sent along “Just Glue Some Gears on It (and Call It Steampunk)”, a smashing blend of chap-hop and barbershop-style harmony:

StoryBundle Launches with “Big Bang” SF Bundle

StoryBundle is a new e-book self-publishing outfit that’s taking an intriguing approach. Each bundle of five books is pay-what-you-like, from $1 on up. If you pay over a certain amount–either a fixed number or the average of how much people have paid so far–you get two additional books (in the case of the first bundle, they’re sequels to two of the other books). You also get to decide how much of your purchase price goes to the authors and how much to StoryBundle. This is a pretty neat end run around both pricing structures and royalty/markup arrangements. The sliders default to a $10 payment split 70–30 between author and seller, which works out to $1 per book if the boost threshold is $10 or less. You can also choose to donate 10% of your purchase to a charity of their choice.

All the bundled e-books will be DRM-free. After the bundle expires, the books will be available from the individual authors, presumably via the e-book store(s) of their choice and going by those stores’ policies on DRM.

The books are all described as “indie”, which seems to mean “self-published” rather than “published by independent presses”; the first bundle is SF, and the only name I recognized in there was Joseph Nassise. A quick glance at the author bios suggests the rest are debuts. I assume StoryBundle is acting as publisher in some capacity, but it’s hard to tell how far it goes. They select books from a slush pile (their site says they’re open for submissions) but don’t seem to offer editing or cover design–maybe they only want books that have already been self-pubbed elsewhere. Regardless, $1 for five books sounds like a pretty good deal, at least if the excerpts on the site appeal to you.

What do you think of this setup? Will it become the Woot.com of e-books? Or is it asking too much of readers? I’m pretty wired into the industry and I struggled to decide where to put that percentage slider. I don’t think most readers have a sense of what’s a “fair” or “reasonable” split between author and publisher/seller, and I wonder whether people who purchase those bundles will generally leave the slider at 70–30 or adjust it. An interesting experiment, to say the least.

Link Roundup

  • Tim “T.A.” Pratt reveals that T. Aaron Payton is his newest pseudonym, under which he wrote The Constantine Affliction.
  • The Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter broke the $10,000 barrier just before the deadline, which means that in addition to paying 4 cents a word for stories in CP4, Mike Allen will be launching a fiction and poetry webzine of at least 12 issues, starting in spring 2013.
  • A number of genre authors have contributed to Hazard Yet Forward, an e-only collection (currently only available on Kindle, other formats “coming soon”) by people associated with the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program. All proceeds from this project will benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program, who is currently battling breast cancer. According to an email from Genreville fan* Ron Edison, “Notable contributors include: World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker Award winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur Award winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias and West Virginia Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller…. Kudos for the project go to Natalie Wolfe Duvall, Matt Duvall and Deanna Lepsch, all former classmates of Donna.”
  • Speaking of popular fiction, PW reviewer Richard M. Rogers sends along this passionate defense of domestic fiction–in the Wall Street Journal of all places!
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have announced that all 15 Liaden Universe books will be available in audio format on Audible.com as of September 4, concurrent with the hardcover release of the newest book in the series, Dragon Ship, from Baen Books. More info here.

* You don’t have to be a Genreville fan to get a project mentioned here, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

More than Tramp Stamps

On my desk right now: galleys for Jocelynn Drake’s Angel’s Ink (urban fantasy with magical tattoos, October), Sabrina Vourvoulias’s Ink (dystopian future SF with bar code tattoos, October), and Damien Grintalis’s Ink (horror with a tattoo that comes to life, December). Fascinating to see such very different takes on tattoos with such similar titles! Why are tattoos hot just now? Did we see so many of them on urban fantasy covers that they’ve become part of the canon without ever appearing in text? Was everyone inspired by the magical markings in books like Cat Valente’s Palimpsest and Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces novels? Or does the repeated use of “ink” hint that this is more about notions of permanence, ownership of the body (or, in Grintalis’s case, its betrayal), and self-expression?

Vacation Reading

I’m off for my July “vacation” week, in quotes because I will be catching up on freelance work and then going to Readercon, which is tremendous fun but not precisely restful. Still, I do hope to read a lot in the next week. A few things on my list:

  • Andy Duncan’s new collection, The Pottawatomie Giant. I’m a few stories in and it’s just superb.
  • Junot Díaz’s forthcoming collection This Is How You Lose Her. (Speaking of Junot, do not miss this extraordinary transcript of him being interviewed by Paula Moya. I am so bummed that he’s not coming to Readercon this year.)
  • Margo Lanagan’s collection Cracklescape.
  • The 2012 edition of Heiresses of Russ: The Year’s Best Lesbian Science Fiction.
  • Plus a novella I’m critiquing, and some articles I’m editing for the next issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

As you can probably tell, I’m all about the short fiction when I travel. It suits my dazed vacation-brain very well. It also helps that I have digital versions of almost all of these, which lightens my suitcase.

What sorts of books do you like to take on trips? And will I see you at Readercon?

A Public Service

Samuel R. Delany will be reading from his new novel and signing copies at St. Mark’s Books on Monday night. I sent the info to a friend, who wrote back that he’d gone to Amazon to buy the Kindle edition of the book and seen a review saying it was missing a chapter and contained a number of other small errors. Fortunately a devoted fan, Kevin Donaker-Ring, bought both the Kindle and the print editions and not only noticed the discrepancies but–with Delany’s permission–put a PDF of the missing chapter and a list of corrections on his website (which hosts a number of other errata pages for Delany’s works). Hopefully the publisher will get a corrected edition up on Amazon soon.

A Palate Cleanser

On a lighter note, some great links have been coming my way:

  • Stone Telling‘s long-awaited QUILTBAG speculative poetry issue is live!
  • Tales of the Emerald Serpent, a mosaic anthology with some great authors lined up, is almost halfway to its Kickstarter goal.
  • Laura Anne Gilman is Kickstarting a pair of novellas that tie in to her popular Cosa Nostradamus/PSI series.
  • Helen Keller describes the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Do not miss this. Just gorgeous!
  • There’s going to be a steampunk festival in Waltham, MA in May, with a bunch of free events. I happen to know most of the people in the banner on the top of the page, and I can vouch that they know how to have a good time. Also, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation sounds like approximately the best museum ever and I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of it before. Must go the next time I’m in Boston.
  • Jennifer Pelland defends unhappy endings.
  • After reading the Scientology/Writers of the Future piece in the Village Voice, WotF winner Carl Frederick has backed out of association with the contest.
  • Brian Keene starts an interesting discussion by talking about why there weren’t any women on his list of his 25 favorite authors, and how such lists can be strongly influenced by what’s available to read when one is growing up. There’s some gender essentialism in the post that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but the conclusion is strong, and the ensuing conversation is pretty good.
  • I just found out about this and I’m sorry I couldn’t link to it sooner! In honor of Women’s History Month, Cambridge University Press is offering free access for the month of March to Orlando, their electronic database that relates to British women’s writing from the earliest times to the present. It is searchable and is a valuable resource for scholars, writers and anyone interested in literary and cultural history. To access it, go to http://orlando.cambridge.org/ . In the upper right click Login. For username, enter womenshistory; for password, orlando.
  • The 2012 Million Writers Award nominations are now open.
  • Finalists have been announced for the RITA (romance) and Clarke (U.K. SF) awards.

The Content of Their Characters

NOTE: If you’re already up on racism and The Hunger Games and kind of exhausted by the thought of reading another post about it, you may be interested in reading about sexism and The Hunger Games instead.

Everyone’s buzzing about Hunger Games Tweets, a Tumblr that collects and discusses tweets from people who are shocked and upset that Rue, a character described in Suzanne Collins’s book The Hunger Games as having dark skin, is played by an African-American actress in the film. The link started making the rounds a couple of days ago, and after Jezebel picked it up, the hits went through the roof. Cue a great deal of head-shaking.

But why is everyone so surprised that some of Collins’s fans are having indisputably racist reactions to her books? When the movies were first cast, the excellent Racebending site covered the controversy over white, blonde Jennifer Lawrence being cast as olive-skinned, dark-haired Katniss. That led to a pointed question in an Entertainment Weekly interview with Collins and director Gary Ross, and an interesting response:

EW: In the books, Katniss is described as being olive-skinned, dark-haired, possibly biracial. Did you discuss with Suzanne the implications of casting a blond, caucasian girl?

GR: Suzanne and I talked about that as well. There are certain things that are very clear in the book. Rue is African-American. Thresh is African-American.

“Very clear” to Ross and Collins, perhaps, but not to all of their fans. A blog post that went up on EW about six months before the interview took place asked whether Rue was black, and–as a separate question–whether she should be played by a black actress. The comments immediately, inevitably, filled up with exclamations like “RUE IS NOT BLACK NEATER IS THRESH READ THE BOOK AGAIN!” and the slightly more considered “I feel like a jerk for not noticing she was black in the book”. And when African-American actors were cast for the parts of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, Racialicious reported that the Hunger Games Facebook page was inundated with exclamations of surprise and dismay; those comments sound exactly like the recent tweets about the movie.

So I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised about the latest round of complaints. Sure, not everyone reads Racialicious and Racebending, but Jezebel covered the casting controversy back in 2011 too. More broadly, I’m trying to figure out how insulated one has to be from the wider world to be shocked! shocked! that racism is pervasive in American culture, and among American teens. Those wide-eyed tweets about Rue’s death being less sad because she’s black clearly come straight from the brains of adolescents (nearly all of them white, presumably) who have bathed in subtly and overtly racist culture since birth, absorbed far too much of it, and not yet learned to second-guess or even censor themselves when they parrot its tenets. They’re surprising only if you haven’t noticed that when real people of color are killed, there’s always an immediate attempt to justify or downplay the deaths. Art imitates life; reactions to art likewise imitate life.

On the bright side–and I am trying mightily to find a bright side here–this many surprised people might mean that more of those people are starting to pay attention, and will keep paying attention even after the latest furor dies down.