Tag Archives: publishing

In Praise of the Implausible

Going back to last week’s post about that jaded feeling that’s crept into both SF and fantasy, I wonder whether part of the problem is that many authors and publishers are too focused on the believable and the plausible.

I’ve been reading Fish Eats Lion, an anthology of Singaporean speculative fiction edited by Jason Erik Lundberg. American and English reviewers tend to describe SF/F from other countries as “fresh”, which is sort of the new “exotic”, but what it really means is that these authors are not bound by the increasingly restrictive notions of what will get white Western readers to suspend their disbelief. For example, in Ng Yi-Sheng’s story “Agnes Joaquim, Bioterrorist”, orchids foment populist revolution:

For indeed, not only was [Queen Victoria] in peril: the very building she had been housed within had been taken prisoner by an explosive growth of giant purple orchids. These vegetable horrors penetrated every storey of the edifice with an excrescence of creeping tendrils. Guardsmen openly wept as they attempted to penetrate the foliage, hacking with their parangs at the greenery.

…The Hamidian massacres had ended, for Sultan Abdul Hamid II had been found dead in his palace. Officials claimed he had choked on a fishbone, but the people knew better. They said he had collapsed across his chamberpot, mysteriously asphyxiated by a creeper that had slowly grown throughout the interior of his body, a sprig of purple blossoms sprouting from his mouth.

There is a certain sort of reader who will encounter such notions and start muttering things about rates of plant growth and photosynthesis and of course the Sultan would have felt something awry and gone to a doctor, the sort of reader whose disbelief is weighty and anchored. I think these readers are in the minority, and yet the Anglo-American SF/F canon is increasingly geared toward their demands for plausibility. We make fun of epic fantasy where you can “hear the dice rolling”, but the point of rolling dice is to emulate the real world, where certain things are more likely than other things. It makes fantasy more plausible. Compare your average dungeon crawl to, say, Bob Leman’s “Instructions”, which is entirely implausible and also one of the best and scariest stories I’ve ever read.

Ng’s orchids are implausible. They’re also beautiful. I think we need more startling beauty in our speculative fiction, more giggling, more wonder. And plausibility is in the eye of the beholder, too; after visiting lush, tropical Singapore, where enormous plants really do grow practically overnight, I find Ng’s imagery only a step or two removed from reality, whereas if I’d never left the northeastern U.S. I would struggle much more with the idea. As Western SF/F publishers become more aware of their diverse audiences, they also need to realize that catering to one culture’s idea of “plausible” is just as restrictive as saying that protagonists need to be white English-speaking men.

Diversity of attitudes in SF/F readers is also very obvious in what’s selling. Steampunk and paranormal romance are hotter than Singapore’s sidewalks, and notably unfettered by realism. How does your dirigible work? It just does!

Verne: You can't just "make things up"! Wells: Why not? Mine works just as well as yours!

I’m with Wells. Credit: Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant. (Click the image for a larger version.)

I don’t actually think blueprints are boring. I’m also reading Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road right now, and near-future murder mysteries are about as fact-heavy as SF gets; in that context, it works. But I think genre gatekeepers need to stop catering to readers who insist on all speculative fiction being plausible, because after a while that starts to mean predictable and stale. The New Weird is a big step in the direction of gleeful fabulism, but we need more. No more rolling dice. Bring back Things from Beyond. To hell with the square-cube law. I’d love to see more science fantasy, for that matter. Ray guns! Why not? It’s a big genre with lots of room; there’s no reason to crowd ourselves into one tiny corner of it. If we want to revitalize speculative fiction, we can’t just speculate–we need to have dreams and nightmares and random flights of fancy too. Some readers love doing the heavy lifting of disbelief-suspending; it feels good, like pumping iron, and while big credulity muscles may be out of fashion in this cynical age, I say that what surprises me makes me stronger. So go ahead. Just make it up.

Whither Portal Fantasy?

Rachel Manija Brown’s recent blog post on the apparent unmarketability of YA portal fantasy has gotten nearly 200 comments and is still going strong. There’s some interesting discussion of portal SF, immigrant stories, and other related topics. If you’ve noticed the distinct absence of Narnia analogues from the YA shelves of late, it’s worth a read. I think the link to immigration is particularly interesting; in both cases, the driving question of the plot is “What would drive you to leave behind what you know and seek the unknown?”.

I’m still too jetlagged (and neck-deep in catching up on work) to make a strong connection between “agents won’t rep books about people leaving the familiar to explore the unknown” and Paul Kincaid’s “the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion” essay, but I feel like there might be a link there. Kincaid’s conclusion:

This one story illuminates the exhaustion that seems to have overtaken SF and fantasy, the sense that the future is something to be approached wearily because we have already imagined it and rubbed away anything that was bright and new.

He speaks of the future as though it were a secondary world once glimpsed through a portal; and now we have come through the portal and are “living in the future”. The secondary world has become the primary world. Might this lead to general disenchantment with secondary worlds?

Is it in any way useful to think of SF’s oldest fans as immigrants into The Future, the mysterious 21st century so frequently imagined in the 20th? They have certainly taken a long voyage from one to the other and learned that the streets on this side are not in fact paved with gold.

For that matter, is alternate history the new portal fantasy? The whole world has gone through a portal from The Past to The Future, only it’s a different portal than our world went through. I’d count a lot of urban fantasy in this camp, incidentally, since much of it relies on a premise like “then magic returned to the world” or “then we discovered supernatural beings have been living among us all along”.

Maybe what we’re so tired of, so skeptical of, is the idea of a single step through a single door changing a single person’s life.

I don’t know; I’m rambling. But I think these things are worth thinking on. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Business Side of the Nebulas

My story about the Nebula Awards weekend went up in the Monday PW Daily and can be found here. It’s got quite a different focus from my blog posts, discussing the business chatter that went on particularly around digital publishing and self-publishing. Sample quote:

At a later round-table discussion among SFWA members about whether and how self-publishers might qualify for membership, Gordon Van Gelder, the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, proposed that rather than focusing on self-publishers qualifying as authors, they should instead be asked to qualify as markets. At present, qualifying novel markets need to pay authors at least $2000 per book or 5 cents a word, have been in business for at least one year, and have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies. “Someone pointed out that it’s probably going to be unwieldy if we have a hundred people trying to qualify that way,” Van Gelder said after the discussion, “but no one screamed in horror at the idea.”

Check it out.

After the flurry of posts this past weekend, which I greatly enjoyed writing, expect blogging to be light over the next couple of weeks; I’m working on a big project that I can’t talk about just yet, and then there’s BEA to cover (will you be there?) and the June romance issue to edit and the fall announcements to write about (yes, fall! I’m already getting in Christmas romances to review). I’m swamped! But I will post when I can and miss you all desperately in the meantime.

Link Roundup

I spent the last week on vacation and came back to a pile of links in my inbox! The least I can do is share them with all of you.

What else happened while I was out?

Reading Between the Lines

A friend pointed me to this sale page on the Night Shade Books website (emphasis mine):

It’s not a secret to anyone that publishing, and the book biz in general, has been pretty rough over the last year. Borders going out of business, plus them selling off their existing inventory at huge discounts, has really put a pinch on everyone. More so on those of us who don’t have huge international conglomerates to back us up.

So it’s time to turn to that old chestnut, the 50% off sale. But this is a little different. In the past when we did this, it was more about clearing out inventory and making space for new books… it’s still kind of like that, but it’s also about getting caught up after the Publishing Apocalypse of 2011.

If you’ve ever thought that Night Shade does nice work, or want to support independent publishing that brings you new voices, stories, and ideas you wouldn’t run across otherwise, now is the time to show your support! Know that every book you buy in this sale is putting money directly into the pockets of authors, artists, designers, and all the other fantastic people that allow us to put out great books each and every month. Pass the word, mention it on your website/Facebook/Twitter/whatever your social media of choice is.

In addition, we will be adding a few new things. We’ll be opening up a very limited number of lifetime subscriptions again, as well as holding daily raffles. Each day, we’ll pick a winner from people who placed an order that day, and there are some very nifty prizes, as well as a final raffle that we’ll find the winner for from anyone who placed an order during the entire sale.

Make no mistake, Night Shade isn’t going anywhere. The future looks bright, and some huge changes are coming. But the last year hurt, and we could really use a little help getting caught back up.

Those bolded lines are particularly interesting in light of the SFWA probation period that ended recently. I’m curious about those “huge changes” in store, too. If I were a Night Shade author, I’d be ever so slightly nervous that my publisher felt the need to reassure people that it aten’t dead–and that it’s really definitely for sure going to pay its contributors. I hope the sale has its intended effect.

It’s Not Racist, It’s Just… Racist

Regarding the recent Belgian court decision that the indisputably racist Tintin in the Congo should be published without warning or introduction, China Miéville writes a deliciously scathing takedown of pretty much every pro-racism argument out there. There are an astounding number of ways people defend racism or attempt to dismiss it as irrelevant, as he notes:

(This – It’s Not Racist It’s Just Not Very Good – is a sort of evil-twin variant of the more common How Can Little Black Sambo Be Racist I Read It As A Child & I Loved It & What’s More I Understood Sambo Was The Hero (cf also How Can I Be A Sexist I Love Women In Fact I Prefer Them To Men aka How Is That Racist Having Natural Rhythm Is A Good Thing) position.)

He also dismantles claims of censorship and suppression (“Quick, conjure images of book burning!”), attempts to shift the focus to the author’s intent or the book’s historical context (“The question here is whether or not Tintin au Congo is racist. Which it is. That may perhaps in part be because white supremacism was less contested back then – just as well we’re not back then, then, isn’t it?”), and more. Read the whole thing. It’s good. I just wish it weren’t necessary.

Link Roundup

Some very good and very sad news today.

  • A couple of years ago, I wrote, “If I could subscribe to a publisher like a magazine or a book club—one flat annual fee to get everything they publish—I would subscribe to CZP.” Today ChiZine publisher Brett Savory wrote to me to say that I (and you) can do just that: they now offer e-book only, trade paper + e-book, and limited hardcover + e-book annual subscriptions, all with heavy discounts. Details here.
  • Author Spider Robinson’s daughter has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Spider’s wife and longtime collaborator, Jeanne, died in 2010 after her own battle with cancer. I hope that family catches a break very soon. (h/t to James Nicoll)
  • Over on PWxyz, Peter Brantley smacks Penguin into the middle of next week with a brilliant essay on the importance of e-book lending.
  • Paul Cornell pledges to evict himself from any convention panels he’s on where men outnumber women, and to invite a female audience member to replace him. Reactions predictably vary. (h/t to Graham Sleight)

Berkley/NAL Digital Imprint Encroaches on Mass Market Territory

In the clearest sign yet that e-books are starting to replace mass market paperbacks in publishers’ eyes, Berkley/NAL is launching a new digital imprint, InterMix, that will publish genre fiction at mass market prices (around $6.99). More info is here.

This positioning is rather clever, as $6.99 is actually quite high for a romance e-book but calling it “mass market” sets it up to be compared to print formats instead of other e-books. It also raises the troubling specter of a world without mass market paperbacks for people who can’t afford digital reading devices. Seanan McGuire wrote very eloquently about this last month, and I think her post bears rereading, especially this part:

I grew up so far below the poverty line that you couldn’t see it from my window, no matter how clear the day was. My bedroom was an ocean of books. Almost all of them were acquired second-hand, through used bookstores, garage sales, flea markets, and library booksales, which I viewed as being just this side of Heaven itself. There are still used book dealers in the Bay Area who remember me patiently paying off a tattered paperback a nickel at a time, because that was what I could afford. If books had required having access to a piece of technology—even a “cheap” piece of technology—I would never have been able to get them. That up-front cost would have put them out of my reach forever.

I understand that demand for mass market paperbacks is down, and demand for e-books is up, and publishing companies don’t really have a lot of spare cash to throw at formats that don’t sell well. All the same, I hope to see a world where mass market imprints like Berkley Sensation can happily coexist with InterMix, and where the rush to the digital frontier doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Someone at Amazon Launches a Speculative Fiction Imprint

My esteemed colleagues on the news side of the office report that Amazon has launched 47North, a new imprint dedicated to SF, fantasy, and horror. The report includes the names of most of the launch authors; I recognize perhaps half, and the ones I recognize have a broad range of writing styles, so it seems pretty clear that the imprint will not, at least at first, have much of what the kids these days are calling a brand identity. That fits with the extremely vague name, which is derived from Seattle’s position on the 47th parallel north latitude. You might as well call an imprint “You Are Here”.

(Actually, You Are Here would be a pretty cool name for an imprint.)

What I haven’t seen is any mention of who’s going to be heading up the editorial side of the imprint. This is not a small omission. Alex Carr’s announcement in Omnivoracious says “we” a lot, but it’s not clear who “we” are or what part Carr will play. Carr also says, “As 47North’s catalogue grows, so too will our ideas about what makes up each respective genre, and we hope you’ll be there to help guide us.” I read this as confessing a) that no one involved with the imprint really knows much about speculative fiction and b) it doesn’t matter because all they care about are providing readers with whatever those readers want or think they want. If readers put themselves in the “SF/fantasy/horror reader” box, then 47North is for them!

Am I the only one scratching my head over this approach? It’s very Amazon, of course, but recommendation engines don’t apply to unpublished manuscripts. Carr, or whoever is calling the shots, is not going to be able to open a browser window that says “If you liked submissions 4, 187, and 2169, you should also read at least the first fifty pages of submissions 28 and 492″. At some point, any acquisitions editor has to tell readers what they’re going to read, and that’s very not Amazon. My belief is that if one is going to go into this extremely difficult business, one should at least go in with a great deal of genre knowledge, so as to make up for the lack of useful market data (because in this industry there is basically no such thing) with a well-trained gut instinct. That is also, apparently, not Amazon. Or if it is, they’re not telling who’s going to be providing them with that knowledge, other than the collective readership.

I am really not fond of Amazon’s business practices (particularly the ones enumerated here). That said, I wish them success with 47North as I would wish success for any new genre fiction imprint, and I hope to see their mysterious, nameless, faceless editors at a convention or three.

Linkydinks, Special E-Text Edition

I get a holiday Monday; you get links.

Which Authors Should Meet Astrophysicists?

I mentioned a while back that Tor is sending a bunch of their authors down to Goddard to meet with NASA folks and collaborate with them on science-based SF. I caught up with Tor/Forge publicity director Patty Garcia the other night and we chatted about this a bit, and I asked her, with my usual disarming charm, “So, how many of the authors you’re sending down there are not older white men?”

She laughed and said they actually hadn’t chosen the authors yet, and did I have any suggestions?

Off the bat I named Vandana Singh, and once I got home, I also thought of nominating Joan Slonczewski, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Chris Moriarty. But the truth is, I don’t read a lot of hard SF (mostly because I don’t have much time to read anything at the moment), and I’m sure there are plenty of really qualified people whose names would never float to the top of my brain. So I thought I would open the question to all of you. Who is currently writing good hard SF, could really benefit from a collaboration with someone at NASA, and isn’t one of the “usual suspects”?

I did get Patty’s permission to post this question; of course she can’t guarantee that any given suggested person will be invited along, but it certainly can’t hurt to put a list of names in front of her.

Alternapublishing

As self-publishing becomes more widespread and both self-publishing and traditional publishing companies look for ways to stand out and attract authors, alternatives to both models are popping up. Here are three that have come my way recently:

  • PUBSLUSH (U.S.) starts with the Kickstarter crowdfunding model, itself an extremely popular way for authors to self-publish, and adds crowdsourced slush-reading. Authors submit excerpts and synopses, and readers browse through them and pledge support for the ones they like. A book is considered funded when 2000 people support it–a number higher than many small press print runs!
  • Unbound (U.K.) has a similar system but with concepts rather than excerpts, so writers don’t even start writing until the book is funded. (I don’t see anything on their site about authors getting advance payments, though, so I’m not sure I see why an author would want to wait to start writing.) They only take proposals from agented and established authors, which will reduce the odds of an author being funded and then not delivering a book. Like PUBSLUSH, Unbound seems to define “funded” by the number of people who chip in rather than the amount pledged, though it’s not clear where the finish line is; as of this writing, a book listed as 60% funded still needs 844 supporters, while a book listed as 4% funded needs only 387.
  • Lucky Bat Books (U.S.) falls most clearly under the subsidy publishing umbrella, as the author must both pass editorial muster and provide funding up front, but there are no royalties; the author gets 100% of the proceeds once the book is published and sold.

As with any such arrangement, it’s important to follow the money. Lucky Bat’s funding comes from taking a percentage of the initial fee. PUBSLUSH keeps a hefty 65 to 90% of proceeds on book sales and also acts as an agent if an editor from a “major publishing house” finds the manuscript on the site and makes an offer on it; presumably, like any agent, they get a cut of the deal. (This is yet another example of the agent/publisher line being blurred in possibly sketchy ways.) Unbound splits proceeds 50/50 with authors. Unbound users fund books by purchasing credits that expire if not used within 30 days, so presumably there’s some revenue from people who buy credits and end up not using them.

It’s also instructive to follow the risk. Lucky Bat’s business plan relies on finding a sufficient number of authors who have both money and writing chops; the author shoulders all the financial risks of publication, and gets all the financial benefits. PUBSLUSH and Unbound are lower-risk for authors, since there’s a guaranteed audience, but royalties are commensurately lower. And all three companies share the self-publishing advantage of only providing services once they have money in hand.

As a reader, would you consider funding a book through PUBSLUSH or Unbound? As an author, would you consider publishing through any of these companies? What do you think the next publishing innovations will be? My bet is on crowdsourced proofreading, Project Gutenberg–style.

Deep Thoughts

For a holiday weekend, there’s been an awful lot of introspection and serious thought going on out in the interwebs.

If that’s not enough wisdom for you, have an extra bit of brilliance from Emily Post, writing about social media interactions 89 years ago:

A gift of more value than beauty, is charm, which in a measure is another word for sympathy, or the power to put yourself in the place of others; to be interested in whatever interests them, so as to be pleasing to them, if possible, but not to occupy your thoughts in futilely wondering what they think about you.

Would you know the secret of popularity? It is unconsciousness of self, altruistic interest, and inward kindliness, outwardly expressed in good manners.

Those of you who were at the Worldcon panel on social media may remember me fumbling to remember that quote. Here it is in its beautiful entirety. If this were displayed above the text entry boxes on Twitter, Facebok, and Google+, I think the internet would be a much more pleasant place.

One Editor Leaves, One Magazine Enters

Weird Tales has been sold, and the new owner, Marvin Kaye, appears to be ditching the entire staff. The entire Hugo-winning staff. Including Ann VanderMeer, who’s due the lion’s share of the credit for dragging the magazine kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. VanderMeer’s last editorial isn’t even a proper editorial, as she cuttingly notes; it’s a post on the Weird Tales blog. That’s a pretty ignominious end to an illustrious five years.

But take heart! Magazines have risen from the grave and will again. New Worlds, for example, which raised the New Wave movement from infancy, is coming back after 40 years in mothballs. SF Signal reports that it’s to be retitled Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, though Moorcock’s primary role is to contribute his name and occasional editorials. It’s not yet clear how the staff will be structured or what they’ll publish. No one’s really writing New Wave SF these days, and indeed, I’m not sure it’s possible to write post-AIDS New Wave fiction, though I’d love to see someone try. At any rate, the magazine is looking for “contributions of all kinds”.

I feel like no one talks about SF/F magazines very much, but they’re really important. A lot of good novelists start out writing stories; that’s where they learn how to send in submissions, how to handle rejection, how to work with an editor. A lot of good writers are simply good short story writers and they stay on that end of the field without ever coming to the attention of book-readers. A handful of talented editors, many of whom hold their posts for decades, plow through unimaginably huge slush piles to select the stories that shape the industry. I’m a passionate fan of short and medium-length SF/F–particularly the novella, a form that has given rise to some of the best fantastic fiction of all time–and I think it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the people who devote themselves to the often thankless task of publishing it in magazines.

Ms. VanderMeer, I salute you and hope you find a new gig very soon. New New Worlds editors, best of luck to you. I’m very glad to see you still care about trying to keep SF/F magazines alive until someone figures out how to make them profitable again.

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Goes Digital, Searchable, and Free

From the press release:

The third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the definitive reference work in the field, will be released online later this year by the newly-formed ESF, Ltd, in association with Victor Gollancz, the SF & Fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, whose support will enable the text to be available free to all users. This initial “beta” version, containing about three-quarters of the total projected content, will be unveiled in conjunction with Gollancz’s celebrations of its 50th anniversary as a science fiction publisher.

The first edition of the Encylopedia, whose founder and general editor was Peter Nicholls, appeared in 1979, and contained over 700,000 words. A second edition, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, appeared in 1993 and contained over 1.3 million words. Both editions won the Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Convention, in addition to numerous other honours.

The beta version of the third edition will contain some 3 million words, including about 12,000 entries and well over 100,000 internal links. The entries cover every area of science fiction, including authors, illustrators, movies, music, games, and fanzines. The text will be completed, through monthly updates, by the end of 2012.

The decision to go digital and free is generating considerable buzz. Given how much previous editions have sold for, it’s clear that the SFE has plenty of revenue potential. The question is how, or whether, that potential will be realized when the content is available and searchable online for free (in the style of other reference websites like Merriam-Webster’s dictionary site). Managing editor Graham Sleight dropped me a note to say that he’s seeking views on whether people would want to buy the SFE in print, e-book, or app format, and he invites Genreville readers to respond either in comments here or with tweets to @sfencyclopedia. I hope you’ll comment here; I’m very interested to know what you think.

Tab Clearance

Some miscellaneous links that have piled up in my browser tabs over the last few days:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin on the unwritten rules of fairyland. “The fantastic tale may suspend the laws of physics—carpets fly; cats fade into invisibility leaving only a smile—and of probability—the youngest of three brothers always wins the bride; the infant in the box cast upon the waters survives unharmed—but it carries its revolt against reality no further. Mathematical order is unquestioned. Two and one make three, in Koshchei’s castle and Alice’s Wonderland  (especially in Wonderland). Euclid’s geometry—or possibly Riemann’s—somebody’s geometry, anyhow—governs the layout. Otherwise incoherence would invade and paralyse the narrative.”
  • Michael Dirda on the tyranny and tragedy of the bestseller (or “better-seller”) list. “If one were to magically eliminate every form of the list, in print and online, as well as all those best-seller tables in Barnes & Noble, what would happen? People would spend more time browsing a bookstore’s stock, they would skim a page or two of various interesting-looking titles, and eventually they would plunk down their twenty dollars. In short, they would actively engage with a greater portion of our literary culture.” (via Aliette de Bodard)
  • Reactions to the new Dropbox terms of service, which give them rather broad rights to copy and modify your documents:
  • The hosting of the next Westercon is won by a hoax bid after the only legitimate bid fails to gain sufficient traction. Kevin Standlee offers a pro tip: “When you’re trying to get three-fourths of the people in a room to vote for you, and when you know there’s a pretty good chance that many of them are the people who voted for your opposition back when you only needed a majority and didn’t get it, you are not helping your cause when you say that anyone who voted for your opposition should be ashamed of themselves and start personally insulting the opposition’s leadership.” (via Cheryl Morgan)
  • Jane Litte on what she learned at RWA. “While Courtney Milan says that we shouldn’t make predictions, I have to make one. I think that the most successful self publishing authors will be those who love the business side of publishing as much as they love the creative side. There will always be the exceptions, but generally, I think that the entrepreneurial authors are the ones who we will still see self publishing five years from now.” Interesting reading even if you’re not a Romancelandian.
  • SFWA is looking for information to consider while they review Night Shade Books’s probation status. The probationary period ends July 8, so if you have relevant info regarding your dealings with Night Shade, send it over soon.

There, now Firefox can take a deep breath and relax.

Advice for Young Writers and Editors, Part II

As I have mentioned here occasionally, I mentor teenagers at my high school alma mater* who write, edit, and publish Tapestry, the SF/F magazine I worked on when I was there (lo these nearly 20 years ago). They just sent me the latest issue, which has gorgeous cover art–art folks, keep the name Esther Wu in the back of your mind, because she’s going places–and the usual excellent crop of stories, poems, and articles.

One of the articles explains that they couldn’t ask Neil Gaiman and Suzanne Collins how they deal with writer’s block, so they asked their English teachers instead. No disrespect to those teachers, of course, but my immediate thought was, “Well, I can’t ask Neil Gaiman** or Suzanne Collins either, but I know lots and lots of professional SF, fantasy, and horror writers I could ask!”

So if you would, please tell me in comments how you get past writer’s block, and then encourage your friends who are writers to chime in. I’ll forward your replies to the Tapestry team. And if you happen to have a direct line to Neil or Suzanne and they happen to have a bit of free time to help out some teenagers who are completely devoted to SF/F and the written word, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing from them too.

* I always feel weird saying “at my alma mater” but “at my mater” and “at alma mater” feels even weirder.

** I have a bet with myself about how long I can go without meeting Neil Gaiman. I saw him at Balticon in 2006–along with Peter S. Beagle and Gene Wolfe; I can only assume the concom robbed a bank or something–and we’ve occasionally tweeted at each other, but we’ve yet to be introduced in person. There are dozens of people who know us both and could introduce us, so the longer this continues, the funnier it will get. I’m counting from my April 2007 start date at PW and aiming for at least ten years.

PS Publishing Acquires E-Rights for Nine Zoran Zivkovic Books

From the press release:

In a major deal, PS has bought the digital English language rights to Zoran’s nine titles for an autumn release: Impossible Stories, Twelve Collections & The Teashop, The Last Book, The Bridge, The Writer/The Book/The Reader, Impossible Stories II, Escher’s Loops, The Fourth Circle and The Ghostwriter.

The first seven already appeared as PS print editions, and we’re delighted that Zoran has entrusted these last two titles to us. But there’s more. Alongside the digital edition of The Ghostwriter, PS will bring out a limited hardcover edition, but there are no current plans for a print edition of The Fourth Circle. As we announced in our joint press release with Zoran, the electronic edition will be the only game in town.

I’ve added links to PW‘s reviews of a few of those books so you can see why this is such exciting news. Živković (I dare not put the accented characters in the subject line of the post for fear of breaking RSS readers) is an amazing writer of surreal, metafictional, deliciously weird stories and novels. I hope this helps his work to become better known.

Since PS is a U.K. company, I inquired about availability and distribution. PS publisher Peter Crowther wrote back, “The e-books will be available through our website and Amazon in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. We are producing MOBI files for Kindle users and ePub for those with Apple iPads, Sony Readers and other eBook reading devices.” This might well break my self-imposed embargo on buying digital books. No word yet on pricing or date of release, but given that PS has already published five of the seven books, I’d expect those five, at least, to go up relatively soon.

EDIT: Crowther tells me “the prices will be £3.99 or less for the novels and collections, and £1.99 or less for the novellas”. A steal!

Project Gutenberg in Dispute with Poul Anderson’s Estate

eReads reports that Greg Bear and Astrid Anderson Bear (Poul Anderson’s daughter) are disputing Project Gutenberg’s right to scan and release works Poul Anderson wrote and published in magazines during the 1940s and 1950s.  The legal details are at the eReads site, along with a note from Greg and Astrid warning authors and people in charge of an author’s estate to make sure Project Gutenberg hasn’t overstepped its bounds on other works that were  protected by copyright.

Jo Fletcher Leaving Gollancz for Quercus

I’ve just received a press release announcing that Jo Fletcher, currently associate publisher of U.K. SF powerhouse Gollancz, is leaving to launch a brand new SF imprint at indie crime publisher Quercus. This is a pretty big shake-up for Gollancz; Fletcher’s been there for 16 of their 49 years and has a very impressive stable of authors, some of whom may well follow her over to her new home. A new SF imprint is always good news, though, and I hope they get good U.S. distribution so we can continue to enjoy Fletcher’s editorial acumen on this side of the Pond.