Thursday, March 26, 2015

Editing in Process: The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The Annihilation Score
Ace Books
You still have an opportunity to purchase the ebook edition of The Atrocity Archives for $1.99, though I don't know how long this reduced price will be available. And if you haven't read this first book yet in the Laundry Files series by noted UK author Charles Stross, then you have a lot of reading to catch up on....

Because this July will see the publication of book six in the Laundry Files series: The Annihilation Score, from Ace Books, and also from publisher Orbit in the UK.

I actually began work on this project during the Christmas holiday season and continued working a few weeks into January.[1] But I held off on this blog post until Ace finally released the cover art, as I hoped to feature it as well. Unfortunately, the cover release occurred while I was in the middle of a hard deadline (a new short story collection from Bradley P. Beaulieu, for a future blog post) and thus another few weeks passed, and, well, here we are.

Orbit Books UK
The Annihilation Score (TAS going forward) is, as I have said, the sixth volume in the continuing Laundry Files series. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked now on all six volumes. If you click on this link, you'll be transported to a More Red Ink "Laundry Files" search, which will allow you to scan through the ten or so blog posts I've done with a "Laundry Files" tag. I haven't written about all the volumes but enough to pique your interest, especially if you are new to the world of the supersecret intelligence organization known as the Laundry (the original HQ shared a building with a Chinese Laundry, thus the name), and necromancers Bob Howard and his wife Dominique "Mo" O'Brien.

I would like to especially draw your attention to the first blog post, "Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service," posted on December 10, 2009, in which I write about acquiring and editing the first two volumes in the series (The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue) for indie publisher Golden Gryphon Press, all of which began in 2002. Beginning with The Fuller Memorandum, Ace picked up the series, as well as reprinting the first two titles as trade paperbacks. Ace then hired me because Charlie and I promised his editor at the time that I would ensure consistency across all three volumes. And, so far, Ace has brought me in for all the titles since. (Keeping fingers crossed his new editor at Ace is sufficiently satisfied to have me work on volume seven, which Charlie is currently in the throes of writing.)

As to keeping the world of the Laundry consistent across all the volumes...trust me, it's getting more difficult as the number of titles increases -- like a juggling act, with all six plates up in the air simultaneously, while my hands quickly turn physical pages or click a mouse to scan through files. While working on TAS I found myself looking up names, organizations, even specific uses of words in previous volumes, going as far back as The Atrocity Archives. When I began work on The Apocalypse Codex (book four), Ace required that I provide a comprehensive style sheet (see blog post "Doing Charles Stross's Laundry with Style"), which I have continued to do for each consecutive book; previous to that, I have my own editing notes.

Occasionally (albeit rarely) a tweak in the consistency meter is required when reality interferes with Laundry fiction, but other than these rare instances, the Laundry Files universe has remained relatively consistent throughout. It's a task that I take very seriously with each new book. While working on a book, I will email the author with questions, asking for definitions and clarifications, and to work through and refine small details. Often dozens (and dozens) of emails cross the aether (ocean?) between us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

eBook Sale: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity ArchivesIf you read ebooks, and you haven't yet read The Atrocity Archives, the first volume in the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross, then what are you waiting for?

For a buck-99 you can't go wrong, though I have to admit I'm prejudiced: I acquired and edited the original hardcover edition of The Atrocity Archives for Golden Gryphon Press back in 2003. [You can read my lengthy blog post on acquiring both The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue, volume 2 in the Laundry Files series.]

Of course, if you are already a fan of the Laundry Files, but don't yet have this first volume in an ebook edition, now is your chance to snag a copy cheap.

But don't wait too long: I have no idea how long this ebook will remain priced at $1.99. But for now, the ebook is available from just about everywhere at $1.99. Here are the links:
Amazon Kindle edition

Nook Book edition

Google Play Books edition

Apple iTunes edition

Think of the Laundry Files as "Lovecraftian spy thrillers involving a secret history of the twentieth century, although they are not set in Lovecraft's universe,"[1] in which magic is a form of applied mathematics. Our hero in the stories[2] is Bob Howard (not his real name, because to know one's true name....), a slashdot-reading, T-shirt wearing, computer geek who nearly destroyed the city of Wolverhampton by accident while developing a new graphics algorithm. Bob was then recruited (a term used loosely, as it was either "join us, or die") into the Laundry, Her Majesty's supersecret black intelligence agency.


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Footnotes:

[1] The Atrocity Archives on Wikipedia.

[2] Bob Howard has been the main protagonist through the first five Laundry Files novels; but that role changes in book six. See my next blog post....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review Copies: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Slow Bullets
The final review of the galley pages is now complete, and Slow Bullets will soon see print. The official publication date is June 9, but Tachyon Publications titles are typically available a bit early.

If you are a book reviewer and are registered with NetGalley, you may now request an electronic review copy of Slow Bullets. If you are a book reviewer but you are not registered with NetGalley, registration is free; you simply provide them with a personal profile as to who you are as a book reviewer.

If you are not registered with NetGalley and don't wish to do so, but you would like a review copy of Slow Bullets, you can email me at: marty[dot]halpern[at]gmail[dot]com -- provide me with your contact information along with a link to your book review blog (or, if your reviews appear at different sites, a couple links to said reviews), and let me know which format you prefer: PDF, MOBI, or EPUB. If you require a print edition of the Slow Bullets ARC, that can be arranged, but you'll need to inform me why a print edition is needed as there is an additional cost to the publisher for this.

For more information on Slow Bullets, you can read my "Editing in Process" blog post on February 9, 2015.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015

We remember him as Spock, and Spock Prime, in the Star Trek franchise; and as Dr. William Bell in about a dozen episodes of Fringe. And for a hundred thousand-plus Twitter followers, Leonard Nimoy will be lovingly remembered for his very last tweet:


LLAP. Live Long and Prosper....


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Editing in Process...Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
This was my last editing project for calendar year 2014:

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction, forthcoming in May 2015 from Tachyon Publications -- and the year 2014 couldn't have ended on a better high note.

Back in early 2010 I was hearing (virtually speaking, that is) a lot of buzz about a new hard-SF writer from Finland, Hannu Rajaniemi, and his first novel entitled The Quantum Thief, to be published in the UK by Gollancz that September.

Then, Charles Stross, in a blog post dated May 14, 2010, recommended Hannu Rajaniemi and The Quantum Thief for the Hugo Awards ballot:

He's Finnish, lives in Scotland, has a PhD in string theory, and — well, if you dropped Greg Egan's hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang you'd begin to get a rough approximation of the scale of his talent. If that's a somewhat recondite metaphor, then alas, recondite is what you're getting: this is deep SF, and if there's any criticism I can level it's that readers may find "The Quantum Thief" hard to interpret without a prior background in the field. However, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read it, and I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am. And "The Quantum Thief" is the best first SF novel I've read in many years.
And then, I read Rajaniemi's short story "Elegy for a Young Elk" in the Spring 2010 issue of Subterranean Press Magazine.

And by that time I was, like, Wow! -- Who is this writer?


Now, skip forward four years...(It's been four years already?)...to October 2014, during which time I had the opportunity to work on this collection of short stories by Hannu Rajaniemi[1].

The stories in Collected Fiction are more like "Elegy for a Young Elk" than the novel Quantum Thief. To rephrase Charles Stross, readers won't need a prior background in string/quantum theory to enjoy these stories. But you do need to be open-minded about possibilities --

From the story "Shibuya no Love":
They were eating takoyaki by the statue of Hachiko the dog when Norie told her to buy a quantum lovegety.

Riina's Japanese was not very good in spite of two years of Oriental Studies and three months in Tokyo, and the translation software on her phone did not immediately recognize the term, so she just stared at the small caramel-skinned girl blankly for a few seconds, mouth full of fried dough and octopus. "A what?" she managed finally, wiping crumbs from her lips.

...

"You don't have them in Finland? How do you meet boys there? Oh, I forgot, you have the sauna!....

"It's the most kawaii thing! I keep mine on all the time. Look!" Norie held up her wrist. Her phone was embedded in a Cartier platinum bracelet with a jewel-studded Hello Kitty engraving that her boyfriend Shinichi had given her for her birthday. Riina had admired it several times, but had not paid attention to the little teardrop-shaped plastic thing dangling from it until now. It was hardly bigger than the tip of her index finger, and its pink surface had the characteristic teflon sheen of a nanovat-grown product. There was a silvery heart-shaped logo on one side.
And from another favorite story of mine, "Invisible Planets":
Travelling through Cygnus 61, as it prepares to cross the gulf between the galaxies, the darkship commands its sub-minds to describe the worlds it has visited.

...

During the millennia of its journey, the darkship's mind has expanded, until it has become something that has to be explored and mapped. The treasures it contains can only be described in metaphors, brittle and misleading and distant, like mirages. And so, more and more, amongst all the agents in its sprawling society of mind, the darkship finds itself listening to the voice of a tiny sub-mind, so insignificant that she is barely more than a wanderer lost in a desert, coming from reaches of the ship's mind so distant that she might as well be a traveller from another country that has stumbled upon an ancient and exotic kingdom on the other side of the world, and now finds herself serving a quizzical, omnipotent emperor.
What follows, then, in "Invisible Planets" are a half-dozen of what I might call little vignettes, in which the sub-mind describes the planets and people the darkship has visited; for example: "The rulers of the Planet Oya love the dead." -- and then we get to learn about Oya and the dead.


Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction contains approximately 80,000 words and includes 19 stories, sort of, plus a couple mini introductions (all to be explained shortly). Here's the table of contents:

Deus Ex Homine
The Server and the Dragon
Tyche and the Ants
The Haunting of Apollo A7LB
His Master's Voice
Elegy for a Young Elk
The Jugaad Cathedral
Fisher of Men
Invisible Planets
Topsight
Ghost Dogs
The Viper Blanket
The Oldest Game
Shibuya no Love
Paris, in Love
Satan's Typist
Skywalker of Earth
Snow White Is Dead
Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories

The final two "stories" in the list each has its own mini-introduction. We learn that "Snow White Is Dead" is actually one result of a neurofiction experiment, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but in reverse: the story chooses you, based on brain activity. The last story, "Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories," is a collection of 140-character Twitter stories that Hannu Rajaniemi wrote while Twitterer-in-Residence at New Media Scotland in August 2008.

I told you...you have to be open to the possibilities....


---------------
Footnote:

[1] Typically I link an author's name to the author's website or blog, but I found neither for Hannu Rajaniemi. And if I missed said link(s), my sincere apologies. I did find the author on Twitter (@hannu; last tweet was February 13), Facebook (last post was December 30, 2014, at which time he changed his profile pic), and LinkedIn. If I've missed a link, feel free to post a comment below.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Received: The Very Best of Kate Elliott

In my blog post on June 12, 2014, in which I wrote about working on this Kate Elliott collection for Tachyon Publications, I opened the post with the following paragraph:
The Very Best of Kate Elliott
Cover Art by Julie Dillion
The beauty of any "best of" collection is that it allows the reader to experience the full expanse of the author's writing and story telling. And, if the collection is indeed worth its (literal) weight, then the book will hopefully have some small treasure, a story unfamiliar to the reader, even if the reader is one of the author's biggest fans....and it holds true on my most recent project, The Very Best of Kate Elliott....
Of the twelve stories in this collection, six were published in various anthologies from DAW Books, and another story, "On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New," is original to this volume; I suspect even Ms. Elliott's faithful fans haven't had the opportunity to read all of these stories.

Here is the contents list (in order of appearance) for The Very Best of Kate Elliott:
Riding the Shore of the River of Death
Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine
The Queen's Garden
On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and
   the Birthing Winds of the New
The Gates of Joriun
The Memory of Peace
With God to Guard Her
My Voice Is in My Sword
Sunseeker
A Simple Act of Kindness
To Be a Man
Making the World Live Again

And here is the starred Publishers Weekly review of The Very Best of Kate Elliott:

Elliott's delightful first collection contains pieces set in the worlds of her major fantasy series—the Spiritwalker Trilogy, the Crossroads Trilogy, the Crown of Stars series, and the Jaran novels....No familiarity with any of the novels is required to understand the stories set in those worlds, but the existing settings lend depth, complexity, and intrigue to what might otherwise be simple tales. "Riding the Shore of the River of Death," a bildungsroman about a young female horse-nomad who wants to be a warrior, benefit greatly from the depth of setting, as does the slapstick comedy "To Be a Man," about a shape-shifting saber-toothed cat with an eye for the ladies. But the standalones especially shine, and the political intrigue and subtle humor that Elliott brings to the fascinating culture and government system of "The Queen's Garden" make it perhaps the finest work in the book. This collection serves beautifully both as an introduction to Elliott and as a treat for fans who want more of her marvels."
Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2014

In addition to these twelve stories, the collection also includes four essays as well as an introduction written specifically for this collection. The Very Best of Kate Elliott was officially published on February 10.


[Addendum 18 February 2015] Interview on SFSignal.com: "Kate Elliott Discusses The Very Best of Kate Elliott and More."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Received: Stinky Robots

When a robot got old or worked on mechanical parts or ran on stinky fuel like diesel, people called them Stinky Robots.


Stinky Robots, written by Matthew & Elijah Yerington and illustrated by Nikola Radulovikj, is the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign that concluded on July 30, 2014.

Stinky Robots is a slim hardcover book of 24 slick pages (including front and back matter).

Though Nikola Radulovikj did the overall book illustrations, some dozen other illustrators were involved in the design of the robots themselves. The StinkyRobots.com home page showcases each of the robots in the book, and you can purchase copies of the book from this site as well.








Monday, February 9, 2015

Editing in Process...Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Slow BulletsI'm using the "Editing in Process" tag so that this blog post tracks with my other posts in this category --

However, this project was actually completed last year. As I mentioned recently, I'm about three months or so behind on my blog posts[1]. But I digress....


Tachyon Publications has been publishing critically acclaimed novellas for a number of years, and I've had the opportunity to work on quite a few of them, including James Morrow's The Madonna and the Starship, Daryl Gregory's We Are All Completely Fine, and most recently Nancy Kress's Yesterday's Kin.

So when I contacted Alastair Reynolds last year about submitting a novella for Tachyon Publications, he responded with -- much to my delight: "I am working on a novella right now which does not yet have a home." It doesn't get any better than that because I obviously had the perfect home for that novella. That novella is entitled Slow Bullets and will be published in June.

For the past fifteen years, I have been a fan and advocate of Al Reynolds's short fiction. I first approached Al about a short story collection in April 2001, when I was acquiring and editing for Golden Gryphon Press. That short story collection didn't happen for many years (and when it did happen, I edited the collection for Night Shade Books[2]), but what I did from Al in 2002 was novella Turquoise Days set in the Revelation Space universe. TD was the first in a series of signed and numbered limited edition chapbooks from Golden Gryphon Press[3]. You can read the details on how the novella and short story collection came about in my blog post of July 16, 2009, entitled "12 Stories Do Not a Collection Make."

But back to Slow Bullets: The first draft of the manuscript that Al sent me clocked in at around 40,125 words. To meet novella requirements, the story had to have a maximum word count of 40,000 words, so I asked Al to review the manuscript and cut a minimum of 250-300 words, to ensure the story was safely below the 40K word cap. Having worked with Al previously, I knew that he would accomplish this self-editing with the skill of a surgeon -- make that a brain surgeon. When I read the second draft of Slow Bullets, the story flowed so flawlessly that I couldn't tell where words had been cut or changed; I would have had to use the "compare two versions of a document" option in MS Word to determine the specific edits. I also suggested a couple tweaks to the content itself for clarity.

The revised draft was delivered to Tachyon Publications on August 13, 2014: the word count was 39,775 words.

After Tachyon formatted the final ms. to their own specifications, my next task was a full line edit and copy edit. I communicated directly with Al on any questions or issues that I encountered, and after I completed my markups (using MS Word change tracking), I emailed the file to the author for his review. Once both of us were in agreement with all the changes (and I don't recall there being that many anyhow), I mailed the final manuscript to Tachyon on September 8. Al and I still need to proof the layout pages, and these should be arriving by the end of this week. Slow Bullets is still on target for a June publication.

Back in June of last year, before the manuscript was finalized, I asked Al for a couple rough paragraphs describing the story's main character and plot, this is what the author sent me:
Scur is a soldier in a vast war between two human political groupings, [a war] that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems. Finally, a ceasefire is brokered ― and Scur begins to think about her life after the war, the world and the family she has left behind. But it is not be. On the brink of peace, Scur is captured by a sadistic war criminal and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. Scur makes a desperate effort to save her life ― and wakes up, disorientated, aboard what appears to be a prisoner transport vessel.

But something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers ― combatants of both sides of the war, as well as civilians ― are waking up too soon. The ship is damaged, the crew powerless ― and half the occupants are about to try to kill the other half. For these are not just ordinary prisoners of war, being repatriated ― these are the worse of the worse ― and Scur is among them. But in truth, her problems have only just begun.

Scur finds herself at the crux of a struggle not just for her own survival, but to preserve civilization itself.

Now you are probably wondering what is the significance of the title -- just what is a "slow bullet"? A "slow bullet" is a bullet-like projectile that is injected into the body of every soldier, Central Worlds or Peripheral Systems (the two opposing sides in the war). The bullet contains a transponder and full history of the individual, including photographs. Here's a brief description:

Orvin smiled tightly. "Do you remember when they put the bullet into you?"

"I'm a soldier. Who doesn't remember?" [Scur speaking]

He gave a little nod of sympathy. "Yes, we used them on our side as well, or a virtually identical technology....Normally there's not much pain. The medics military use a topical anaesthetic to numb the entry area, and the slow bullet puts out another type of drug as it travels through your insides. It goes very slowly, too—or at least it's meant to. Hence the name, of course. And it avoids damaging any vital organs or circulatory structures as it progresses to its destination, deep enough inside your chest that it can’t be removed without complicated surgery."

Slow Bullets from Tachyon Publications will be published in June 2014. You may preorder the book at this time on Amazon.com and hopefully from all other booksellers everywhere.



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Notes and Footnotes:

In a recent blog post I used hyper-linked footnotes, i.e. you click on a footnote in the body of the blog post and you jump to the actual footnote at the end of the post. Sounds cool... Unfortunately, using hyper-linked footnotes in Blogger is a complete nightmare: When blogger saves the post, it adds data to all of the footnotes' hyperlinks. Initially, that data is a number link associated with the draft file, and a different number link when the blog post is actually published. So, just before the post is published, this added draft data must be removed otherwise the links won't work. And if you edit the published blog post for any reason, you have to remember to again remove this added data from all the footnote links before updating the post (otherwise the published number link will be there twice). I hope this all makes sense. Consequently I won't be using hyper-linked footnotes going forward -- unless someone knows of an easier, more user-friendly solution....


[1] Lots of reasons for my behindness: family and the holidays (Did I mention my first grandchild's birthday was in October?), new tech toys, a few hard-deadline projects (blog posts hopefully to follow), and even a bit of the "I don't feel like writing a blog post today" syndrome (which none of you have ever experienced, right?). But that's not to say I haven't been working, just not blogging.

[2] Zima Blue and Other Stories (Night Shade Books, 2006) has long been out of print, but the book can be purchased through Amazon sellers and other used booksellers, in either the NSB or Gollanz UK editions.

[3] The Turquoise Days chapbook is also out of print; however, Ace Books published TD alongside another Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space novella in a single volume: Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, which can again be purchased through Amazon sellers and other used booksellers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SFWA Welcomes Self-Published and Small Press Authors!

In a referendum with a third of voting members participating and over 6 to 1 in favor, the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has approved bylaw changes that enable SFWA to accept self-publication and small-press credits for Active and Associate memberships in the organization. We are using existing levels of income but are now allowing a combination of advances and income earned in a 12 month period to rise to the qualifying amounts.

SFWA President, Steven Gould, states, “Writers write. Professional writers get paid a decent amount for what they write. For the past five years it’s been apparent that there are ways to earn that decent amount that were not being covered by our previous qualification standards. Though these changes took a substantial amount of time, I’m grateful to everyone who worked toward this end.”

According to SFWA Vice President Cat Rambo, “I’m very excited to see SFWA moving forward and adapting itself to the changing face of modern publishing. SFWA will be much richer for the influx of knowledge and experience that the new members who have focused on independent and small-press publishing will bring with them.”

Specific details will be posted at sfwa.org by the first of March, but the basic standards are $3,000 for novel, or a total of 10,000 words of short fiction paid at 6 cents a word for Active membership. A single story of at least 1,000 words paid at 6 cents a word will be required for Associate membership. Affiliate, Estate, and Institutional membership requirements remain unchanged.

Self-published and small-press works were already eligible for the Nebula and Norton Awards, SFWA’s member-voted genre award, and will remain so.

SFWA will open to applications from small press and independent publishing qualifying members on March 1, 2015. Further information will be available at that time here: Membership Requirements

For membership questions not answered at the link above, please contact Kate Baker, at operations@sfwa.org. For information on SFWA or the Nebula Awards, or to request interviews or other information, please contact Jaym Gates, at communications@sfwa.org.


About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1800 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

For Release: February 03, 2015



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Note/Caveat: I am not a SFWA member: I can join as an editor, but since such option has no voting power, then I see no purpose in paying for a membership. By posting this news release here on More Red Ink, I neither encourage nor discourage readers who are eligible from joining SFWA. It's an individual decision. I am posting this because a number of my "clients" ― and readers ― are self-published authors and/or authors who sell much of their work to small (often micro) indie publishers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Received: The Children of Old Leech Anthology - trade paperback edition

The Children of Old Leech tpbDuring April of last year I had the opportunity to work on a unique collection of stories edited -- and published -- by Ross E. Lockhart, under his Word Horde label.

The book is entitled The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron -- and it has just been published in a trade paperback edition.

I previously wrote about my work on this book last April (Editing in Process...), and then followed up with another blog post in July (Book Received...) after the deluxe hardcover edition (with all its accompanying swag) arrived in the mail. Fortunately, for those who prefer paperbacks, or in this case a trade paperback, TCoOL is now available in an easy-to-hold edition that won't break the proverbial bank.

Around the same time the book was initially published, Ross began showcasing excerpts from each of the 17 stories, beginning with "The Harrow" by Gemma Files. If you're unfamiliar with -- or undecided about -- this anthology, click "The Harrow" link and read the excerpt. And at the bottom of the page you'll see a link to the next story, and so on.

Here is the contents list, once again, for The Children of Old Leech:
Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers — Justin Steele
The Harrow — Gemma Files
Pale Apostle — J. T. Glover & Jesse Bullington
Walpurgisnacht — Orrin Grey
Learn to Kill — Michael Cisco
Good Lord, Show Me the Way — Molly Tanzer
Snake Wine — Jeffrey Thomas
Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox — T.E. Grau
The Old Pageant — Richard Gavin
Notes for "The Barn in the Wild" — Paul Tremblay
Firedancing — Michael Griffin
The Golden Stars at Night — Allyson Bird
The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of
Yesterdays — Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Woman in the Wood — Daniel Mills
Brushdogs — Stephen Graham Jones
Ymir — John Langan
Of a Thousand Cuts — Cody Goodfellow
Tenebrionidae — Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay
Afterword — Ross E. Lockhart

I wouldn't be surprised if a story or two (or three, or...) ended up on one or more of this year's awards lists. Don't miss this opportunity to read some of the best "weird" horror fiction in recent years. I'll close this blog post with a couple sentences I wrote back in April 2014:
But it is the subtitle that's the clincher: "A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron." Imagine, 17 stories (by 19 authors) and more than 100,000 words of fiction, written using characters, situations, and locales created by Laird Barron. It gave me the willies just thinking about it... And that was even before I worked on the book!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Laundering Reality: Charles Stross's Laundry Files

The Rhesus ChartI'm about three months behind on blog posts, so....


During the latter part of October (that's 2014) I received in the mail my comp copies[1] of The Rhesus Chart, volume 5 in the continuing Laundry Files series by Charles Stross.

Interestingly enough, at about that same time, Charlie published a blog post on his public Diary entitled "The Curse of the Laundry."

In the opening paragraph, the author writes:
There's some kind of bizarre curse hanging over my Laundry Files series. Or maybe it's a deeper underlying problem with writing fiction set in the very near future (or past): I'm not sure which. All I'm sure is that that for the past decade, reality has been out to get me: and I'm fed up.

Here's the first example that Charlie provides in his post:

[in 2001] I'd just finished writing "The Atrocity Archive" and it was being edited for serial publication in issues 7-9 of the Scottish SF magazine Spectrum SF....

In Chapter 4 of "The Atrocity Archive" Bob learns from Angleton who the Middle Eastern bad guys who kidnapped Mo, intending to use her sacrifice to open a gateway to somewhere bad, really were ... and when I originally wrote the story, in 1999-2000, they were a relatively obscure bunch of anti-American zealots who'd blown up the USS Stark and an embassy in Africa. I know this may boggle the imagination of younger or more forgetful readers, but Al Quaida and Osama bin Laden had not at that time hijacked any airliners, much less etched themselves into the pages of world history....

So, on the 12th of September 2001, the score stood at Reality 1, Fiction 0. And I hastily did an edit job, replacing ObL and AQ with Yusuf Qaradawi as inspiration behind a hypothetical radical group based in groan Iraq (hey, this was before the invasion, all right?). And lo, part one of "The Atrocity Archive" was published in November 2001, and parts 2 and 3 in March and June of 2002.

I'm not sure if the Laundry Files take place in the recent past or in the very near future, or in an alternate reality -- or all three of those at once! In his "Curse" post, Charlie goes around and around on this given how current events always seem to catch up with -- and overtake -- most of the novels. The "Laundry Curse" came back to haunt Charlie with The Fuller Memorandum, written in 2008; The Apocalypse Code, written in April 2010 and March 2011; and again in the recently published The Rhesus Chart, written between September and December 2012. Of course, not to be left out, the forthcoming The Annihilation Score also gets bit by reality.

You can read all of the events to which Charlie refers -- including his declaration about the reality of the Laundry-verse -- in his post "The Curse of the Laundry." And don't forget to check out the nearly 300 comments!


---------------
Footnotes:

[1] I have been involved as an editor in one form or another with all six volumes of the Laundry Files. I acquired and edited the original hardcover editions of The Atrocity Archives (novel The Atrocity Archive and Hugo Award-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle) and The Jennifer Morgue for Golden Gryphon Press. With volume three in the series, The Fuller Memorandum, Charlie moved to Ace Books -- and I was hired as a freelancer by Ace to line edit and copy edit the novel. Ace obviously was satisfied with my work, because I was called upon to work on the next three volumes. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to work on future Laundry Files volumes as well. And yes, I did mention volume 6, The Annihilation Score, which I just completed work on, and will be published by Ace Books this coming July. But more on this title soon (though Charlie does reveal a major plot point in this novel in the blog post).

[Addendum note 3 February 2015: Since I mentioned my initial involvement in acquiring and editing the first two Laundry Files books, I really should have included a link to my blog post on how these two books came about: "Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service"]

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Status Update for January 2015

(to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur...)

I said, to the readers of this blog whence I came, I shall return. Tonight, I repeat those words: I shall return!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Received...David Mitchell

The Bone ClocksBack in the summer of 2012, when I learned that the Wachowski Brothers' directed Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, was to be released in October, I decided it was about time that I read the novel, considering that David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas had been published eight years earlier.

Cloud Atlas was even one of the few books I added to my Goodreads shelf -- that's how intrigued I was with the prospect of finally reading this book. The story is divided into seemingly unrelated sections: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, Letters from Zedelghem, Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, and The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish -- all well-written and as intriguing as I had hoped: great stuff. Then I got to the section An Orison of Sonmi-451 -- an interview with a genetically engineered fabricant. And the interview seemed to go on and on and... and I became bored and set the book down. Never to pick it up again. In fact, just the other day I realized the title was still listed as being read on my Goodreads shelf, about two years later! (P.S. I haven't seen the movie yet either; I'll wait now for it to be available on cable.)

But, I'm not giving up on David Mitchell, and, in fact, courtesy of Suvudu.com, I now have an Advance Reader's Edition of The Bone Clocks to read at my leisure.

Here's an excerpt from the publisher's PR sheet that was inside the book:
Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as "the radio people," Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena, and she has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly's life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born. A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence; a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq; a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world.
Mitchell's writing has that underlying element of the "fantastic" -- science fiction in Cloud Atlas, and evidently the supernatural in The Bone Clocks -- and yet, his fiction is considered "mainstream," as is the fiction of W. P. Kinsella, whom I wrote about here, and Kazuo Ishiguro, whom I wrote about here, to name only two others. And gawd help us if we should ever refer to these individuals as science fiction writers.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Children of Old Leech Anthology: Excerpts

The Children of Old LeechPress Release: The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA–Word Horde is proud to announce the release of The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron. Editors Ross E. Lockhart (The Book of Cthulhu, Tales of Jack the Ripper) and Justin Steele (The Arkham Digest) have gathered together many of the brightest lights in dark fiction to pay homage to one of horror's masters.

Over the past decade, Laird Barron has become one of the most lauded and influential names in horror fiction. His short stories, two novels, and three collections have garnered numerous nominations and awards, including three Shirley Jackson Awards and a Bram Stoker Award. Recognizing Barron's meteoric rise, Lockhart and Steele sought to assemble an original tribute anthology unlike any other, focusing on atmosphere and affect, rather than simple pastiche.

"Barron's fiction has long been an inspiration to his peers," says co-editor Justin Steele. "The interwoven stories and novels create a rich tapestry of noir-infused cosmic horror. This mythology makes for an excellent backdrop for the weird tales within." Offered this unique opportunity to play in what Publishers Weekly calls Barron's "worm-riddled literary playground," these children of Old Leech—Barron's fans, peers, friends—conjured an anthology "with a coherent feeling of dread, without feeling derivative of the source."

The Children of Old Leech is distributed by Ingram, and will be available in Hardcover and eBook formats through most online retailers and better independent bookstores everywhere in July 2014. For more information about Word Horde or to request an electronic review copy, please email publicity[at]wordhorde[dot]com.

* * * *

On April 24 I wrote about copy editing The Children of Old Leech for Word Horde; and then on July 5 I posted details on the deluxe edition of TCoOL, of which only 100 numbered copies were made available for sale.

In celebration of the release of TCoOL on July 15, excerpts from each of the stories were published on the Word Horde blog over a span of weeks. All of the excerpts have now been posted.

Here is the contents list for The Children of Old Leech:
Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers — Justin Steele
The Harrow — Gemma Files
Pale Apostle — J. T. Glover & Jesse Bullington
Walpurgisnacht — Orrin Grey
Learn to Kill — Michael Cisco
Good Lord, Show Me the Way — Molly Tanzer
Snake Wine — Jeffrey Thomas
Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox — T.E. Grau
The Old Pageant — Richard Gavin
Notes for "The Barn in the Wild" — Paul Tremblay
Firedancing — Michael Griffin
The Golden Stars at Night — Allyson Bird
The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of
  Yesterdays — Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Woman in the Wood — Daniel Mills
Brushdogs — Stephen Graham Jones
Ymir — John Langan
Of a Thousand Cuts — Cody Goodfellow
Tenebrionidae — Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay
Afterword — Ross E. Lockhart

The first story excerpt is "The Harrow" by Gemma Files; at the bottom of this excerpt you will find a link to the next story, and so on, through the entire contents list. I would normally say something to the effect of "Enjoy the read!" -- but "enjoy" isn't quite the word one would use when it comes to Laird Barron's work, or the work of those writing in Barron's world. In my earlier blog post on copy editing this anthology I used the phrase "a feeling of dread, of impending doom..." So read at your own risk....

If you are a fan of Laird Barron's writing, then you will definitely want to read these stories. If you are a reader of dark fantasy -- very dark fantasy! -- and you are new to the world of Laird Barron, then you should be reading these stories.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Editing in Process...The Very Best of W. P. Kinsella

Very Best of W. P. Kinsella
Cover art by Thomas Canty
If you read this blog fairly regularly, you'll recall my post earlier in the month when I wrote about purchasing the Xcanex Professional Book and Document Scanner by piQx imaging. In that post I mentioned a huge scanning project I had begun working on at the time, which is why I was in a bit of a kerfuffle over scanners -- and the fact that my go-to scanner for nearly 10 years no longer worked with OmniPage Pro and Windows 7.

That scanning project is short story collection The Very Best of W. P. Kinsella, forthcoming in 2015 from Tachyon Publications.

And the project is indeed huge: approximately 138,000 words of fiction, all of which has to be scanned, then cleaned up and formatted, and finally copy edited.

If you've seen the movie Field of Dreams (1989), starring Kevin Costner, then you've experienced a wee taste of W. P. Kinsella, who wrote the novel Shoeless Joe (1982), upon which the movie is based. And Kinsella's novel is an expansion of his 1979 short story, "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa" -- which is included in this Very Best of collection. In the story, a corn farmer in Iowa hears a voice:
Two years ago at dusk on a spring evening, when the sky was a robin's-egg blue and the wind as soft as a day-old chick, as I was sitting on the verandah of my farm home in eastern Iowa, a voice very clearly said to me, "If you build it, he will come."

The voice was that of a ballpark announcer. As he spoke, I instantly envisioned the finished product I knew I was being asked to conceive. I could see the dark, squarish speakers, like ancient sailors' hats, attached to aluminum-painted light standards that glowed down into a baseball field, my present position being directly behind home plate.
The "he" in "he will come" is Joseph Jefferson Jackson, the "Shoeless Joe Jackson" in the title, one of the greatest baseball outfielders of all time -- who had passed away in 1951, years (and years) before our Iowa corn farmer heard that voice. But if our farmer builds that ballfield, he will come. [Note: Shoeless Joe had been mired in the Black Sox Scandal after the Chicago White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series; Joe and seven other teammates were banned for life from baseball the following year.]

There are a few other baseball stories in this collection, but you don't need to know anything about baseball to enjoy these tales: baseball merely serves as a backdrop to these stories, which are about life and the human condition, often with a bit of the "fantastic" thrown in. My favorite story in the collection is "K Mart" -- but don't let the title fool you: it's the story of lost childhood love, nostalgia, and survival, all amidst the backdrop of a neighborhood dirt-lot baseball game, a game that seemed endless (to the children playing it), but only lasted throughout the summer months.

W. P. Kinsella is also well-known for his "First Nation" stories about the indigenous Cree on the Hobbema Reserve near Edmonton, Canada. These stories reflect the Cree's destitute and disadvantaged culture, yet add an element of humor by exploring the convoluted situations (and shenanigans) they get into trying to survive in a world dominated by white people. But even with the element of humor, there is a sadness to all of these stories. What is especially delightful about these stories is that Kinsella's characters -- Silas (the narrator), Frank Fencepost, Mad Etta, Bedelia Coyote, Sadie One-wound, and Rufus Firstrider, to name just a few -- appear in all the stories. By the time you finish reading this collection, you'll certainly consider them acquaintances, if not friends. In "Beef," Bedelia Coyote determines that a treaty the Cree signed with the Canadian government in the 1800s is still valid, and she files the necessary paperwork so that the reserve receives financial compensation. But Frank Fencepost has a better scheme in mind: he hijacks the paperwork and requests the government honor the compensation put forth in the original treaty: cattle -- figuring he can make more from the cattle than the money the government was offering. The title of the story, "Beef," says it all.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Austin Musician Suzanna Choffel

So I was channel surfacing last night at about 8:30pm, looking for something to watch for a half hour, and I saw a listing in the paper for "Austin Musicians" on San Mateo's PBS station, KCSM. So I hit the remote for cable channel 17. The show was an hour-long broadcast of the 2013 All ATX concert at the Moody Theater in Austin, a benefit to support the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).

Fortunately, I turned on the TV just in time to catch musician Suzanna Choffel's two-song performance, the latter of which, entitled "Raincloud," absolutely knocked my figurative socks off. I spent some time this morning searching for more info on Ms. Choffel, and learned that she was a performer on NBC's The Voice a few years back, losing in the "knockout" round to a singer who I thought (having watched both performances on YouTube) was (aside from being occasionally off-key) derivative of nearly every other female singer one hears on contemporary pop radio. Anyhow, Ms. Choffel said about her loss: "I was definitely the wild card of the show, doing folk, pop, and reggae, and that may have hurt me in the end, but it's who I am."

I also found on YouTube what appears to be an audience recording of "Raincloud" from the All ATX concert, but the quality is quite poor; so, searching for the song itself, I found a superb version performed "live" at Austin's The Sessions production company. Enjoy!



I checked out Suzanna Choffel's albums -- her latest, Archer, includes "Raincloud" -- but I was disappointed: the sultry, raw quality of her vocals and fretwork are lost, sadly, in the music's overproduction. If she were to release a live album, I'd snatch it up in a digital minute!

Other performers at the All ATX concert included Marcia Ball, Christopher Cross, Eric Johnson, the Sexton brothers, and Jimmy Vaughan, to name but a few. The Austin Chronicle had a fairly decent review of the concert the following day.

Note: Ms. Choffel currently resides in NYC.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Xcanex Professional Book & Document Scanner

Xcanex-boxThe first flatbed scanner I purchased was a Microtek brand, I'm guessing about a dozen years ago. I was running Windows ME (Millennium, remember that short-lived OS?) at the time and the Microtek scanner worked like a charm. Of course, as is the way of all things technical, I decided to upgrade to Windows XP in 2005.

I purchased the XP system discs and, with the help of my friend Randy (the same person who helped me design my first desktop years earlier, which I wrote about here), I wiped the hard drive and installed Windows XP. I then spent the next two days installing all my software and hardware. Around the end of day two the OS started behaving badly and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I'll admit I was in a hurry to get the new system up and running, and I didn't keep track of what I installed when, I didn't create restore points, and I didn't test the system after each install. Silly me.... So, back to square one: I wiped the hard drive myself and reinstalled XP, and began the arduous task of installing hardware and software correctly. I created a restore point before each install, I rebooted and tested the system after each install, and I kept a running list of what I installed at each point. Instead of two days, this "best practice" process took me about four days -- at which point everything started behaving flaky again. After some investigation, reverting to restore points, reinstalling some things yet again, I determined that the Microtek driver for the scanner was crashing XP.

I clicked on over to the Microtek website only to discover that they did not support Windows XP on this particular scanner; I guess their developers were too bloody lazy to update the Windows ME driver -- but I bet they sure would like to sell me a new scanner that works under Windows XP! What we call built-in obsolescence! Well, if I'm going to have to dump a perfectly good, working scanner to buy a new one that works with Windows XP, I certainly will not give any more money to Microtek. You would think these corp. idiots would learn....

Xcanex open box
So after some research I purchased a Canon CanoScan 4200F flatbed scanner -- which is even better than the Microtek and has served me far longer. The beauty of this CanoScan is the hinged lid that allows you to place an open book face down on the glass and still be able to place the lid on the book. I used this scanner with Nuance's OmniPage Professional -- first OmniPage Pro 12, then I upgraded to 14, then 16, then 17, and finally 18. (Note: Version 18 has a lot of glitches at startup which Nuance has simply refused to address (or even respond to on their own community forum) since they've now moved on to an even bigger and better version -- and because of this, my days of upgrading have ceased with version 18. These tech companies can really be a pain in the behind.) I've been using one version or another of OmniPage Pro and the CanoScan scanner for nearly ten years. The scanner has performed flawlessly.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Received... Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely FineBack in February, I wrote about working on Daryl Gregory's "sharp-edged" novella We Are All Completely Fine -- and even included a very brief excerpt from the story in order to make my point.

As I said, that was earlier (you can read that blog post here) -- and this is now: We Are All Completely Fine is available ahead of schedule direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or your preferred retail bookseller.

In fact, I can think of no other active independent publisher that is consistently on schedule -- actually, ahead of schedule -- for every single book that they publish. That's Tachyon Publications. (And, Gawd bless them, they pay on time, too -- every single time! And have done so, since 2002, when I worked on that very first book for them. Writers, keep that in mind when you are considering your next novella, novel, or collection submission, and are looking for a quality publisher.)

If you are not familiar with Daryl Gregory's work, then We Are All Completely Fine is a good place to start; if you are a fan of his work, then I don't need to say anything further: you've most likely had this book on order since you first learned about it. In fact, I believe we'll be seeing this novella on many awards lists beginning in early 2015. Yes, he's that good.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tommy Ramone, January 29, 1949–July 11, 2014


Thomas Erdelyi -- better known by his stage name Tommy Ramone -- was a co-founder of the seminal punk band The Ramones and the last surviving member of the original group. The New York Times obituary.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Book Received...The Children of Old Leech Anthology

The Children of Old LeechWhen I first wrote about my involvement (here) in The Children of Old Leech anthology -- the newest title from publisher Word Horde -- I also recommended at the time that readers opt for the Deluxe Pack available direct from the publisher's web site. As only 100 numbered Deluxe Packs were made, they sold out fairly quickly. I'll post some of the items below, but keep this in mind in the future: When Word Horde offers a deluxe package for one of their books -- snag it!

The Children of Old Leech (TCoOL) isn't just another themed anthology. The book's subtitle is the reveal: "A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron." That previous blog post I mentioned above has some of my thoughts on Laird Barron and TCoOL as well as a list of the book's 17 stories. But a list of stories is just that: a list.

The truth, of course, is in the content: courtesy of publisher Ross E. Lockhart and the 19 TCoOL authors, the Word Horde web site will present a brief excerpt from each of the 17 stories, beginning with "The Harrow" by Gemma Files (on July 2) and continuing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over the next few weeks. So if you are still fence-sitting and haven't purchased a copy of TCoOL as yet, please do check out these mini excerpts from all 17 stories. But, lest we forget, it's the mind -- and writing -- of Laird Barron that provided the inspiration for these stories.

Back to the TCoOL goodies: if you had ordered the Deluxe Pack, you would have received a numbered "chapbook" by Paul Tremblay entitled "Notes for 'The Barn in the Wild.'" The story is a "found notebook" story -- and the chapbook is comprised of the notebook pages themselves.


My copy is not numbered but is rather a "PC" copy -- a Presentation Copy that I received as one of the book's contributors. Now here's a behind-the-scenes peek at the publisher hand-assembling the chapbook:


The Deluxe Pack also came with a Word Horde bookplate signed by both TCoOL editors, Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele:

The hand holding the book is courtesy
of Ross E. Lockhart. Thanks, Ross!

Other goodies included bookmarks, stickers, and postcards....And, to top it off, the Deluxe Pack also included an ebook edition of the anthology, in the reader's format of choice.