Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pat Cadigan's Story Is One of the Best

Strahan Best SFF 5I am pleased to announce that Pat Cadigan's short story, "The Taste of Night," originally published in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, from Daw Books, June 2010), will be included in Jonathan Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five (which, by the way, I will also be copyediting), to be published by Night Shade Books in March 2011.

"The Taste of Night," along with five other stories from IAOT?, has previously been posted on this blog in its entirety. The following link will take you to the main IAOT? page, from which you can access all six stories as well as additional details on the anthology. If, however, you just wish to read Pat Cadigan's story at this time, you can click here: "The Taste of Night."

If you haven't read this story yet -- and why haven't you? -- please take the time to do so. Now. Please.

[Pat: You are awesome! -- me]

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Redux: Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention

In a previous blog post on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention, I made the following statement:
At the awards ceremony on Sunday, Michael [Moorcock] and wife Linda -- given their attire and the way they presented themselves -- reminded me of musicians John and Christine McVie. If you are familiar with the British rock band Fleetwood Mac, then you'll understand exactly what I mean. I intend no disrespect whatsoever with this comparison; I'm a huge fan of early Fleetwood Mac (before and after Peter Green), and I have great respect for Michael Moorcock, and I can always count on a good read whenever I pick up one of his stories. I realize this comparison isn't much in the overall scheme of things, but it gave me a good chuckle at the time and thus was a memorable moment at the convention, particularly when I shared my thoughts with those seated at the table with me. Anyhow, you be the judge:

John McVie and Christine McVie photographs courtesy of

I then went on to state that I was unable to obtain an actual photograph of the Moorcocks from that World Fantasy Convention and, unfortunately, I had to link to a photo from another time period, to include for comparison. Well, this lack of a photo has now been rectified. I received an email recently from Rachel Bloom, an editorial intern with Locus magazine. Rachel kindly provided me with a jpeg of a photo of the Moorcocks from the convention. The photo -- taken by renowned sf/f photographer Beth Gwinn -- originally appeared on page 35 of the January 2001 issue of Locus as part of the report on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention. The photograph appears here with the most kind permission of Ms. Gwinn.

As I said in that previous post, "the McVie photos are from decades earlier, but I still think the comparison is very cool."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Have Alien Contact

Well, sort of.... "Alien Contact" is the working title for my reprint short fiction anthology, which has been sold to Night Shade Books for publication as a trade paperback in November 2011.

The purpose of this blog post is to solicit recommendations of "alien contact" stories that were previously published within the last 30 or so years. The oldest story I've listed in the database -- link provided below -- is from 1971. (I know, I know, that's nearly 40 years ago, but, hey, it's Stephen King!) Stories must be a maximum of 40,000 words (novella length). Keep in mind, however, that few novellas will be included in the anthology due to word count limitations. Please, no novels.

I have been gathering stories for this project for quite some time; in fact, I began my initial inquiries more than two years ago. If you have previously responded to my queries regarding this project, then hopefully you will find that your entry(s) is in the database already. The list numbers more than 100 stories -- so please check the database first to see if your story recommendation has been added before entering any data below.

I have far more stories already than I can possibly include in the anthology, so the purpose of this solicitation is to find those uniquely intriguing alien contact stories I may have overlooked. If you are a writer, you are welcome to recommend your own previously published work. As you can see from the current data, a number of authors have personally recommended their own stories to me.

I don't recall any Philip K. Dick stories that concern alien contact, but if you know of one, please comment below and add the story to the database. Thanks in advance.

Here is the link to the current listing: Alien Contact Reprint Story Database.

The listing was initially sorted by author's first name; new entries will be added to the bottom of the list.

If you don't find your recommendation in the existing database: Enter as much information about the story as possible. If all you know is the author and title, that's fine. Regarding the length of the story: if you don't know if it is a novella, novelette, or short story, just mark "short fiction" (this being the generic catch-all for those three categories).

On December 15, the entry form will be removed from this blog post. If you come upon this post on or after December 15, you can always leave a story recommendation within the Comment section below. I'm notified via email whenever a comment is posted to this blog.

(My thanks to John Joseph Adams for laying the groundwork -- at least for me -- for the use of Google Docs to create this response-gathering form and spreadsheet.)

* * * * *

If you want to read the classic "alien contact" stories -- such as Murray Leinster's "First Contact" (the story in which the term "first contact" was originally coined, I believe) or Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey," to name but two -- I direct you to The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964, edited by Robert Silverberg. Or any number of other anthologies of classic SF, because these stories have been widely reprinted over the years, and the volumes are easily obtainable, if not through your local library, then via or other secondary markets.

I'm hoping that a collection of contemporary "alien contact" stories will motivate readers new to this material to seek out more such stories, including the classics.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Realms of Fantasy Magazine Rises Yet Again

In true zombie-like fashion, Realms of Fantasy magazine -- thought to be defunct with the publication online of the December issue -- has found a new owner/publisher, Damnation Books, and will arise once more. This means that writers of fantasy fiction still have RoF as a pro market for their short stories. And I will hopefully be able to continue working for the magazine as I have for the past eight issues. Here's the official word(s):

Press Release

Warren Lapine
Kim Richards
(707) 543-6227

2:00 P.M.PST, November 8, 2010

Damnation Books LLC buys Realms of Fantasy Magazine

Warren Lapine, publisher of Realms of Fantasy Magazine and Kim Richards Gilchrist, CEO and co-owner of Damnation Books LLC announce the sale of Realms of Fantasy Magazine to Damnation Books LLC.

Fans of the largest fantasy magazine in the world will be pleased to know the December 2010 issue will go to print with the new ownership publishing the February 2011 issue. All subscriptions already paid for will be honored.

Future plans include continuing to produce the same quality fiction magazine in print and to expand digital editions for ebook and desktop readers. The April 2011 issue will be themed 'dark fantasy' to coincide with World Horror Convention 2011 where Damnation Books will be hosting a party, and a booth in the dealer's area.

The June 2011 issue is the 100th issue of Realms of Fantasy Magazine. Plans for a larger 'birthday bash' issue are already in place to celebrate this milestone.

Effective immediately, the magazine is reopening to submissions. Information for submitting stories and art can be found on the Realms of Fantasy website at Advertising inquiries can also find information on the website or by writing to Realms of Fantasy.

The new mailing address is:

Realms of Fantasy
P.O. Box 1208
Santa Rosa, California 95402

Damnation Books LLC, publishes dark fiction as Damnation Books. They also own and operate Eternal Press, which is more romance and mainstream fiction. Please direct questions to Kim Richards Gilcrist at

Realms of Fantasy

Damnation Books LLC


Friday, November 5, 2010

Catherynne M. Valente: Remixing Prester John

The Habitation of the BlessedAt Readercon in July, I had the pleasure of meeting -- and chatting with -- Catherynne M. Valente. You might recognize her name as the author of the novel Palimpsest (a city that is also a "sexually transmitted disease"), a finalist for the 2010 Hugo Award. In Palimpsest, November, one of the four protagonists in the story, recalls briefly her favorite book as a child, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. After the publication of Palimpsest, in 2009, when income became a necessity, Cat turned that children's book into an actual full-length, crowd-funded novel, which she published -- one chapter a week -- online. The novel has since been acquired by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, for publication in 2011.

Meeting Cat Valente at Readercon turned out to be most propitious because shortly thereafter Night Shade Books assigned me the project to proof, line edit, and copyedit her forthcoming novel: The Habitation of the Blessed -- subtitled: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One.

In 1165, a Letter of Prester John appeared throughout Europe. According to Wikipedia [I know... I know....] the letter was supposedly written to Emperor Immanuel Comnenus of Constantinople by Prester John, "descendant of one of the Three Magi and King of India. The many marvels of richness and magic it contained captured the imagination of Europeans, and it was translated into numerous languages....It circulated in ever more embellished form for centuries in manuscripts, a hundred examples of which still exist. The invention of printing perpetuated the letter's popularity in printed form; it was still current in popular culture during the period of European exploration. Part of the letter's essence was that a lost kingdom of Nestorian Christians still existed in the vastnesses of Central Asia." Cat Valente's novel opens with this letter, and then the author expands upon, remakes, and remixes the essence of this letter into one of the more unique stories -- and uniquely written stories -- that I have had the pleasure to read in a very long time. The fact that I also had the opportunity to work with the author on this book made it doubly rewarding.

The kingdom of Prester John is inhabited by strange beings such as the amyctryae ("whose mouths jut from their skulls and provide a deep bowl in which they brew all manner of things"), the astomii (who "have no mouths, but eat scent from the air itself"), the blemmyae (who "carry their faces in their chests and have no heads as men do"), the cametenna (who "have hands like boulders, but their fingers are deft"), and the panotii ("their great and silken ears drawn over their bodies like mourning veils"). And a great tree that bears books as its fruit, and from the fragments and remains of this fruit, we learn the story of Prester John, as told by Brother Hiob von Luzern, who happened upon this land during his missionary work in the Himalayas in 1699.

In a recent guest blog post on John Scalzi's "The Big Idea," Cat Valente states emphatically that The Habitation of the Blessed "is a science fiction novel." Included among the many points she makes is this one, on science: "It is a story rooted in science -- just not 21st century science. The series takes as a given that every legend and folktale concerning Prester John was true, including the Fountain of Youth, which came into Western myth with this very letter, and the various grotesque monsters which may or may not have been allegories for human failings, but here are given serious considerations as races and cultures with their own deep histories. So too Ptolemaic cosmology is taken wholly seriously, with the Crystalline Spheres a hard fact of the world. How this world changes into and acquired the physics of our own is part of the long game of the series." You can read more on Cat's Big Idea, which also includes a video entitled "Prester John: International Man of Mystery" -- the legend of Prester John as told by action figures. The vid, and more, can also be found on Prester John Online.

I was going to provide a snippet from the Publishers Weekly review of The Habitation, and then point you to the review itself, but it appears that the review tends to shift pages, because the link I have no longer points to the correct page. So, I'll just quote the brief review in its entirety here:

The Habitation of the Blessed:
A Dirge for Prester John, Vol. 1

Catherynne M. Valente, Night Shade, $14.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-59780-199-7

In 1165, a letter ostensibly written by the distant Christian king Prester John describing a kingdom of wonders rocked medieval Europe. In this enchanting retelling of the legend, the first volume in a projected trilogy, Hugo nominee Valente (Palimpsest) imagines what might have been discovered by Rome's ambassadors if the letter had not been a hoax. Nothing is quite as fabulous as the pious priests had hoped. Prester John and St. Thomas the Twin married nonhuman women; the Fountain of Youth does not sparkle, but instead "oozes thick and oily, globbed with algae and the eggs of improbable mayflies." Three very different personalities narrate: the brooding Prester John himself; his carefree and openhearted wife, the blemmye Hagia; and maternal Imtithal of the elephant-eared panotii. Filled with lyrical prose and fabled creatures, this languorous fairy tale is as captivating as Prester John's original letter.(Dec.)

As the PW review states, The Habitation of the Blessed is the first volume of a trilogy, and I'm hopeful I'll have the good fortune to be able to work with the author on volumes two and three as well. The Habitation will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about novels in the months ahead, and will assuredly appear on multiple award lists next year.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Richard Bausch: The case against writing manuals.

Reading through my Facebook News Feed this morning, I came upon an entry from Bud Webster, who wrote: "This is one of the single ballsiest, most dead-on and cogent articles on writing (and how NOT to do it) that I've ever read." Bud linked to an article in today's The Atlantic, by Richard Bausch, entitled "How to Write in 700 Easy Lessons," and subtitled: "The case against writing manuals." Bud added this additional comment about Richard Bausch: "Amongst other things, he is the author of The Fireman's Wife and Other Stories, and [currently serves as] The Moss Chair of Excellence in the Writing Program at the University of Memphis. Trust me, this guy has chops like nobody else has chops, and knows whereof he speaks."

With an intro like that, I not only had to read the article, I also assumed it would be a great link to tweet and to include in my monthly Links & Things post. But, until I read the article, I couldn't fully appreciate what the author had to say about writing; this is an article that every novice writer, and even newly published writers, should read. I'm going to quote one paragraph from the lengthy article, but you won't understand the significance of this particular quote unless you read the entire piece.

"Finally, a word about this kind of instruction: it is always less effective than actually reading the books of the writers who precede you, and who are contemporary with you. There are too many 'how-to' books on the market, and too many would-be writers are reading these books in the mistaken idea that this will teach them to write. I never read such a book in my life, and I never will. What I know about writing I know from having read the work of the great writers. If you really want to learn how to write, do that. Read Shakespeare, and all the others whose work has withstood time and circumstance and changing fashions and the assaults of the ignorant and the bigoted; read those writers and don’t spend a lot of time analyzing them. Digest them, swallow them all, one after another, and try to sound like them for a time. Learn to be as faithful to the art and craft as they all were, and follow their example. That is, wide reading and hard work. One doesn’t write out of some intellectual plan or strategy; one writes from a kind of beautiful necessity born of the reading of thousands of good stories poems plays… One is deeply involved in literature, and thinks more of writing than of being a writer. It is not a stance."

— Richard Bausch

Monday, November 1, 2010

October Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of October's Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. But in these month-end posts, in addition to the links themselves, I include more detail and comments. Note, too, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these posts.

  • If you read short fiction, then you are most likely aware that, early last year, Sovereign Media ceased publishing Realms of Fantasy magazine. Warren Lapine and Tir Na Nog Press then purchased the rights to RoF and, after a few months hiatus, resumed publication with the August 2009 issue. I copyedited the next eight issues -- from October 2009 through December 2010, which has since become the magazine's final issue -- yet again, unfortunately. Warren Lapine has posted a Farewell Message explaining the magazine's demise. There are rumors of interested parties, one of whom may inevitably purchase RoF, but only time will tell if we will ever see another new issue. In the meantime, through the courtesy of the publisher, you can view/download the December 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy. If you're not familiar with this magazine, I think you'll be surprised at the quality of the material, particularly the short stories. Enjoy! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank editor Doug Cohen: he respects his staff, which is most important, and every other month I could always count on the next issues' files arriving in my inbox on the specified date.

  • Sheila Finch's novel Reading the Bones was the first major freelance project I worked on for Tachyon Publications. The book, published in 2003, was an expansion of Sheila's Nebula Award-winning novella of the same name, originally published in the January 1998 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The novella is part of the author's Xenolinguist (aka "lingster") series of stories. The online Oxford English Dictionary (OED), credits Sheila with coining the term "xenolinguist" in 1988. Read more of the Xenolinguist series in her recent blog post: "The Evolution of a (Fictitious) Universe."

  • During my one year as an acquiring editor for Fantastic Books, two of my acquired titles saw publication: Judith Moffett's long-out-of-print first novel Pennterra, and gonzo novel Fuzzy Dice by Paul Di Filippo, which had been previously published only as a limited edition by a British small press. [Note: I use the cover of FD as my icon for both Twitter and Fasebook.] John Berlyne has a review of Fuzzy Dice in the October issue of SFRevu: "Where he is most successful is in his depiction of abstract and/or abstruse ideas. He is able to convey these illustrative situations without straying into the surreal and it is a testament to Di Filippo's skill and imagination that he is able to share his visions with the reader with such extraordinary clarity."
  • Before you start whining about all your rejection letters, about the fact that you're not some hugely popular author, you just might want to read Robert "Bob" Weinberg's account of his experiences in publishing and why Hellfire: Plague of Dragons may just be the best damn dragon art book you will never see.