Monday, January 24, 2011

David Langford's Story Is Also One of the Best

I received an email from David Langford, informing me that his short story "Graffiti in the Library of Babel" will be included in the Year's Best SF 16 anthology, which is co-edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, and forthcoming from HarperCollins/EOS in May. No cover art is available as yet, but the book can now be preordered.

"Graffiti in the Library of Babel" was originally published in Is Anybody Out There? -- an anthology of original stories on the Fermi Paradox -- which I co-edited with Nick Gevers, and was published by Daw Books in June 2010.

Six stories, including "Graffiti in the Library of Babel," have previously been posted on this blog in their entirety. If you are new to More Red Ink, the following link will take you to the main IAOT? page from which you can access all six stories, plus details on the book's genesis, reviews, and information pertaining to the Fermi Paradox and the SETI program. Or, if you just wish to read David Langford's story at this time, you can click here: "Graffiti in the Library of Babel."

And if you haven't read "Graffiti..." please do so; it's a wonderful story of alien contact via a library's database.

And now that the nominating has begun for the 2011 Hugo Awards, please do consider the stories included in Is Anybody Out There? In addition to David Langford's story being accepted for the Hartwell and Cramer Year's Best SF 16, Pat Cadigan's story, "The Taste of Night" -- also from Is Anybody Out There? -- was accepted for both Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection and Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 5 -- which I also blogged about and you'll find links to these as well on the IAOT? page.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Liz Williams's The Iron Khan -- First Review

The Iron KhanIf you are a fan of the Detective Inspector Chen series by UK author Liz Williams, and you've been eagerly awaiting the publication of book 5 in the series, The Iron Khan (print edition), then your wait is -- Finally! -- over, thanks to the amazing efforts of the folks at Morrigan Books.

The Iron Khan trade paperback edition is currently in stock at via CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Morrigan also has plans for a limited hardcover edition to be available through Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. I have no additional information on the limited edition at this time, but I will post further details as soon as I have them.

The first review of The Iron Khan (at least the first review that I am aware of) has appeared. What's intriguing about this review can be summed up by a comment Liz Williams made in a recent post on her LiveJournal: "...reviewers often (as in this case) pick up on themes which were not intentional/subconscious, but which nonetheless seem to have emerged as dominant."

The review appears in Strange Horizons, and is penned by Kelly Jennings, who does double duty by reviewing the previous DI Chen title, The Shadow Pavilion, alongside The Iron Khan. Jennings writes:
In The Shadow Pavilion, Lord Lady Seijin, a dual-souled (one soul is male, the other female) immortal assassin, has been hired to assassinate Mhara, the new Emperor of Heaven. Having taken the throne, Mhara at once begins making changes. Some of Mhara's subjects welcome these changes. Others do not....

This theme -- both that change can be good, and that it will be resisted, often violently -- is the common thread running through both novels. With such a topic, the slide into cliché would be easy: simple villains opposing good, simple heroes charging the barricades. Williams resists that lure, writing situations to demonstrate that change in itself is neither good nor bad....

[In The Iron Khan] every plot movement from the opening pages turns on change. Indeed, we begin to see, reading this text, how throughout the series every relationship has turned on changes in social and spiritual attitudes, which have made possible bonds which were previously forbidden.... There is, further, the matter of Inari’s pregnancy -- her child, still unborn at the end of The Iron the reincarnation of Lord Lady Seijin, who was the enemy of Heaven throughout the previous novel; the enemy, also, of Inari and Chen. Not only does this suggest a major change for Seijin -- that the villain can change -- but consider what it says about Chen and Inari: their enemy will be their child, whom they will raise up and love. Is this not the definition of true change?...

At the end of The Iron Khan, Inari’s child, forecast to bring some major change to Heaven and Earth and all the several Hells, is about to be born. Considering who the child was and what he/she has been up to, even before birth, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

I've you've not read the Detective Inspector Chen series, then hopefully this review will give you just a wee taste of what you've been missing -- a series that is in a class all by itself. Please do read the full review on Strange Horizons. And yes, I'm prejudiced about the DI Chen series: I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work (as editor) with Liz Williams on all five titles.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

E-Paper: A Precursor to Protean Paper

In my previous blog post on "accidental plagiarism," I included the full text of the story "How to be a Fictionaut, Chapter 19: Safety Check" by Ian Watson; the story was originally published in the April 1996 issue of Interzone. And if you hang in there with me on this blog post, you'll find the text of yet another story included in its entirety.

I was going to include the following entry in my month-end Links & Things, but I decided, instead, to dedicate an entire blog post to the subject....

As reported in the Asian journal Tech-On!, Sony Corp exhibited a 13.3-inch flexible electronic paper (e-paper) device at Eco-Products 2010, a trade show on green technologies held in Tokyo, December 9-11, 2010. This was the first time that the e-paper device had been displayed publicly. Sony evidently had little to say of this new device. However, Alan Henry, in an article for, writes: "The [device] is designed to be a prototype for a gadget that could display images and text in high resolution and possibly someday replace traditional paper in a thin, flexible, and portable way.... Sony also didn't note whether the technology would be coming to any future product, but we can assume they wouldn't put it on display if they weren't thinking about it." Alan states in the article that he used to work in lab "helping design and test thin-film circuitry" that could be used to create "flexible displays that could be mounted on clothing or on other malleable surfaces like backpacks or briefcases."

The Silver GryphonSony's e-paper, and Alan Henry's comment about flexible displays mounted on surfaces like backpacks and briefcases, all reminded me of a story by Paul Di Filippo entitled "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" This story was Paul's contribution to anthology The Silver Gryphon, which I co-edited with publisher Gary Turner (Golden Gryphon Press, 2003). The Silver Gryphon marked the twenty-fifth book -- as in the silver (25th) anniversary -- from the press and included contributions from all the authors who comprised the first twenty-four books. These authors included Kevin J. Anderson, Kage Baker, Michael Bishop, Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, James Patrick Kelly, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Reed, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop, and others -- 20 authors/20 stories, with cover art by Thomas Canty.1

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 Year End Links & Things

I completed two hard-deadline projects the first week in January, which is why you're reading my December Links & Things in this, the second week of the new year. The first project, working on the PDF layout for the February issue of Realms of Fantasy, is the subject of my previous blog post in which I shared some of the problems I encountered using the new Adobe Reader X. My second project was the new Darger and Surplus novel Dancing with Bears -- which I reviewed and copyedited -- by Michael Swanwick and forthcoming in May from Night Shade Books. And as I type this, the fifteen manuscript files for the April Realms of Fantasy have just arrived in my Inbox.

This is my monthly, though occasionally late, wrap-up of Links & Things; you can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern. Note, however, that not all of my tweeted links make it into these month-end posts.

  • Paul Di Filippo, one of the contributing authors to my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? brought to my attention this BBC News article: "Why haven't we found aliens yet?" by Alex Hudson. The article covers most of the basic theories, and people, that are oft-quoted on this subject -- except this one: "Philosophy Professor Nick Bostrom, of Oxford University, has even posed the question whether humans are living in a computer simulation created by beings with a superior intellect. In this model, other beings would not be created within that programme." Interesting thought, that we are residing in some greater beings' virtual Earth....
  • The classic "psychic warrior" novel Dream Baby -- one of the best war novels I have ever read -- written by my friend, author Bruce McAllister, is finally back in print from CreateSpace. One of the book's blurbs is from James Sandos, Intelligence Officer, US Air Force, Southeast Asia: "Dream Baby captures the combat experience as few novels do and unmasks our 'secret war' -- the one that still hasn't really been revealed. This is one of the few Vietnam novels that will last." Check out this book if you haven't yet read it. The novel is based on the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-nominated novella of the same name.
  • So, you think that as a writer and blogger you're all alone in the world? Well, you're really not alone, per se, just by yourself. Josh Duboff at The Awl shares with us his experiences in "The Night Blogger Blogs Alone." Josh writes: "One thing that happens is that you stop speaking altogether. One Thursday afternoon, shifting between various gchats -- all with friends bored in their cubicles at offices across the city -- I realized that I hadn’t said a word out loud in close to 18 hours. So I said 'test' out loud. For a split second, before the word came out, I was actually worried about whether or not I was still able to speak. After I found that I could, I then worried about the fact that I had been legitimately worried about this." (via @Mediabistro)
  • And speaking of blogging, Warren Whitlock's Best Seller Book Marketing blog has a guest post by Denise Wakeman entitled "13 Mistakes Authors Make on Their Blogs." Denise breaks out the 13 mistakes into three categories: Content, Design, and Marketing. She adds: "I've discovered several common mistakes authors make with their blogs. Most aren't using features available with blogging software. Eyes glaze over with the mention of RSS, pinging, trackbacks and permalinks. Does this describe how you feel? You may be ignoring these things, hoping you don’t really need to know. But you do if you want great results from you book blog." (via @WarrenWhitlock by way of @BookBuzzr)
  • If you've read Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction then you'll be familiar with the concept of "Fred" -- if not, then you need to read this "Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction" (that's the subtitle, by the way), like now! -- then you'll enjoy Jonathan Danz's (@JonathanDanz) blog post entitled "Working with Fred" wherein the author briefly quotes from Knight's book and also Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Adobe Reader X Gotcha

I completed my review and copyedit of the layout PDF for the February issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine; this will be the first issue under new owners Damnation Books.

I had just installed Adobe Reader X (aka Version 10), which complicated the process, because I had never used this version before for editing. I had worked about three hours on the layout, highlighting many (many) words and sections of text and, where appropriate, inserting comments; highlighting and comments are new with Reader X. At one point I saved my work but it appeared that Reader had crashed: the entire Save screen had grayed out, and there was no moving hourglass, no "working" text, no "saving" text; nothing to indicate that the app was indeed doing its thing correctly. So after about fifteen or so seconds of this, I hit the ole Ctrl-Alt-Delete sequence of keys and killed the program. I reopened the file and all my work was gone; I was looking at the original unmarked PDF; three hours at least of work lost. I tried various combinations of Save, like saving under a new file name, but the Save screen continued to go all gray. Finally I tried another Save and decided to just let the app run its course, with hopes that a Reader-specific error message would appear that I could research. After more than thirty seconds the all-gray Save screen closed and all was well with the world; the PDF had been saved. No problems, no errors, no crash.

It turns out that the only real problem here is the poorly designed Adobe Reader X user interface (UI) -- and the fact that the Save process takes exceedingly long. Had I been given some kind of indication that the program was working, I wouldn't have killed the file and lost all my work. (Plus, I tend to be impatient, alas....) Granted, I should have Saved the work earlier, so that's on me; yet I still don't understand why the built-in autosave didn't work, and why there was no autosaved file to restore.

The other issue I have with Reader X is that the user cannot customize the toolbar. So I do a lot of advanced searches and every time I need to do this, I must use the Edit menu to select Advanced Search, or enter the key combination Shift-Ctrl-F -- not an easy combination of keys to select in that order with one hand.

Bottom line: user beware; this is a heads up on the Save process should you upgrade to Adobe Reader X, and also to be prepared for the not-so-friendly UI.

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