Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Locus 2010 Year in Review - Anthologies

In a previous blog post, I wrote that my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers, Daw Books, June 2010) had made the Locus 2010 Recommended Reading List (RRL).

I observed after the RRL was posted, that there was mixed feelings from those whose work appeared on the list. Many, like myself, were pleased/excited/grateful/overwhelmed (select appropriate word depending on the individual's emotional level at the time) whereas others couldn't have cared less.

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share some thoughts as to why I was pleased upon learning that IAOT? was on the list.

Since I no longer subscribe to Locus magazine1, Felicity Shoulders, one of the contributors to the anthology, graciously provided me with all the relevant information in the February 2011 issue.

Here is Locus's introduction to the Anthologies category for the 2010 year in review:

We're recommending a total of 19 anthologies, down from last year's 26. We received 121, up from last year's 101. [FULL DISCLOSURE: People on our reviewing panel have edited some of these anthologies. They were not allowed to vote for their own books and received no special treatment.]

We split the anthologies in the way we list them, though not in the voting, between original, reprint, and Year's Best categories.

Original anthologies are the most important in that they are a major source of new short fiction. This year's 9 is a significant drop from last year's 13.

— Francesca Myman & Amelia Beamer

Nineteen recommended anthologies out of 121 received: that's less than 16% of the total -- and that total represents 20 more anthologies than were considered last year. So more anthologies were received this year than last, and yet only 9 original anthologies have been recommended over last year's 13 recommended titles. I realize I'm simply reiterating what Locus stated above, but I'm trying to emphasize my point here: Is Anybody Out There? is one of these 9 original anthologies -- the only mass market paperback -- and is listed among such heavyweights as The Way of the Wizard (John Joseph Adams), The Beastly Bride (Datlow & Windling), Black Winds (S. T. Joshi), Warriors (George R. R. Martin), Godlike Machines (Jonathan Strahan), and Swords & Dark Magic (Strahan & Lou Anders), among others -- and this is just the original category and doesn't include the year's best volumes and other reprint anthologies.

So, yes, I'm pleased that IAOT? was recognized by the powers that be at Locus, such that the anthology was included in the RRL. My hope is that more readers will learn about the anthology through Locus -- and Locus online -- and consider reading the stories contained therein.

Of course, in the "year in review" columns, each reviewer chooses his/her own way of recognizing any particular title. Sometimes the book garners a complete sentence, more often a phrase within a sentence, and occasionally the book is listed as merely one of a number of titles that the reviewer acknowledges. With that in mind, here is what each individual reviewer had to say about my co-edited anthology:

Francesca Myman & Amelia Beamer: "The search for intelligent alien life is examined in Is Anybody Out There?, edited by Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern (DAW): from Paul McAuley's introduction: 'the truth is likely to be far stranger than anything we can imagine and that's why it's important to imagine everything we can.'"

Gary K. Wolfe: "Other anthologies, usually theme-based, seemed designed to see what writers could do with some of the field's most time-tested conventions:...first contact (Is Anybody Out There?, Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern)...."

Gardner Dozois: "Is Anybody Out There?, edited by Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern, featured good work by Pat Cadigan, Jay Lake, Alex Irvine, Matthew Hughes, and others."

Jonathan Strahan: "These were not the only worthwhile anthologies of 2010, though. I also happily recommend...Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern's Is Anybody Out There?..."

Rich Horton: "DAW cut its schedule of original anthologies quite a bit in 2010 -- of those that appeared, the clear winner is Is Anybody Out There?, edited by Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern, an anthology of Fermi Paradox stories."

This last entry is from Locus online, Lois Tilton's 2010 Short Fiction Reviews in Review:

The "Fermi Paradox" anthology Is Anybody Out There? had David Langford's neat "Graffiti in the Library of Babel."

So there you have it. The Locus 2010 Year in Review as it pertains to anthologies, and specifically IAOT?

If you are new to this blog:
Right below the More Red Ink header logo at the top of the blog, you'll find a tab entitled "Is Anybody Out There?" that leads directly to a dedicated page. This page links to and summarizes all my blog posts on the anthology. Amongst these blog posts you will find the complete text to six of the stories included in the anthology -- the stories by Michael Arsenault, Pat Cadigan, Sheila Finch, Jay Lake, David Langford, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take the time to read these stories, either now or later. But if you've gotten this far and wish to check out the stories now, here's the page link. Enjoy!


1 I subscribed to Locus for more than 20 years, but increasing philosophical differences with the magazine's content and disagreement with how the Locus Awards were managed compelled me to allow my subscription to expire a few years ago; nevertheless, this in no way detracts from my appreciation of and respect for the magazine's (and staff's) dedication and contributions to the sf/f/h communities. When I have requested information and photographs from Locus, over the years, for use on dust jackets and in this blog, the staff has always been forthcoming, for which I am grateful.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Writer's Knowledge Base

Writer's Knowledge BaseYou may have noticed the Writer's Knowledge Base badge in the right frame of my blog... in between the Google Search field and my Facebook icon; it's been there for a few weeks now.

The Writer's Knowledge Base (WKB) is a joint project between a mystery writer and a software engineer: Elizabeth Spann Craig and Mike Fleming, respectively.

Elizabeth states, in a blog post dated January 25, that when she did a Google search for "POV," the "top sites returned are for a video that PBS made (which isn't on writing POV), a couple definitions by Wikipedia (several of which have to do with automobiles), a racy YouTube video, and some freeware." So she asked herself, What does an author do when Google isn't enough?

Elizabeth goes on to explain how this "Search Engine for Writers" came about and where she gets her sources for the links and information. She (@elizabethscraig) first started tweeting the information and links that she found, but unfortunately not all writers are on Twitter. Then she started sharing the links weekly on her blog, but the links weren't easily searchable. Until, that is, Mike worked with the links that Elizabeth provided him -- links from over 1,500 blogs, and counting -- and created the Writer's Knowledge Base: a free resource "enabling writers to access information that would help them write better books and articles."

Elizabeth quotes Mike Fleming in her blog post, and I'm going to do likewise; even if you choose not to read her blog, you should read this brief quote from Mike to understand how the WKB works:

The search is done instantly over thousands of writing-related articles ranging from character development to author promotion on social media. Unlike Google, all of the results are relevant to you as a writer. They may not all interest you, of course, but at least searching for "plot" will bring back articles on how to plot your story and not news articles on terrorist plots.

And in a follow-up blog post, Elizabeth answers a few questions about the search engine, like the types of content she includes: "I’m usually looking for craft-related, industry-related, social media, promo-related, or writing inspiration posts. I love posts that are easily skimmed (as opposed to a block of text--most writers are working with short amounts of time), have great content, and can be helpful to many writers."

So I decided to give the Writer's Knowledge Base search engine a test run. Recently I wrote a blog post in December on "style sheets," a subject near and dear to me as a book editor. I entered "style sheet" in the WKB search field, which provided 124 results. [Note: This test was done a week or so ago; I've just run the test again and was provided 127 results. That's a good sign, as it means new resources/links/information has since been added to the WKB.] The first result is (still) "Writing a series? Why you should use a style sheet." My blog post on style sheets is listed as the sixth entry. [Note: This has since changed; my post is now the ninth entry. The key reason is, though I used "style sheet" in the body of the blog post, it's not part of the title, which is: "Writing with Style (Sheets, That Is)." You know me, always one to have to write with a flair!]

Do check out both of Elizabeth's posts on the WKB for more details, and how to potentially include your blog posts in the search engine. If you are a writer and/or editor, be sure to bookmark the WKB, and take advantage of all the time and energy that Elizabeth and Mike have put into creating and refining this tool.

[Post to Twitter]Tweet This

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picasso on Art via Pablo Cortez

Another story that I've recently read, which I am seriously considering for my Alien Contact anthology (forthcoming from Night Shade Books in November), is "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song," by Ernest Hogan. See my previous blog post, "We Have Alien Contact," for background on this anthology, including a complete listing of the stories (so far) that have been submitted and/or recommended to me, in addition to stories that I myself have added to the list.

When I contacted Ernesto about a possible contribution to the anthology, here's what he had to say about "Guerrilla Mural...": "It's about a Chicano muralist/graffitist who turns out to be the person who breaks through to communicate (sort of) with telepathic microbes that live in Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Later I expanded it into my first novel Cortez on Jupiter."1 Sound intriguing? Indeed. "Guerrilla Mural..." involves art, and a Zulu, and Aztecs, and alien contact, and is written from the POV of a Chicano -- and is pure zany Ernest Hogan. The only other author with whom I can compare Hogan's writing would be Paul Di Filippo.

"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" was originally published in issue four of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine (Summer 1989), edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; this particular issue was devoted to "Science Fiction," as noted on the cover above. The graphic is a bit difficult to see/read because all the Pulphouse magazine covers were stamped using an iridescent ink, thus reflecting the light. (According to former Pulphouse publisher Dean Wesley Smith, the process is called "foil stamping.") Each issue of the magazine was published in an edition of 1,000 numbered trade hardcover copies and 250 signed (by all contributors) and numbered leatherbound copies. I bought a copy of the first issue (#19 of 1,000), liked what I read, and then subscribed; so all of my later editions have matching numbers: #71 of 1,000. The last volume, number twelve, was published in Fall 1993. Pulphouse Publishing just may have been the first press to self-publish at that time.

But back to "Guerrilla Mural..." Here's the protagonist in the middle of one of his rants:
Me, Pablo Cortez, infamous guerrilla muralist from the wild, crumbling concrete and stucco overgrowth of L.A. -- who refused to be absorbed into the decaying society I satirized in my work long after my fellow wall-defacers were caught, arrested and offered a chance to become honest artists who paint on neat, clean canvases that are displayed in sterile galleries, and bought by the affluent to show everybody how sensitive they are by what they choose to decorate their expensive, prestigious apartments with. I, who tattooed the Picasso quote, "PAINTING IS NOT DONE TO DECORATE APARTMENTS. IT IS AN INSTRUMENT OF WAR FOR ATTACK AND DEFENSE AGAINST THE ENEMY" on my own left arm with a felt-tip pen and a safety-pin. The guy who really meant it when he helped paint -- fast, so we could get it done and get the hell out of there before getting our heads busted -- Quetzalcoatl choking on smog, Uncle Sam holding up the heart of a draftee for the "disturbance" in South Africa (soon to be Zululand -- again) to the gaping jaws of a Biomechanoid War God, mutilated/spacesuited corpses and countless mass portraits of the ever-growing throngs of the homeless to decorate the featureless, empty walls of the blank architecture where Mr. and Ms. Los Angeles could see as they did the freeway boogie to work. Siquerios and Orozco and every spray-can wielding vato would’ve been proud!
Personally, I'm not much of an art aficionado; when I read the Picasso quote I immediately searched for it on the web -- and was shocked to learn that it was, indeed, a legitimate quote. Picasso dissing apartment art! Who woulda thought....

Ernest Hogan, the author of this story, and I go back a ways; he contributed an original story, "Coyote Goes Hollywood," to my co-edited Witpunk anthology, which was published by Four Walls Eight Windows in 2003. So when I was looking for a previously published, over-the-top "alien contact" story that involved another culture (Earth culture as opposed to alien culture), I immediately thought of Ernesto.

One final comment on Pulphouse Publishing:

My most prized set of books from them is The Collected Short Fiction of Robert Sheckley -- five slipcased volumes, signed by the author as well as the introducer of each volume. My set is #282 of 300. I haven't really thought about this set of books until now, so I did a web search just to see if there were any sets available "out there": I found a few hardcover sets like mine (the set was also published in trade paperback), ranging in price from $600.00 to a high of $1,240.00. Whew.

I bring up Robert Sheckley because if there ever was a witpunk, Sheckley is (was) it. And I have to believe that Sheckley's sardonic writing had a direct influence on both Ernest Hogan and Paul Di Filippo.


1 Unfortunately, Cortez on Jupiter has been out of print for quite some time; it was originally published as a mass market paperback by Tor Books in 1990. This is another example in which a midlist author's books have gone out print long before their time. I would suggest to Ernest Hogan that he consider releasing the book in a variety of eBook formats as well as print on demand (POD). There are a myriad of cost-effective resources now available to authors for eBook and POD publishing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sony Daily Edition eReader Goes High Calibre

[Updated August 15, 2012: See Comments below]

I "received" a Sony PRS-950 Daily Edition eReader for the holidays (it was on sale at the time at Best Buy). After much research, I found that the Daily Edition handles PDF files better than any other eReader, with the capability to split columns, and even display a two-page mode when in landscape. The eReader has Adobe Reader Mobile installed. Since I receive a lot of electronic submissions from authors, either as Word docs or as PDFs -- and I can convert any Word doc to a PDF1 -- the Daily Edition seemed the best fit. If viewing a PDF is important to you, and you're in the market for an eReader, then this video, which lasts a bit over 8 minutes, showcases the PDF capabilities of the Sony PRS-950. One caveat, however, regarding the contents of the video: the person demonstrating the device states that when you increase the font size of the PDF, the eReader will reflow the text. This is technically correct. However, the reflow will essentially split the line where necessary, regardless of word spacing; so the majority of lines will have a word cut, with the remainder of the word on the next line. This has been one of the most frustrating aspects of reading PDFs on the eReader. If I don't increase the font size, then the print is too small to read. If I increase the font size, then words are split at the end of nearly every line. My alternative is to read the PDF in landscape, which for some reason automatically increases the size of the font without splitting words. The caveat with this, though, is that it takes three landscape screens to view an actual page of text. Flicking your finger across the screen after only a few lines in order to move the text becomes tiresome when reading a very long file.

This eReader also has an improved e-ink display and better touchscreen capabilities than the slightly older PRS-900 model. And more: I can, if needed, highlight text within a story, look up a word in the internal dictionary, and even scrawl a basic note on a page with the included stylus.

I absolutely despise reading any content of length online/onscreen, so an eReader of one brand or another was at the top of my list of "wants." Whenever I want to read anything of length (say more than 3 pages or so), be it a short story, online magazine article, blog, whatever, I'm inclined to print out a hardcopy to read. Now, I have the eReader, which will hopefully allow me to be more mobile with my reading, and reduce a lot of the hardcopy.

My other reason for selecting the PRS-950 Daily Edition was its wireless access to a web browser, as well as apps like Gmail, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. During my reading, I often come upon something in the content that I want to look up or share with others, and the wireless capability of the PRS-950 would allow me to do that, especially if I'm mobile.

But, alas, this is where the PRS-950 fails. Sorry, Sony, but that's the truth! I tried the wireless option in one environment (my home) with AT&T wireless and in another environment (my daughter's home) with Comcast wireless. In both instances the PRS-950 continually dropped the connection, couldn't retain the connection, and would inevitably lead to a "DNS server" error every time. Once the eReader displays that nasty DNS error, there is no other option but to return to the "Home" screen and then access the app again and try to reconnect. Over and over and over....

I contacted Sony's online chat eSupport. The support person had me "reset" the eReader (which I had previously done on my own), rekey the wifi encryption code (which I had previously done on my own, which didn't make sense even then because I had a connection, the eReader just wouldn't hold it), and other such stuff, all of which I knew would make no difference whatsoever, but I played along anyhow. After a 20+ minute chat, the support person provided me with a case number, an 800 telephone number, and recommended that I call that number and request "level 5" support. I did. I was on hold for more than 35 minutes before my call was taken. The entire telephone call lasted just over 73 minutes. During that call, the support person literally took over control of my PC (after requesting my permission, of course) to check my wireless modem settings, etc. But I told him that the eReader demonstrated the same problem under two separate wireless environments so it couldn't be my AT&T modem settings, it had to be a problem with the eReader. Bottom line: Sony replaced the eReader. I provided a credit card number for security and received a new eReader within the week; I was required to return my defective eReader within 14 days (a return FedEx label was provided so there was no cost to me), otherwise my credit card would be charged for the eReader. No problem. The replacement and return went smoothly.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Beginning, No End...

I've been reading previously published stories for my Alien Contact anthology, to be published by Night Shade Books in November. This reading is an ongoing process amidst everything else I do, other deadlines that I have. See my previous blog post, "We Have Alien Contact," for background on this anthology, including a complete listing of the stories (so far) that have been submitted and/or recommended to me, in addition to stories that I myself have added to the list as well.

Currently I'm reading the novella-length story "Bradbury Weather" by Caitlín R. Kiernan, which was originally published in 2005 in Subterranean Magazine issue #2. The story is included in the author's science fiction collection, A Is for Alien, also published by Subterranean Press, in 2009. Caitlín recommended two stories to me that she felt would be appropriate for the anthology, and kindly provided me with a review copy of A Is for Alien in PDF format, which I am now able to read on my new Sony PRS-950 Daily Edition eReader. (I already have a blog post planned on the eReader and related issues.)

I don't recall ever quoting a fictional character in one of my blog posts, so this is probably a first. But I was so taken with a quote in the opening paragraph of "Bradbury Weather" that I had to post it here. The paragraph appears in a collection of proverbs written by an anonymous Gyuto monk; the book is in the possession of Dorry, the protagonist in the story:

No story has a beginning, and no story has an end. Beginnings and endings may be conceived to serve a purpose, to serve a momentary and transient intent, but they are, in their truer nature, arbitrary and exist solely as a construct of the mind of man." ― a Gyuto monk
So is the monk simply referring to the beginning and end of an actual story? Or is he referring to the story of one's life? Or am I just toying with some philosophical conundrum that really has no meaning whatsoever other than to occupy a few lines in the opening paragraph of a fictional story? Indeed, this is a quote from a fictional character in a work of fiction, but then again aren't these words, in some, albeit creative, way, spoken, or at least written, by the author herself?

By the way, the protagonist reads that one paragraph one last time, three pages before the end of "Bradbury Weather": "I open the book and read the words aloud again, the words underlined in red ink, that I might understand how not to lose my way in this tale which is almost all that remains of me."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is Anybody Out there? and the Locus 2010 Recommended Reading List

Since I'm obviously not in this business for the big bucks... (What, you ask? No big bucks? Sorry, no, but it's not that I wouldn't like big bucks!) ...I have to hope that my efforts at least -- and those of my contributing authors -- gain some recognition within the genre after the book is published. My anthology Is Anybody Out There? which I co-edited with Nick Gevers (Daw Books, 2010), has been selected as one of 9 original anthologies on the Locus 2010 Recommended Reading List. The list has just been officially posted today on Locus online.

All 8 of the other anthologies were either published in hardcover or trade paperback; and there are indeed some fine original anthologies on that list. I'm in the company of editors Lou Anders, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Gardner Dozois & George R. R. Martin, and Jonathan Strahan, to name just six. Whew! There is a lot of anthology fire power behind just those names alone.

Is Anybody Out There? is the only mass market paperback on that list. I believe this is due, in part, to two reasons: first, few publishers publish mass market paperback anthologies; and of those who do, the stories typically tend to be less substantial, with IAOT? fortunately being the obvious exception to the rule. So I wish to thank both Gardner Dozois and Rich Horton for reviewing IAOT? in Locus magazine. I'm certain that their detailed, concientious reviews had an impact on the anthology -- and three of the anthology's stories (see below) -- being included on the 2010 Recommended Reading List (hereafter known simply as The List). The links on Gardner's and Rich's names will lead you (eventually) to their respective reviews.

In addition to the anthology as a whole, three of the stories are included in the short story category on The List. All three stories were previously posted in their entirety on More Red Ink; I don't know if posting those stories for free here helped influence their inclusion on The List, but it obviously didn't hurt. What is sad is that none of the other stories made The List...

That said, the three stories are "The Taste of Night" by Pat Cadigan, "Permanent Fatal Errors" by Jay Lake, and "Graffiti in the Library of Babel" by David Langford. The links on the story titles will jump you to the individual stories themselves for your reading pleasure (assuming, of course, that you haven't already read them). I have a blog page set up for Is Anybody Out There? that includes links to three additional stories -- by Michael Arsenault, Sheila Finch, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- plus more reviews and news.

[Post to Twitter]Tweet This

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of January's 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. Hopefully, you find some value in what follows; and if you are new to my Links & Things blog entries, you may want to check out my previous posts: just look for the "Links and Things" tag in the right column of this blog. There are 26 previous blog posts.

  • The beauty of the internet... Where do people find these things? Lee Thomson has posted a PDF of Gene Roddenberry's "First Draft" dated March 11, 1964, of his original pitch for the Star Trek television series -- typos, warts, and all. Unless you are a very hardcore Trek freak, you probably didn't know that originally the captain was named Robert M. April, aboard the Yorktown; and "Mr. Spock" was to be the first lieutenant: with "a face so heavy-lidded and satanic you might almost expect him to have a forked tail. Probably half Martian, he has a slightly reddish complexion and semi-pointed ears." Many episodes are suggested, and if you are a fan of the show, you'll actually recognize a few of these. (via Robert Sawyer's Facebook post)
  • My friend, the author Andrew Fox, whose work includes Fat White Vampire Blues, Bride of the Fat White Vampire, and, most recently, The Good Humor Man (which I edited for Tachyon Publications), was interviewed in The Green Man Review. When Andrew was asked the following series of questions: "Do you read reviews or comments of your work? Do negative comments bother you? How do you suggest handling unfair public criticism?" -- he responded in part: "One of the early reviews of my most recently published book, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501, included some unfair (and I thought underhanded) criticisms, essentially tarring me with the 'R' word [Racism]....The more you protest, the deeper you end up rubbing the dirt into the carpet. As a satirist, I realize I’m going to come in for some holier-than-thou criticisms from readers who (a) don't get my sense of humor; (b) sense that I may lean in an opposite political direction from them; or (c) are looking for any excuse, no matter how small, to vent their righteous fury in print or pixels. So, rather than engage with that critic, I let it go...." Excellent interview.
  • In a recent blog post I wrote about Sony Corp's recent exhibit featuring a flexible electronic paper (e-paper) device. Well, Crunch Gear recently announced that Samsung had acquired display technology (aka e-paper) firm Liquavista BV. The article provides the full Samsung press release. I suspect e-ink displays will be replaced by e-paper devices at some point in the near future. (via @crunchgear)
  • Are you in the market for a new short story market? You may want to consider Realms of Fantasy magazine. On the Clarion Writers' Workshop blog, RoF editor Douglas Cohen provides some insights into getting published in the magazine. Granted, the magazine has had two new publishers in as many years, but no issues have been skipped since the previous owner's first issue, and the new owners, Damnation Books, have just sent their first issue (February 2011) to the printer. The April issue is on schedule; and the June issue will be 100 pages marking the magazine's 100th issue. (And yes, I am associated with RoF magazine.)
  • Author John C. Wright provides readers his "Patented One Session Lesson in the Mechanics of Fiction," which may be one of the best writing manuals, accomplished in a single, albeit lengthy, blog post, that I have ever read. According to John's intro, he put this "lesson" together for a friend who is a nonfiction writer and is toying with the idea of writing fiction. This friend couldn't have had a better instructor. This really is an awesome post on writing. You don't get a teaser/excerpt here from John's blog post; go forth and read it yourself. And check out the 50 comments, too. (via @johnottinger) [Note: After reading John's blog post above, I feel that I no longer have to blurb any other "how to write" posts -- ever; so, that's it, at least for this Links & Things blog post. This is the only one you need to read.]