Thursday, June 30, 2011

James Nicoll: Epigram on the English Language

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."
—James Nicoll, in rec.arts.sf-lovers, circa 1990

I just came upon this quote, courtesy of Marcus Antaya, in a comment posted to Sandra Kasturi's Facebook page. Sandra is a co-publisher of Chizine Publications.

I'm often intrigued by quotes -- and this one in particular given my profession as an editor (of the English language) -- and will occasionally post them here. Of course, before I post a quote, I always check out who the author of said quote is if I'm not familiar with the name. According to the entry in Wikipedia, James Nicoll "is a former role-playing game store owner, a freelance game and speculative fiction reviewer.... As a Usenet personality, Nicoll is known for writing a widely quoted epigram on the English language, as well as for his accounts of suffering a high number of accidents, which he has narrated over the years in Usenet groups like rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.sf.fandom."

Wikipedia also notes that the quote has been misattributed to other individuals including Booker T. Washington and a nineteenth-century painter also named James Nicoll. But more importantly, the quote, properly attributed, has been included in rhetoric and communications books and quoted online by numerous professors of linguistics. The books and professors are duly listed in the entry.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #9

If you are new to this blog and are wondering what's up with this Alien Contact anthology (forthcoming from Night Shade Books in November) and this "Story #9" -- you may want to begin here. On the other hand, you could always read on and return to here later....

"The Gold Bug" by Orson Scott Card

This story originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, an online subscription-only zine -- and is approximately 11,600 words in length.

"The Gold Bug" is part of the Enderverse, the series of stories and novels of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, which began with the 1977 novelette "Ender's Game," later expanded into the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel Ender's Game, published in 1985. Wikipedia maintains a chronology of the Enderverse, showing the relationship between the eleven novels and thirteen stories in the series.

I asked Orson Scott Card for some thoughts/background on the story:
When I started my online magazine, Intergalactic Medicine Show, I hoped to promote it by including a new story set in the Ender's Game universe in every issue. That worked for a while -- as long as I could come up with stories I could be proud of. But after a while, I learned that I can't come up with stories on demand.

Then the launch of a comic book series led to the idea of doing an original story in the Ender's Game universe as an original comic book. For me, the comic book form requires that there be a much stronger visual component than in narrative fiction. So I began to think of ways to put humans in contact with Formic technology.

Only instead of having machine-based tech, I thought: What if the Formics did their mining by using specially bred animals? Abandoned machines rust and decay, but what do abandoned animals do? I had my visual, and then searched for (and found) my character.

But I didn't write it as a comic book. I know how to write comic book scripts, but it doesn't give me the sprawling room that I'm used to in fiction. Instead, I wrote this story, exactly as it appears here, and another writer -- Jake Black -- adapted the comic-book script. So in a way, I "novelized" the comic book before it existed.

Then, in writing Ender in Exile, I used characters and situations from this story as part of what happens while Ender Wiggin is on his way to the colony he is going to govern. So this story is an integral part of the Ender saga. But I also hope that even if you know nothing about Ender Wiggin, this story will work on its own merits. Because, ultimately, it's just a cool sci-fi idea.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The 43 Antarean Dynasties" by Mike Resnick (Part 3 of 3)

The 43 Antarean Dynasties
by Mike Resnick

[Continued from Part 2]

When the Antareans learned that Man's Republic wish to annex their world, they gathered their army in Zanthu and then marched out onto the battlefield, 300,000 strong. They were the cream of the planet's young warriors, gold of eye, the reticulated plates of their skin glistening in the morning sun, prepared to defend their homeworld.

The Republic sent a single ship that flew high overhead and dropped a single bomb, and in less than a second there was no longer an Antarean army, or a city of Zanthu, or a Great Library of Cthstoka.

Over the millennia Antares was conquered four times by Man, twice by the Canphor Twins, and once each by Lodin XI, Emra, Ramor, and the Sett Empire. It was said that the parched ground had finally quenched its thirst by drinking a lake of Antarean blood.

* * *

As we leave the Tomb, we come to a small, skinny rapu. He sits on a rock, staring at us with his large, golden eyes, his expression rapt in contemplation.

The human child pointedly ignores him and continues walking toward the next temple, but the adults stop.

"What a cute little thing!" enthuses the woman. "And he looks so hungry." She digs into her shoulder bag and withdraws a sweet that she has kept from breakfast. "Here," she says, holding it up. "Would you like it?"

The rapu never moves. This is unique not only in the woman's experience, but also in mine, for he is obviously undernourished.

"Maybe he can't metabolize it," suggests the man. He pulls a coin out, steps over to the rapu, and extends his hand. "Here you go, kid."

The rapu, his face frozen in contemplation, makes no attempt to grab the coin.

And suddenly I am thinking excitedly: You disdain their food when you are hungry, and their money when you are poor. Could you possibly be the One we have awaited for so many millennia, the One who will give us back our former glory and initiate the 44th Dynasty?

I study him intently, and my excitement fades just as quickly as it came upon me. The rapu does not disdain their food and their money. His golden eyes are clouded over. Life in the streets has so weakened him that he has become blind, and of course he does not understand what they are saying. His seeming arrogance comes not from pride or some inner light, but because he is not aware of their offerings.

"Please," I say, gently taking the sweet from the woman without coming into actual contact with her fingers. I walk over and place it in the rapu's hand. He sniffs it, then gulps it down hungrily and extends his hand, blindly begging for more.

"It breaks your heart," says the woman.

"Oh, it's no worse than what we saw on Bareimus V," responds the man. "They were every bit as poor -- and remember that awful skin disease that they all had?"

The woman considers, and her face reflects the unpleasantness of the memory. "I suppose you're right at that." She shrugs, and I can tell that even though the child is still in front of us, hand outstretched, she has already put him from her mind.

I lead them through the Garden of the Vanished Princes, with its tormented history of sacrifice and intrigue, and suddenly the man stops.

"What happened here?" he asks, pointing to a number of empty pedestals.

"History happened," I explain. "Or avarice, for sometimes they are the same thing." He seems confused, so I continue: "If any of our conquerors could find a way to transport a treasure back to his home planet, he did. Anything small enough to be plundered was plundered."

"And these statues that have been defaced?" he says, pointing to them. "Did you do it yourselves so they would be worthless to occupying armies?"

"No," I answer.

"Well, whoever did that" -- he points to a headless statue -- "ought to be strung up and whipped."

"What's the fuss?" asks the child in a bored voice. "They're just statues of aliens."

"Actually, the human who did that was rewarded with the governorship of Antares III," I inform them.

"What are you talking about?" says the man.

"The second human conquest of the Antares system was led by Commander Lois Kiboko," I begin. "She defaced or destroyed more than 3,000 statues. Many were physical representations of our deity, and since she and her crew were devout believers in one of your religions, she felt that these were false idols and must be destroyed."

"Well," the man replies with a shrug, "it's a small price to pay for her saving you from the Lodinites."

"Perhaps," I say. "The problem is that we had to pay a greater price for each successive savior."

He stares at me, and there is an awkward silence. Finally I suggest that we visit the Palace of the Supreme Tyrant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"The 43 Antarean Dynasties" by Mike Resnick (Part 2 of 3)

The 43 Antarean Dynasties
by Mike Resnick

[Continued from Part 1]

Lobilia was the greatest poet in the history of Antares III. Although he died during the 23rd Dynasty, most of his work survived him. But his masterpiece, "The Long Night of the Exile" -- the epic of Bagata's Exile and his triumphant Return -- was lost forever.

Though he was his race's most famous bard, Lobilia himself was illiterate, unable even to write his own name. He created his poetry extemporaneously, embellishing upon it with each retelling. He recited his epic just once, and was so satisfied with its form that he refused to repeat it for the scribes who were waiting for a final version and hadn't written it down.

* * *

"Thank you," says the woman, deactivating the recorder after I finish. She pauses. "Can I buy a book with some more of your quaint folk legends?"

I decide not to explain the difference between a folk legend and an article of belief. "They are for sale in the gift shop of your hotel," I reply.

"You don't have enough books?" mutters the man.

She glares at him, but says nothing, and I lead them to the Tomb, which always impresses visitors.

"This is the Tomb of Bedorian V, the greatest ruler of the 37th Dynasty," I say. "Bedorian was a commoner, a simple farmer who deposed the notorious Maelastri XII, himself a mighty warrior who was the last ruler of the 36th Dynasty. It was Bedorian who decreed universal education for all Antareans."

"What did you have before that?"

"Our females were not allowed the privilege of literacy until Bedorian's reign."

"How did this guy finally die?" asks the man, who doesn't really care but is unwilling to let the woman ask all the questions.

"Bedorian was assassinated by one of his followers," I reply.

"A male, no doubt," says the woman wryly.

"Before he died," I continue, "he united three warring states without fighting a single battle, decreed that all Antareans should use a common language, and outlawed the worship of kreneks."

"What are kreneks?"

"They are poisonous reptiles. They killed many worshippers in nameless, obscene ceremonies before Bedorian V came to power."

"Yeah?" says the child, alert again. "What were they like?"

"What is obscene to one being is simply boring to another," I say. "Terrans find them dull." Which is not true, but I have no desire to watch the child snicker as I describe the rituals.

"What a shame," says the woman, though her voice sounds relieved. "Still, you certainly seem to know your history."

I want to answer that I just make up the stories. But I am afraid if I say it, she will believe it.

"Where did you learn all this stuff?" she continues.

"To become a licensed guide," I reply, "an Antarean must undergo fourteen years of study, and must also speak a minimum of four alien languages fluently. Terran is always one of the four."

"That's some set of credentials," comments the man. "I made it through one year of dental school and quit."

And yet, it is you who are paying me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #8: "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" by Mike Resnick (Part 1 of 3)

This marks week eight in which I reveal the eighth story (of 26 stories total) in my Alien Contact anthology forthcoming from publisher Night Shade Books. If you are new to all of this, you may want to start with my rather loose introduction to the anthology, which was posted on April 25. Assuming all goes well, the contents of Alien Contact should be revealed by the November publication date.

"The 43 Antarean Dynasties" by Mike Resnick

This story originally appeared in the December 1997 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, and is approximately 5,600 words in length.

Even if you are only somewhat familiar with the multitude of short stories Mike Resnick has published, then you know that, when it comes to the theme of alien contact, there is much to choose from. But when I read this particular story, amongst many of the others, I knew this was the one I wanted to include in Alien Contact.

In this story, the author juxtaposes elements of the history of Antares III and its 43 Dynasties with the tale of an Antarean tour guide and the inane tourist family [humans, of course; we would expect no less] that hires him for a tour of the capital city Kalimetra. But "inane" is such an understatement with this family -- try racist, repugnant, and rude for a start. And yet, as the guide thinks to himself shortly after meeting this family, it is you who are paying me.

I asked Mike Resnick for his thoughts on the story:
We were traveling in Egypt -- my wife and I, my agent and her kids, and a couple of friends -- and we kept asking our private guide questions. At one point he thanked us, because the last group he took out kept getting annoyed when he would speak about the wonders of some ancient dynasty they were theoretically observing, when all they wanted to do was talk about the point spread of the upcoming Steelers-Cowboys game. I thought about that -- this dignified, highly educated, well-mannered man showing off the highlight of his country's antiquity to the latest set of bored conquerors -- and "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" practically wrote itself.
I love the protagonist, the Antarean tour guide, in this story because he has attitude -- a very sharp sardonicism -- and I'm rather a fan of stories with attitude.1 He's educated, and intelligent -- the former doesn't always insure the latter -- and a former professor, but he had to forsake academia because it simply didn't pay enough; and even though tourists tend to be stingy, he still makes more now with tips than he did teaching. (Sound familiar?) Yet, given his financial needs -- and the history of his planet -- he must also humble himself before these dreadful tourists.

At this point, as in the previous Alien Contact blog posts, I would be quoting text directly from the story. But that's not necessary this time around because Mike Resnick has graciously given his permission for me to include the complete text of the story, which will be posted in three parts due to the story's length.

Before beginning the story, I just wanted to note that "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" was nominated for the Locus and Theodore Sturgeon awards, and it won the Hugo Award, the Asimov's Reader Award, and the Spanish Premios Ignotus (given at HispaCon, Spain's national SF convention) for best short story.

Friday, June 17, 2011

More Baycon with Picacio

I wanted to follow-up on my earlier May 21 blog post, at which time I announced that I would be interviewing and chatting one-on-one with John Picacio, the Artist Guest of Honor at this year's Baycon, on Saturday, May 28, at 2:30 PM.

Though I spent a couple worrisome hours prior to the event, ensuring that the room was set up correctly -- and on time -- for the Flickr slide show I had prepared, thanks to the ballroom's tech support crew, the slide show worked famously, and the event did indeed start on time as well. (Thanks, all!)

My wife Diane took a few pics of John and me on the stage during the event. (Note that the photos are a bit dark as the ballroom lights had been turned down for the slide presentation.):

Artist John Picacio (right) and Marty Halpern at Baycon 2011:
Artist GOH Interview & Slide Show

In the photo above, the graphic on the screen to the far left is the postcard that John had handed me (in lieu of a business card) when we first met, at the 2000 World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi, Texas. You can read more about that first meeting -- and the end result of that meeting -- in my recap of that convention.

To help set the scene prior to the start of the panel, I taped dust jacket flats along the edge of the tables on the stage; these flats were for books that both John and I had worked on together during my time with Golden Gryphon Press.

Artist John Picacio and Marty Halpern at Baycon 2011:
John listens to a question from the audience

I had prepared a Flickr slide show totaling 29 graphics, including preliminary drawings, full wraparound cover art, and the final book covers with typography. As John and I chatted about each book -- the history, the process, along with anecdotes and a few quotes from past emails (as well as a few secrets that may never be revealed again!) -- the audience viewed the graphics for each of the eleven books, and one poster.

Pictured on the screen in this second photo is the triptych covers for the trade paperback reprint editions of Jeffrey Ford's Well-Built City trilogy: The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and The Beyond.

Artist John Picacio and Marty Halpern at Baycon 2011:
John autographs books at the end of the event
In this last photo, I get clean-up duty while John signs a few autographs, before he had to rush off for his next panel. First in line for autographs is my old friend Michael Tallan.

A good time was had by all. Well, at least I had a good time! Spending time with John Picacio is always good (grand, in fact), and to be able to share that time with others makes it all even more special. Afterward, at various times throughout the convention, I had people approach me and express sentiments such as it was the best panel they attended, or they appreciated seeing the sketches and not just the final cover art, and so on. It doesn't get any better than that!

Cheers, John; and thank you as well for a delightful event!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #7

This is week seven in which I reveal the seventh story in my forthcoming Alien Contact anthology (Night Shade Books, November). Nineteen stories (through the next nineteen weeks) remain. If you are new to all of this, you may want to start with my rather loose introduction to the anthology, which was posted seven weeks ago, on April 25.

Recycling Strategies for the Inner City
by Pat Murphy

This story originally appeared in a substantially different, and much shorter, form as "Scavenger," in the April 1989 issue of Omni. However, the version included in Alien Contact was originally published in Pat Murphy's collection Points of Departure, from Bantam Spectra, 1990 -- with wonderful cover art by Mark Harrison. This story is approximately 3,600 words in length.

This past March 12-13, I participated in FOGcon, a new convention (this was its first year) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pat Murphy was one of the Guests of Honor, along with Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. Pat and I go back aways, and though we only live about 50 miles or so from one another, we probably haven't seen each other for at least a handful of years. The exigencies of life, I guess....

So we chatted for a wee bit late Saturday afternoon, in between panels, and made arrangements to meet for breakfast the following day. My wife Diane and I met Pat in the hotel lobby on Sunday morning and then we walked a short distance to a little joint called the New Village Café on Polk Street. Pat and I did our best to catch up on recent happenings. A very chatty breakfast, with good food and even better friends.

Just prior to that weekend, I had pulled together the entire contents of the Alien Contact anthology, and concluded that I still had room for one more short story. When I mentioned this possibility to Pat, she suggested her story "Exploding, Like Fireworks." This story was originally published in 1997 in a rather obscure, and rare, anthology entitled Future Histories: Award-winning Science Fiction Writers Predict Twenty Tomorrows for Communications, edited by Stephen McClelland. The anthology was sponsored by Nokia Corporation and included both original essays and short stories; the book was given away as a business gift and was not available for sale to the public. A few days after the con I received an email from Pat that included a file of the story. "Exploding" was a great story, with a strong female protagonist, but I was looking for something else, something different, and a bit shorter in length, too. Exactly three days later -- and without any prompting from me -- Pat emailed me again, reminding me of the story "Recycling Strategies" in Points of Departure. There's a whole story about this book -- and the "Spectra Special Editions," of which it was a part -- and I'll get to this in a bit, but bottom line: I had completely forgotten about this story, even though I had read Points of Departure, but that had probably been at least twenty years ago.

So I read the story again. Now, you have to understand that I had just spent the previous weekend at a Holiday Inn on Van Ness in San Francisco. I don't think we got more than an hour or two of sleep, and even that minimal amount was spread out over the entire night. I swear every ten or so minutes a police siren wailed down the street; people were out on the street all night long, too, loud and rowdy; music blared constantly from passing cars. And then I read this story, which nailed the city's ambiance such that I was reliving all those sounds once again. "Recycling Strategies for the Inner City" was the last story I acquired for the anthology.

I asked Pat to share some thoughts on the story with readers:
Early in this story, my protagonist notes that most people "don't really want to see what's around them." Many of my stories deal with people who see the world more clearly than most. They notice things that others ignore, find things that others overlook.

Seeing the world clearly may sound like a good thing – but it's a blessing and a curse. Is it clarity of vision or simply madness? In my world, the distinction can be blurry.

So this is a story about perception and madness and alien contact. But it's also a story about a woman who adopts an abandoned pet.

I'm very fond of this little story. I like it when my stories end happily. And I think this is a very happy ending.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #6

Blogger and Internet Explorer 8 (my browser of choice) were not playing together nicely for nearly all of Friday, so this blog post is a day later than I had anticipated. However, I'm still on target to complete 26 blog posts, at one post per week, to introduce the 26 stories to be included in my Alien Contact anthology, forthcoming from Night Shade Books in November. My rather loose introduction to this anthology was posted on April 25 and would be a good place to start, if you are new to this blog.

"I Am the Doorway" by Stephen King

Night Shift, I believe, was Stephen King's first short story collection. I had to obtain permission for the use of "I Am the Doorway" through Random House, who owns the publishing rights to Night Shift, which includes this story. So that's why you're seeing the first edition of the book pictured to the left. And also because this story was originally published in the March 1971 issue of Cavalier, a so-called "men's magazine," and the cover is a bit too risqué to reprint here.1 But that was the magazine Stephen King was selling his stories to at the time.

"I Am the Doorway" is the oldest story included in Alien Contact, and is approximately 5,000 words in length. I had not intended to include in this anthology any stories that were published prior to about 1980 or so. But during my second meeting with Jeremy Lassen, Editor in Chief at Night Shade Books, in which we discussed the contents of the anthology, he suggested King's "I Am the Doorway." And, when the editor in chief recommends a story to this editor -- considering that the anthology had not as yet been accepted for publication by said editor in chief -- well, this editor in particular listens!

In my own library I have King's Dark Tower series as well as the Green Mile series; and I have also read the "complete and uncut" edition of The Stand (which endowed me with a near-divine appreciation for the art and skill of editing). And I am also eagerly awaiting King's forthcoming novel 11/22/63. But I haven't read much of King's short fiction, so for this reason alone I appreciated Jeremy's suggestion.

I then asked Jeremy for some thoughts on this particular story; I had assumed he had read it many, many years ago and yet the story remained fully in mind, enough so that he was easily able to state the title, and some basic content, during our meeting. Here's what Jeremy had to say:
A couple of years ago, I went through a Stephen King short fiction re-read...reading through Night Shift and Skeleton Crew back to back.

What struck me at the time was how incredibly political, and grounded in the politics of the Vietnam war, much of Stephen King's early short fiction was. "I Am the Doorway" is, to my mind, no exception to this. It reads now as alternate history, with an extrapolated space program...but at the time, I think it was a great metaphor for the failure of American Imperialism. Despite our technology, we were defeated...infiltrated even, by an alien enemy we didn't really understand. Science Fiction. It's not about the future, it's about the time it was written. And to me, "I am the Doorway" is a perfect expression of the era in which it was written. And it is a lesson...a metaphor that is even more horribly appropriate now than it was then.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Neil Young's "Grey Riders"

Neil-TreasureWe interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this musical interlude:

As many of you know, Neil Young is my main music man. Period. This live version of "Grey Riders" is from his forthcoming (June 14) album entitled A Treasure (CD), recorded with legendary band The International Harvesters while on tour in 1984. The song is courtesy of SoundCloud and Neil Young Official. Feel free to visit the Neil Young website for more info, music, vids, etc.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writing 101: Thog's Masterclass at BayCon

If you've attended any of my convention panels having to do with the craft of writing, then you have undoubtedly heard me refer to Thog's Masterclass.

Who is Thog? According to, "Thog the Mighty, a not terribly bright barbarian hero, is the creation of John Grant (Paul Barnett) in his 'Lone Wolf' fantasy novels. Thog first appeared in The Claws of the Helgedad (1991)."

Thog's Masterclass is a regular feature of David Langford's zine Ansible, enshrining prose gems primarily from science fiction and fantasy publications: "It is to be assumed that the chosen selections are stuff which brutish Thog really likes." The site goes on to explain how the tradition began at the 1993 UK EasterCon, when David edited the con's daily newsletter with Paul Barnett's assistance. I'll leave you to further investigate Thog's history should you so desire.... (and more on Ansible1 later in this blog post.)

Over Memorial Day Weekend I attended BayCon, an annual San Francisco Bay Area convention that is now in its twenty-ninth year. And this year I participated once again in the Iron Editors workshop: writers present the first 2 pages of a story or novel for review and critique by the panel of editors. The author's name need not be included on the pages, so while the writing may be anonymous, the critique is public. This allows other writers to learn from the critiques as well. In fact, writers may attend the workshop without having submitted anything for review.

Along with moderator Kent Brewster, this year's panel of editors also included Jeremy Lassen, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, the Kollin Brothers, and Dario Ciriello. The review process is quite hectic, to say the least. Kent likes to keep things moving so that a marked up submission is always on the display screen and open to discussion. Often I'll be working on one submission and have to stop what I'm doing to comment on my mark ups on the submission that is being presented. Consequently not all submissions are reviewed by every editor.

Usually a Thog's Masterclass-worthy sentence will arise from the heaps of paper, which will provide me with the opportunity to introduce the audience to Ansible and Thog. Due to the hectic nature of the workshop I didn't have an opportunity to write down the specific sentence, so this one will have to do (it is similar in content). This sentence is from a previously published story that was part of a collection that I acquired and published with Golden Gryphon Press. The author and story shall remain anonymous, to protect the guilty.
...his face: a strong jaw, cheekbones ruddy with cold, softened by a well-proportioned nose, and eyes which skipped from aisle to counter to shelf like pebbles glancing over water.
The boldface is, of course, my addition to highlight the content that I know Thog would really like. When I brought this sentence, and Thog's Masterclass, to the author's attention, the author chose to rewrite the text before including the story in the collection. But this isn't always the case. In Liz Williams's Detective Inspector Chen series of novels, you'll find sentences like this one:
Sung's eyebrows crawled slowly up his broad forehead.
In the Chen novels, Liz wants that stylized, exaggerated content; a better word might be "campy." And as the editor for all five (so far) of her Detective Inspector Chen novels, I'm right there with Liz on this. So story content is dependent on your style, your goal, what you wish to create within the story. Just be aware that these types of sentences just may find themselves in some future entry of Thog's Masterclass.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ursula K. Le Guin on Genre and "Literary" Fiction

Ursula K. Le Guin is writing a series of essays for Book View Café, a site in which she is one of the founding members. The essays fall under the heading "Petty Expectations," and Part One is entitled: "Critical Expectation: Genre and 'Literary' Fiction."

I'll leave you to read the essay(s) in it entirety if you so choose, but I did want to share with you a quote from the essay, and hopefully intrigue you enough to seek out Book View Café. To set the stage, Ms. Le Guin is responding to a quote by Terence Rafferty from the New York Times Sunday Book Review on February 4, 2011:

The distinction Mr Rafferty draws between literary and genre fiction, though cherished by many critics and teachers, was never very useful and is by now worse than useless. The opposition — genre rushing hell-for-leather and plotbound to resolution, literature meandering sweetly like a brainless tot in a folktale forest — is absurd.
—Ursula K. Le Guin

It's always a pleasure to see someone of Ms. Le Guin's reputation not pulling any punches when it comes to this pointless dichotomy between genre and literary. In fact, speaking of not pulling any punches, was that a right hook or a left hook?

Though I haven't written specifically about genre vs. literary, I have written a lengthy blog post on genre (specifically science fiction) and mainstream with regards to the fiction of Judith Moffett.

I'm also quite please to say that an Ursula K. Le Guin story will be included in my forthcoming Alien Contact anthology, but I'm not in a position at this time to reveal any further details about the story. You'll need to return to this blog in seven weeks when I discuss that particular story (i.e. 26 stories over 26 weeks -- see this link).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #5

My rather loose introduction to the forthcoming Alien Contact anthology (Night Shade Books, November) was posted on April 25 and would be a good place to start, if you are new to this blog.

"The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything"
by George Alec Effinger

This story was originally published in the October 1984 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is approximately 6,100 words in length.

I have a bit of history with this story, and with it's author -- George Alec Effinger -- in particular. Though George and I had met, albeit briefly, at various ArmadilloCon conventions during the late '80s and early '90s, we actually began communicating via email in July 2001 with the purpose of getting his long-out-of-print stories back into print. I acquired and edited three volumes of Effinger's work for Golden Gryphon Press; the first volume, Budayeen Nights, was assembled with George's contributions and assistance, though he passed away before the collection was published in 2003. The latter two volumes were done as tributes to the author himself. I've written extensively about these three books, which included content from emails George had sent me. If you are not familiar with GAE's work, I would encourage you to read my blog posts, beginning with the first in the series.

But back to "The Aliens Who Knew...": When I was compiling the stories for the second Effinger collection, Live! from Planet Earth, I posted a letter on Locus Online, asking readers for their favorite GAE story; I also contacted many of George's friends -- authors and editors alike -- for their input as well. By far, the most requested story was "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything." Author Michael Bishop was not only one of the individuals to recommend the story to me, he also wrote the introduction to the story in the collection itself. And with Michael's kind permission1, I'd like to share with you a small bit of that introduction to "The Aliens Who Knew...":
Upon our first meeting in 1976 or '77 at a small convention in Rome, Georgia, [Effinger] gave me the impression of a visitor from a continuum aslant our own, as if he had wafted in through a magic heating duct or tiptoed through the wall via a process of somatic intermolecularization. He complained of not having slept in days....When he wrote, however, he focused all his shattered attention, depleted energy, and tireless self-effacing wit on the words at his command. And, by so doing, he produced a host of literary marvels worthy of our attention, energy, and laughter today.
     Among the downright funniest of George Alec Effinger's marvels, I reckon, is [this] short story....I could write a scholarly paper about this story, dissecting its techniques of understatement, awe-free character presentation, and science-fictional self-referentialism, throwing in allusions to low-budget alien-invasion films from the 1950s and 1960s and to the influential Cold War satires of Robert Sheckley and William Tenn, but an introduction to a funny story should no doubt refrain from that sort of analysis. For one thing, it would spoil the jokes. For another, it would strike the author as overblown, tone deaf, and beside the point, for in this story George's primary purpose was to amuse – indeed, to prompt one to Laugh Out Loud.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May Links & Things

As I've previously mentioned, I backup my working data daily and the entire "My Computer" weekly, all to an external hard drive; that external hard drive, in turn, is also backed up daily and weekly to another external drive. But all of that means very little when the power supply decides to give up the ghost. Early Saturday morning, just prior to leaving the house for Baycon, I realized that I needed one more piece of information in preparation for my interview/chat and slide show presentation with Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio later that afternoon. I went to turn on the PC and, well, there was no "on" -- not even any noise, other than the click of the on/off button. So I snagged the info I needed from a book that just happened to be handy, and left for the con, knowing I would have to deal with a dead PC come Tuesday morning. Long story short, a new OEM power supply was ordered Tuesday, installed Wednesday (yesterday), and by last night all was as it should be (or should have been).

This is my monthly wrap-up of May'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. If you are new to this blog, and wish to catch up on my previous month-end posts, just look for the "Links and Things" tag in the right column.

  • Advertisement of the month:

    What concerns me in the ad are the words: "Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed." If anybody responds to the ad successfully, I would surely appreciate your sharing with us in the Comments section! (ad courtesy of Libi Kavanah's Facebook page)

If you haven't yet subscribed to's eBookNewser and GalleyCat blogs, which are delivered daily to your email inbox, then what are you waiting for?

  • Links by the number:

    From GalleyCat: "10 Nontraditional Ways To Promote Your Book." GalleyCat has collected 10 tips on self-promotion from a thread on the Amazon discussion boards. The tips, in turn, are linked to the author's specific explanation.

    From GalleyCat: "5 Free Formatting Guides on How To Publish Your eBook." This brief article mentions these five guides along with their respective links: Smashwords Style Guide, Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines, Barnes & Noble ePub Formatting Guide, Apple iBookstore Style Guidelines, and Calibre User Manual.

    Now that you have the guides, here are the tools, from eBookNewser: "Six eBook Formatting Tools." These six tools are mentioned, with their respective links: Calibre, Aspose, Mobi Pocket, Jutoh,, and BookGlutton.

    Okay, you have the formatting guides, the formatting tools, now you need to know how to publish -- from eBookNewser: "Five Tools For Self-Publishing Your eBook." Explained in this article, with links, are these self-publishing options: Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble PubIt, iTunes Connect, Smashwords, and
There are undoubtedly more eBook formatting guides and tools and eBook publishing sites, but these are worth serious consideration, and at least provide a baseline for further research.