Friday, July 29, 2011

Sysadmin Day

In honor of Sysadmin Day today -- officially System Administrator Appreciation Day, the last Friday of July -- I would like to suggest that you read Cory Doctorow's masterful, and in the end heart-warming, story "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth." I believe Cory has made all of his short fiction and novels available free online via Creative Commons licenses, and this particular story is also still available for your reading pleasure on Jim Baen's Universe. The story won the 2007 Locus Award in the best novelette category, and it remains one of my favorite stories of the decade.

I had the honor of copyediting this story not once, but twice, when it was included in Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel (Tachyon Publications, 2007), and also in the anthology Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books, 2008).

So go ahead, it's Friday, treat yourself....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #13

You may want to begin here....

"The First Contact with the Gorgonids"
by Ursula K. Le Guin

This story was originally published in the January 1992 issue of Omni magazine, and is approximately 2,800 words in length.

I had a subscription to Omni in the late '80s, and I had also obtained random issues from the mid '80s and from the early '90s. Some of the absolutely best genre fiction was published in the pages of this magazine during the course of its lifespan.1 I couldn't find my copy of the January 1992 issue (if you saw my workroom you would understand; maybe one of these days, when I'm not feeling too self-conscious, I'll post a pic), so I pulled this Ursula K. Le Guin story from a copy of her collection, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (HarperCollins, 1994).

As I was planning this anthology, I set out to include this story by Ms. Le Guin. She has mainstream name recognition but, unlike some authors who write SF, Ms. Le Guin actually admits to being a science fiction writer. In my June 6 blog post, I quote from (and link to) a two-part essay Ms. Le Guin wrote on "genre" vs. "literary" fiction.

Toward the end of 2008 (that just shows you how long I've been working on this anthology) I learned that Ursula K. Le Guin would be attending Potlatch 18 in Sunnyvale, California. Her book, Always Coming Home, was one of the convention's two Books of Honor. (Potlatch doesn't have Guests of Honor, but rather Books of Honor.) Also on the con's membership list was another author whose story I had wanted to include in the anthology as well. (However, she shall remain nameless for now, but all will be revealed in story #23.) So I attended Potlatch2 on February 28 and March 1, 2009, with hopes of being able to speak to both authors personally, to introduce myself and to request permission to use their respective stories in this anthology. Opportunity was with me as I was able to speak with both authors together as they entered the lobby of the hotel, having just returned from lunch. Ms. Le Guin granted permission and said to contact her agent (with whom I had already been in contact) to let her know that we had talked; the other author also granted the use of her story, and provided me with her email address so that I could contact her directly. At that point all was right with the world.

I had been sharing my progress on this anthology with my friend, the author Judith Moffett. I would mention authors' names, but I hadn't as yet provided her with any specific story titles (or at least not very many titles). On February 19, I received an email from Judy in which she wrote: "...I just read the Le Guin story 'The First Contact with the Gorgonids' and thought, what a perfect little story, is that the one Marty's trying to get into his anthology? And then of course I couldn't find the list. Anyway, is that the one? ...I saw the story in a little story collection I got out of the library, called A Fisherman of the Inland Sea: Stories, all by UKLeG." And, of course, I responded that it was in fact the story that I had acquired for the collection.

Judy's five words: "what a perfect little story" says more than I could have in a lengthy paragraph. "The First Contact with the Gorgonids" is sardonic wit at its finest. I'll set the scene in the story: Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Debree -- he's a businessman, she's a businessman's wife -- are on vacation in Australia with hopes of taking in a corroboree, an Aborigines ceremonial meeting. Unfortunately, Jerry is far from being impressed with what he has seen so far, and he's quite expressive about it, too. So a couple locals, both named "Bruce," talk Jerry into going to a place called Grong Crossing, "way out in 'the bush' where they were certain to meet real abos really living in the desert." "Few hours' drive, that's all," one of the Bruces said. The story doesn't actually state how long they drove but we get a sense that it was far longer than a "few hours' drive." In fact, it's possible that the Bruces were simply jiving Jerry in the first place and that Grong Crossing may not even exist -- but the exchange between husband and wife during the long drive is priceless. Finally they spy a huge rock out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by what they initially believe to be "bushmen," and stop the car.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Best Space Shuttle Tribute Video

Christopher Mims (@mims) sent out a tweet yesterday pointing to his column, Mim's Bits, on The title of this blog post is the same title that Christopher used for his column, but it was his subtitle that caught my attention: Remembering what it was to be 10 and in awe of the future.

Christopher had very few words to say in his column, he simply let this video speak for itself (but do check out the column, because his few words are sweet). I'm hopeful you can spare 4 minutes to watch a recap of a space flight program that lasted for more than 30 years and brought us true wonders. And if you're a sentimental fool like me, you may want to have a tissue handy when you watch this:

Clicking on the "STS requiem" link above (below the vid screen) will take you to Small Mammal's website where you can read how the vid came about, along with all the video credits. Very cool....

Lastly, Christopher links to other Shuttle tribute videos out there, so you can check out his column for these links as well.

God speed....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #12

If you are wondering what's up with this Alien Contact anthology (forthcoming from Night Shade Books in November) and this "Story #12" -- you may want to begin here.

"Angel" by Pat Cadigan

This story was originally published in the May 1987 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and is approximately 6,800 words in length. And this was an excellent issue of IASFM, too. Just look at the names on the cover! -- plus additional stories by Bruce Boston, Dave Smeds, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Roger Dutcher & Robert Frazier.

If I may, I'd like to repeat three sentences from a blog post I wrote just over a year ago, on May 17, 2010. In that post I introduced a story -- "The Taste of Night" -- that appeared in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (Daw Books, 2010), and following that mini introduction, I posted the entire text of the story, serialized over three blog posts. If you look to the right of this blog post, under the header MOST POPULAR POSTS, you will see that, even more than a year later, that story remains one of the most read entries on this blog. Here are those three sentences:

I first met Pat Cadigan at my first ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas, in 1988, and we've remained friends ever since. I recall writing to Pat prior to that convention, informing her that I was specifically reading some of her fiction ahead of time so that we could chat about it during the con. I was then, and always will be, a fan of her work.

Bottom line, there was no way that I would be involved in this anthology project and not include a story by Ms. Pat Cadigan. In fact, I had four stories from which to choose, and I read them each multiple times, but in the end I selected "Angel."

I asked Pat to share some thoughts on the story, and this is what she wrote:
"Angel" is still one of my favourite's my justification for never throwing anything away. I had thrown away the original typed draft because I couldn't come up with an ending. Later I reconstructed the story from handwritten drafts, and typed it up on the new computer I'd just bought—and there was the ending, along with the whole point of the story.

This story was actually a few years in the making.... What was significant about the time when I finally finished the story, what had changed between the time I started it and the time I finished it were two things: 1) I had just finished my first novel, and 2) I was a new mother. The former was a major milestone for me—after years of producing short fiction, I had had to learn how to think in terms of a whole forest rather than focusing on a single, intriguing tree, as it were. But the latter was really the more dramatic change. Having my son changed everything. Not just in the obvious ways, either. I like to believe that I became not just a better writer but a better person, not because I had all the answers but because I understood that I didn't. I like to think that I was finally able to finish "Angel" because being a parent showed me that there could be no neat ending, that you can try to do what's best but there's no certainty.

Understanding extraterrestrials will take some doing when we don't really understand ourselves—especially those of us who, through no choice of our own, were born outsiders.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redux: Earl Kemp's Who Killed Science Fiction?

This is a fairly brief follow-up to two previous blog posts, one that I published on March 7 entitled "Earl Kemp's Who Killed Science Fiction?" and a sequel post of sorts that was published just the other day, entitled "More on the Death of Science Fiction."

My friend, the author Andrew Fox, has rejoined the online community once again, and in a big way. And I wanted to point readers to his website and blog, and particularly to his recent post entitled "The Death of Science Fiction, 1960 and Today." Andy blogs about the Earl Kemp project (and graciously links to my original Earl Kemp post as well), but he covers two points that I didn't. Whereas I focused strictly on Earl Kemp, Andy talks about the state of the magazine and publishing industry just before and at the time of Kemp's project; he also does a brief crystal-ball comparison between the state of publishing in the 1960s and what we may experience approximately five years from now. If you found my previous two posts of interest, you'll certainly want to check out what Andy has written as well.

And speaking of the state of the magazine industry just before and during Kemp's project, be sure to read Bud Webster's comment on my March 7 blog post, if you haven't done so already. Between Bud's lengthy comment and Andy's post, you'll have a fairly quick, but decent, understanding of the SF magazine industry at the time.

Note: Andrew Fox is the author of novel The Good Humor Man, or Calorie 3501, which I edited for Tachyon Publications; the book was published in 2009.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More on the Death of Science Fiction

In 1960, Earl Kemp sent out a questionnaire to the top authors, editors, and artists in the genre. He wanted to know their thoughts on the death of science fiction; Kemp was, at the time, specifically referring to the death of SF magazines, since all the pulps had ceased publication. He compiled the results of this survey, and produced just enough bound copies for everyone who participated. The publication, Who Killed Science Fiction? won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine in 1961. Kemp updated the survey in the '80s and again in the 2000s, and published the entire project online as The Compleat and Unexpurgated Who Killed Science Fiction? A print version of this book is now available from The Merry Blacksmith Press.

I wrote in detail about this project in an earlier blog post entitled "Earl Kemp's Who Killed Science Fiction?" -- and, thanks to the tweeted link by Bruce Sterling (@bruces), which was retweeted by a number of his followers, this blog post remains (at least to date) my most read post on More Red Ink. Thanks, Bruce!

I'm bringing this up again because discussions on the death of science fiction are as perennial as the weather. And if it's not "science fiction" as a genre, then the death discussion is about the short story (I was on a panel on this very topic at BayCon in 2008), or the death of the anthology (I was on a panel entitled "Will the Anthology Market Come Back" at Westercon just this past July 4th holiday weekend). Which brings me to the latest discussion by John H. Stevens on SF Signal entitled "'The Death of Science Fiction' as Mythogenic Rejuvenation" -- Part One and Part Two. [Note: Part Two links back to Part One, but not vice versa.]

John makes some interesting comments, including these:
"The Death of Science Fiction" is one of those notions that stimulates a response because of its challenge not just to genre durability, but to deeper notions of what "science fiction" means....

If, as some people maintain, [the Death of Science Fiction] is such a tired idea to trot out, then why do people keep doing so and why is there so much response to these declarations? This is where the idea of mythogenic rejuvenation comes in. Talking about SF is often as important to many producers of the literature and its adherents as the production and reception of the literature itself. The far-flung fandom community is bonded not by just what they read, but by what they say about what they read....

The most interesting aspect of this to me is the fact that no one ever hits the mark with their projections and concerns. The Death of Science Fiction never comes about (or, hasn't yet anyway)....

The cool thing about this article is that John links to a multitude of prior "death of SF" articles, blog posts, and, to use his word, "fora" -- so you could conceivably spend hours (and hours) reading words on this subject, and by noteworthy people, too, while at the same time awaiting my forthcoming anthology, Alien Contact, from Night Shade Books, as well as the first publication of just-announced new online 'zine The Revelator, to be edited by Matthew Cheney and Eric Schaller. Yes, well, so much for the death of science fiction (and magazines, and anthologies, and ad nauseam).

But, believe it or not, my whole point in this entire blog post was to get to this: John opens his SF Signal article with three choice quotes, and this one, from author Neal Asher, exemplifies my attitude toward this whole "death of SF' schtick:

[The death of SF] surfaces with the almost metronic regularity of a dead fish at the tide line (stirred up, no-doubt, by some "new wave"). SF isn't dying, it hasn’t been ill, and frequent terminal diagnoses often see the undertaker clutching a handful of nails and a hammer and scratching his head over an empty coffin. However, discussions about this demise have been resurrecting themselves in only slightly altered form since I first read "about" SF rather than SF itself. I'm betting there was some plonker declaring the death of SF the moment Sputnik beeped or just after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon. Really, the whole pointless staggering debate needs a nice fat stake driven through its heart.
—Neal Asher

You can read the quote in context on Neal's blog The Skinner; the post is entitled -- what else? -- "The Death of Science Fiction (Again)."

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" by Ernest Hogan (Part 3 of 3)

Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song
by Ernest Hogan

[Continued from Part 2]

"You're crazy, Pablo! You got talent, but you're more a criminal than an artist!" echoed back from an argument I had with the rest of the Guerrilla Muralists at our trial.

Rainbow-filled skies over effervescent seas—me shedding my own blood so I could have something to paint with at age eight—the joy I felt the first time I was weightless, and decided that gravity was the enemy of true freedom, and decided to splash my paint, and created splatterpainting—a war of radioactive cloud-beings that goes on for millennia across billions of light-years—cartoons I'd draw on my clothes when I got bored—invisible beasts that flex gravity at will and eat black holes!

She smiled. Then moaned with delight.

And I received input from her mind—she was strange, like the humanoids who rode see-through ships to the end of time to observe the aesthetic qualities of the heat death of the universe—other people's experiences and thoughts were what she lived for. She rarely ate, or moved—was more interested in reading more and more minds than the university's experiments—she wasted away. They thought she would die.

Then she found out about the Sirens, and said some of her few words:

"Take me to them!"

Soon I could see her clearly through my own eyes, and see me through her eyes, and watch the song of the Sirens with no eyes at all.

She said a few more words. "Beautiful. I love it!"

Crack! Something snapped. The deadly intensity in those big, brown eyes clicked off. She dropped on top of me.

The orderlies grabbed her and after a few skilled, strategic feels, one said, "She's dead."

I laughed. A lovely demonic laugh that took my entire aching body and all my strength. It hurt like hell and was worth it. They all, even Calvino, looked into my crazed eyes.

"Idiots! Fools! Assholes! She's..." I screamed.

"You're alive!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" by Ernest Hogan (Part 2 of 3)

Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song
by Ernest Hogan

[Continued from Part 1]

But I did need her to bring me out of it. Willa Shembe, the pride of the scientific community of Zululand. A girl used to experiencing the universe through other peoples' minds.

She keeps showing up in the images, in the paint. Unexpectedly. Automatically.

Just like the first time she showed up in my life. When I was still lost in the influence of the Sirens. After they locked me into the exoskeleton, into the dirgiscaphe, and lowered me by remote control down into evil, heavy gravity and big, beautiful stormclouds out of Turner's wetdreams, or Chalchiuhtlicue's most passionate rituals of whirlpools, violence, growth, and young love.

"Do you feel anything yet?" Dr. Calvino buzzed into my earphone on that day.

"If only those bastards could go through this," I said into the throatmike. "They should all come here and see this planet up close before they call me undisciplined!"

"What are you talking about?" The doc never understood me.

"This sight! Jupiter up close! Wagstaff and the rest of those tight-assed idiots at the Space Culture Project should see this. That is what space art should be about. This energy! This power! This freedom! This is what I had in mind when I created splatterpainting."

"What about the Sirens? Are you feeling any effects?"

"In my mind? No. This gravity is a bitch, though. If only I could see these clouds while weightless! If only I could come here and paint! Can't they build one of these exoskeletons with more freedom of movement?"

"The one you have on is the state of the art. The instruments show a high concentration of Sirens in the clouds around you. Do you feel anything yet?"

"Yeah, now that you mention it. The gravity. It's getting hard to move, breathe..."

"Should we abort?"

"No! I'm feeling better now. Lighter. The gravity seems to be going away. I almost feel weightless. It's really great! Feels like I could peel this exoskeleton right off..."


"I'm not stupid, Calvino! This is probably an illusion, like what happened to the others. I do plan on surviving this!"

"Any change in sensations?"

"It's like one long rush. Ecstasy—like I'm weightless, painting away like crazy, making a big, juicy mess. I'm getting an erection. The exoskeleton seems to be holding me down."

Then I got a strong rotten-eggs whiff of methane. Could the dirgiscaphe be leaking? I was about to say something, but couldn't move—first I was paralyzed, every muscle locked tight, then it all turned to mush—flesh, bones, exoskeleton, dirgiscaphe, Jupiter, space...

"Cortez, are you all right?" said Calvino.

I was getting softer—like a Salvador Dalí watch. Everything was getting softer. Putty. Liquid. Gas. Like those colorful, flowing clouds that were all around.

"Cortez, are you there?"

I was a twisting, bubbling cloud—dancing among the gorgeous clouds of Jupiter. Among microscopic creatures I couldn't see, but could feel—like spirits, like ghosts.

"Abort! Abort!"

I felt that I was dissolving. Being absorbed. I panicked.

Then they had me. Me. Who has never given in to anybody!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Conjuring Norman Sperling at Westercon

I attended Westercon 64 in San Jose, California, over the July 4th holiday weekend; the convention was held at the classy Fairmont Hotel in downtown SJ.1

I was assigned to five panels, and though all the panels went well (despite the lack of necessary equipment at one panel and two panelist no-shows at another), I was a bit disappointed in the attendance, and not just at the panels, but during the overall con as well. The dealers room seemed nearly empty during each of my visits; I saw very few people throughout the weekend that I knew, and there wasn't much of a "bar-con" going on either. Of course, a band played in the bar area Saturday and Sunday nights, which made it near impossible to hold any kind of conversation without shouting, even to the person sitting next to you.

And though I participated in all five of these panels, there is only one that I wish to mention -- my first panel on Saturday morning, July 2, which ran from 10:00AM until 11:30AM in the Regency Ballroom 2. Here's the official description, along with the names of the other panelists:

Fantasy Houses with SF Furniture in Them

If there's magic in it, the book is fantasy, right? But what if the magical power is on tap like water and you pay a monthly bill to the city magic utility, as in Walter John Williams' Metropolitan? What if magic is described, studied, and practiced in the language of physics and software, as in Charles Stross' The Atrocity Archives? Is this a new genre, a hybrid genre, or still just fantasy?

Panelists: Chaz Brenchley, Paul Carlson, Lisa Goldstein, Marty Halpern, and Deborah Ross (Moderator).

Since I had acquired and edited Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue for Golden Gryphon Press, and had worked on the third novel in the series, The Fuller Memorandum, for Ace Books, this seemed like an ideal panel for me. [Note: If you care to indulge, I've written a lengthy blog post about my work on these three Stross novels.] But, as it turned out, it wasn't an easy panel. For such a panel, one feels the need to define "fantasy" and "science fiction" in order to determine the room (environment) and the type of furniture, so to speak. And, of course, a discussion of this nature can go round and round and round. But it was still an enjoyable panel discussion, at least for me. And I had an opportunity to meet three panelists for the first time -- Chaz, Paul, and Deborah -- and re-meet, as it were, Lisa Goldstein, whose wonderful new novel The Uncertain Places, I proofed and copyedited for Tachyon Publications.

But I have another reason for sharing this event with you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #11: "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" by Ernest Hogan (Part 1 of 3)

I have been blogging about each story to be included in my forthcoming anthology Alien Contact -- one story per week for 26 weeks, in the order in which they will appear in the anthology -- to be published by Night Shade Books in November. This is story #11. If you need to catch up, you can begin here.

"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song"
by Ernest Hogan

This story was originally published in issue four of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine (Summer 1989), edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and is approximately 4,500 words in length. This particular issue of Pulphouse was devoted to "Science Fiction," as noted on the cover. Unfortunately, the graphic is a bit difficult to read because all the covers were "foil stamped" using an iridescent ink, which reflects the light. You can read more about Pulphouse in my previous blog post that also pertains to this particular story.

I've always been partial to what I will call "sardonic" speculative fiction, which undoubtedly explains my 2003 anthology Witpunk (Four Walls Eight Windows), which I co-edited with Claude Lalumière. When I want to read fiction that is both sardonic and zany, I reach for something by Paul Di Filippo or Ernest Hogan or Rudy Rucker; both Paul and Ernest appeared in Witpunk. For Alien Contact I chose this specific story by Ernest Hogan -- I wanted an art story, a story with Class.

"Guerrilla Mural..." has, well, pretty much everything: a Chicano artist, Pablo Cortez, creates art from contact with the Sirens of Jupiter, channeled through a Zulu telepath named Willa Shembe. Cortez has a tendency to invoke the various Aztec gods as well. About this story, Ernesto writes:
Any resemblance between me and Pablo Cortez is purely coincidental. I tend to do my scribbling in sketchbooks rather than on walls. Pablo first came to me while I was experimenting with abstract expressionism in a painting class. Gravity limited the possibilities—if only there was a way to keep the drips from being pulled to the bottom of the canvas. Jackson Pollock put his canvas on the floor, but I was a Space Age baby. I guess if I hadn't been born an East L.A. Chicano, Pablo probably wouldn't have had his graffiti connections. I wrote "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" to be state-of-the-art. When Ben Bova asked for a synopsis for his Discoveries series [Tor Books], Pablo screamed at me. He went stark raving Spanglish in Cortez on Jupiter. The novel has developed a fanatical following, and I'm glad to be able to unleash Pablo into the world again. There are people who have been urging me to write a sequel, which I haven't really thought about. But then—it's not really up to me. I suppose it depends on what Pablo's been up to, and what he has to say to me after all these years.
And I just hope the world is indeed ready for Pablo Cortez's unleashing! But readers won't have to wait until Alien Contact is published in November to read about Pablo Cortez. With Ernesto's most kind permission, here is part 1 (of 3) of "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song." If you like what you read, please consider pinging the author on Facebook or Twitter (@NestoHogan) and let him know you would like to read more -- the novel Cortez on Jupiter in eBook format, and the still-to-be-written sequel (assuming, of course, that Pablo cooperates).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Kin" by Bruce McAllister (Part 2 of 2)

by Bruce McAllister

[Continued from Part 1]

The alien did not sit on the bed, but remained in the doorway. The boy did not have trouble looking at him this time.

"You know more about us," the alien said suddenly, severely, "than you wished me to understand.... Is this not true?"

The boy did not answer. The creature's eyes -- huge and catlike -- held his.

"Answer me," the alien said.

When the boy finally spoke, he said only, "Did you do it?"

The alien ignored him.

"Did you kill him?" the boy said.

"Answer me," the alien repeated, perfectly still.

"Yes..." the boy said, looking away at last.

"How?" the alien asked.

The boy did not answer. There was, the alien could see, defeat in the way the boy sat on the stool.

"You will answer me...or I will...damage this room."

The boy did nothing for a moment, then got up and moved slowly to the terminal where he studied each day.

"I've done a lot of work on your star," the boy said. There was little energy in his voice now.

"It is more than that," the alien said.

"Yes. I've studied Antalouan history." The boy paused and the alien felt the energy rise a little. "For school, I mean." There was feeling again -- a little -- to the boy's voice.

The boy hit the keyboard once, then twice, and the screen flickered to life. The alien saw a map of the northern hemisphere of Antalou, the trade routes of the ancient Seventh Empire, the fragmented continent, and the deadly seas that had doomed it.

"More than this...I think," the alien said.

"Yes," the boy said. "I did a report last year -- on my own, not for school -- about the fossil record on Antalou. There were a lot of animals that wanted the same food you wanted -- that your kind wanted. On Antalou, I mean."

Yes, the alien thought.

"I ran across others things, too," the boy went on, and the alien heard the energy die again, heard in the boy's voice the suppressive feeling his kind called "despair." The boy believed that the man named Ortega-Mambay would still kill his sister, and so the boy "despaired."

Again the boy hit the keyboard. A new diagram appeared. It was familiar, though the alien had not seen one like it -- so clinical, detailed, and ornate -- in half a lifetime.

It was the Antalouan family cluster, and though the alien could not read them, he knew what the labels described: The "kinship obligation bonds" and their respective "motivational weights," the "defense-need parameters" and "bond-loss consequences" for identity and group membership. There was an inset, too, which gave -- in animated three-dimensional display -- the survival model human exopsychologists believed could explain all Antalouan behavior.

The boy hit the keyboard and an iconographic list of the "totemic bequeaths" and "kinships inheritances" from ancient burial sites near Toloa and Mantok appeared.

"You thought you knew," the alien said, "what an Antalou feels."

The boy kept his eyes on the floor. "Yes."

The alien did not speak for a moment, but when he did, it was to say:

"You were not wrong...Tuckey-Yatsen."

The boy looked up, not understanding.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

June Links & Things

This is my monthly wrap-up of June'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. Previous month-end posts are accessible via the "Links and Things" tag in the right column.

June was a very busy month, for whatever reason; one would think that the online chatter would have lessened, what with vacations and such, but that wasn't the case. So, I'll be doing a bit less editorializing in order to get through this list.
  • Mark Teppo's (@markteppo) novels, Lightbreaker and Heartland -- books 1 and 2 in the Codex of Souls series -- are currently available for the Kindle for 99-cents each. I don't know how long this rate will last, but I would encourage Kindle readers to take advantage of this special. You can read more about my editorial involvement in these two books here (which also includes excerpts from reviews). Mark has informed me that he is now hard at work on book 3, Angel Tongue.
  • I also wanted to share with readers the passing of anthologist Martin (Marty) H. Greenberg, whose Tekno Books was instrumental in my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? being published by Daw Books last year. I first learned of Marty's death via tweets from Bill Crider (@macavityabc) and @LawrenceBlock. io9 has this obit.
  • I attended Westercon 64 this weekend and on more than one occasion, and in multiple panels, Ralan's Market Report and Webstravaganza was discussed. If you are a writer -- novice or pro -- looking for available markets, and/or the current status of existing markets, then is where you need to go. And sign up for the e-newsletter, too; the July 5 newsletter has just dropped into my Inbox. I'm shocked with my own self that I haven't mentioned Ralan previously (or, at least, I don't recall having ever done so; shame on me).
  • I've just learned of a couple new markets: 1) BayCon, the San Francisco Bay Area's regional convention, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2012. Beginning in 2012, BayCon will begin publishing one original short story and one original flash fiction piece in the program book. This market is aimed at newer writers. Guidelines (via @CandlemarkGleam and @deirdresm); 2) The Galaxy Project: a "contest to select one novella or novelette [to] be judged in the spirit of H. L. Gold and the great magazine of which he was founding editor." Guidelines (via @sfsignal).
  • And with story submissions come story rejections, unfortunately. Former lit agent, now author, Nathan Bransford blogs that "Rejection Is Not Personal" even though it feels personal.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Alien Contact Anthology -- Story #10: "Kin" by Bruce McAllister (Part 1 of 2)

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 #10" -- you may want to begin here. Or not....

"Kin" by Bruce McAllister

This story was originally published as the cover story in the February 2006 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, and is approximately 3,800 words in length. And in only 3,800 words, this story packs one helluva punch. (For those wondering, artist Dominic Harman did the cover art for that February issue.)

In February 2006, just as "Kin" was seeing print (yes, I know, the February issue would have been distributed much earlier, but allow me some poetic license here, okay?...), I sent a query email to Bruce McAllister introducing myself, and expressing interest in acquiring a collection of his short stories for Golden Gryphon Press. One of my all-time favorite stories is Bruce's novelette "Dream Baby" (1987), a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and, later, expanded into the novel of the same name. There were other stories, too: "The Ark," "Assassin," "The Girl Who Loved Animals," and "Little Boy Blue" in issues of Omni [I had a subscription at the time]; "Captain China" in Ellen Datlow's anthology Off Limits; and novelette "Hero, the Movie" in F&SF; to name just a few. All of these powerful, intelligent, thought-provoking stories. In fact, had I the available word count, I would have included "Hero" in my Alien Contact anthology as well -- not as a replacement for "Kin," but in addition to "Kin"!

To make a long story short, the collection did move forward -- but not with the stories that Bruce and his agent (at that time) Russell Galen had originally planned (hey, I had to earn my meager pay as an acquiring editor some how!) -- and The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories was published in October 2007. And with John Picacio cover art, too. "Kin," of course, was included in the collection. And I include it once again in Alien Contact. The story is one that every reader and fan of science fiction needs to read, and I'm doing my best to spread the word.

With less than 3,800 words, an author can't do too much world building, but there is just enough in this story to allow the reader to fill in the blanks, to use one's imagination -- and isn't that what science fiction is really all about? In this world there are the "haves" and the "have nots".... hmm... doesn't sound like science fiction to me, but I digress.... In this world, on this Earth, aliens walk among us. We meet an Antalou, but we learn through him of other worlds, of other wars on those worlds, and this implies, too, that others, besides the Antalou, walk among us. If only....

Bruce wrote a lengthy afterword to "Kin" in The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories, and with his most kind permission I'm including some of those words here [Note: There's a bit of a spoiler here, so you may want to skip this quoted text for now and scroll a bit farther down]:
I'd always been attracted, even as a young writer, to the question of what it would REALLY be like to be a human being in the universe of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and it was through Harry Harrison's Deathworld trilogy that I first got a glimpse. Harry's trilogy had its heroes, sure, but its heroes also had their human flaws; and common sense and character-as-destiny ran through them and to such a degree that I was surprised that John Campbell had seen fit to publish them in Astounding. But John Campbell was always surprising me.

"Kin" was, then, an attempt to evoke the Golden Age in fable-form but to do it as Harry Harrison had done in his trilogy: show that survival is simply that―human beings reaching into themselves to survive even if what they find that allows them to do so isn't necessarily the most noble traits of human nature. In other words, the boy in this story, though he loved his family, will indeed become an assassin―because it is in him to become one.

In addition to allowing me to excerpt part of his afterword, Bruce has also given me permission to post the contents of "Kin" in its entirety here on More Red Ink. So I'll stop my typing and allow you to read this very fine story, which was a finalist for both the Hugo Award and the Locus Award in the short story category.