Friday, November 11, 2016

Maya Angelou Quote

"When someone shows you who they are,
believe them the first time."

–Maya Angelou

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pirate Utopia: The Starred PW Review

Pirate UtopiaThe Publishers Weekly starred review:

  Pirate Utopia

Bruce Sterling. Tachyon, $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61696-236-4

Cyberpunk progenitor Sterling's alternate history novella is bizarre, chock-full of famous people in improbable situations, and wildly entertaining, even when the worldbuilding seems to go a little off the rails. Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of the recently ended Great War and forever changed by it, is the head engineer of the titular utopia, the Italian free state of Fiume. He and his compatriots build flying boats and fight communism while dealing with American secret agents, including Harry Houdini and Howard Lovecraft (who's now working as Houdini's publicity agent after going into advertising). Hitler died saving another man's life in a bar fight, [President Woodrow] Wilson was poisoned, and Mussolini's been disabled by a pair of bullets aimed "where a man least likes to be shot," so the Europe in which Secondari is attempting to create his radio-controlled airborne torpedoes and other gizmos is already massively different from ours. An introduction by Warren Ellis and an interview with Sterling sandwich the novel, both bearing an air of false gravitas, but the actual story is wacky and fun what-if-ing at its finest. (Nov.)

You can read the prior posts about my work on Pirate Utopia in my June 10, 2016 blog post and in my July 14, 2016, blog post.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ignoring a Gift Horse Full of Books....

Space. I need space in my office. I've long felt trapped, nearly consumed, by all the books in my office. So, I pulled together some 200-plus books: mostly trade paperbacks, but a handful of mass markets and hardcovers, and decided to donate them -- I just needed them gone, if you can relate to that.

A friend of mine suggested I donate them to the local library. So, I searched for a list of all the San Jose Public Library branches in my area, and selected the branch to which my daughter takes her daughter -- my granddaughter. I found the branch's Friends of the Library president's email address, and I emailed her. Explaining who I was and why I had a lot of brand new, unread books available to donate. The following day I realized I had neglected to mention one more point so I emailed her again. After a week of no response whatsoever, I emailed the library branch manager. She responded within a day, telling me that the president of the Friends was the correct individual to contact and that I should email her again -- this time, with more details on the books: if these were all unique titles, or duplicates, etc.

I deleted that email.

I waited another week. Still no reply from the president of the Friends of the Library. Since school had started I assumed this individual wasn't on vacation, but simply was not responding to my email.

I'm not going to email again and beg for this person to take my 200-plus free books; I'm not going to email and elaborate on the contents and makeup of these free books. They. Are. Free! They are packed in boxes, they are ready to be delivered, all I needed was to know where to take them and hopefully have a representative there to take the boxes off my hands.

The library is going to have a book sale at some point, and people are going to pay $5 or $10 or whatever it is the library charges for a bag of books: brand new, unread genre books that the library is getting for free. And these $5 or $10 amounts are going to add up and go towards needed resources for that library. But, this individual chose to not respond to my offer of free books.

Screw 'em.

The boxes are now loaded in my car, and tomorrow I go to The Salvation Army where they will take all 200-plus books off my hands, no questions asked, and gladly spread them throughout their South Bay stores with a $1.00 or more price tag per book. (No $5/$10 per bag at The Salvation Army!) And hopefully a lot of the books will sell and the organization will use the money for the various charitable projects that they support.

And I will write off the entire donation on my taxes regardless.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Redux: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner

"Maybe it's our generation. We seem to have a hard time growing up. Maybe because when we were in high school we thought we'd never have to. The music told us we would live forever, everything would be love and peace and harmony. It took me a long time to let go of that....But I've finally started to get there."

I was nearing the end of Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner, when I read this paragraph -- and for some reason, the words just stuck with me.

The protagonist in Glimpses, Ray Shackleford, meets up with his first true love, a woman named Alex, a couple decades after their relationship ended. (I assume "Alex" is short for Alexandria or some such; and I don't recall ever learning her last name, either). They're catching up on old times, and also talking about current times.

Anyhow, since these words stuck with me, I just wanted to share them here. You can read my previous blog post on August 24 on Glimpses.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Now Reading: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner

Shiner_GlimpsesGlimpses, by Lewis Shiner, was originally published in 1993 by William Morrow and Company. The following year it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. I read Glimpses when it was originally published -- at a time when I was listening to a lot of music on CDs. Since then, the book has sat on a shelf, until now....

The protagonist in the story, Ray Shackleford, has his own stereo repair business; obviously he listens to a lot of music. He's also caught up in an eleven-year marriage that is cold, unemotional: a dead-end. He's also dealing with the recent death of his father: a man Ray hated, but he never got the opportunity -- or was never man enough -- to tell his father how he felt.

Amidst all this grief and angst, Roy has discovered the ability to channel his emotions into the music of Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix -- music that the musicians attempted, almost created, but never completed. Only this time around Roy, in a dreamlike fugue state, is able to record this music that never was.
"Shiner couldn't have written this book without a deeply felt sense of the fragility of art, of how many great works have passed into the ages never to enlighten, inform, or entertain new generations. Though the masterworks he conjures up in such exquisite detail are lost to us, we now have a bit of compensation for their absence: a masterpiece of the imagination called Glimpses." —Richard Foss, Los Angeles Reader

"You don't have to be a musician to love Glimpses, but musicians will appreciate how free it is of the strained, embarrassing attempts to describe the musical process that torpedo so many non-musicians when they try to write about music. Much less gimmicky than it sounds, Glimpses is ingenious, well-crafted, and deeply moving."
—Joe Gore, Guitar Player

"Though he's dealing with a somewhat strained metaphor—the unfinished business of a generation—Shiner is enough of a storyteller that you're never put off by the underlying sentimentality. Even more impressive, he makes you believe the albums his (admittedly autobiographical) protagonist conjures up are the masterpieces they're supposed to be. Quite a performance." —Stereo Review

When the book was published in France in 2014. Shiner's French publisher put together a complete playlist of all the songs mentioned or played throughout the novel. (Scroll down at the link; but one caveat: the text is in French, but you can still make out all the song titles.) But the French publisher didn't stop there: he put together a YouTube video playlist of all the songs as well. So as you read the book, you can hit YouTube to listen to all (or most; some vids are not available in the U.S.) of the songs as they are mentioned throughout the novel.

Glimpses was reprinted in paperback in 2012, with an absolutely dreadful blue cover; so if you were ever to purchase a copy, please snag the original hardcover, pictured here. Since the original hardcover is long out of print, you can actually pick up a used copy that's very inexpensive, in fact cheaper than the paperback edition.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways Blu-ray

Sonic Highways_Foo FightersI just finished watching all eight episodes of Sonic Highways, an HBO original series about the Foo Fighters, that was originally broadcast in 2014. The series documents the band's road odyssey to write and record eight songs in eight different cities for their eighth album, to mark the band's fifteenth anniversary.

I lost track of the number of "wow!" moments while watching these eight eps. Each one an in-depth history lesson on the city, its music and culture. The interviews with record label execs, producers, writers, musicians, journalists, etc. were flawlessly edited and mixed throughout with cityscapes (historical and current) and performance clips documenting each city's musical heritage.

I'm now planning on ordering the eight-track album. If you read the album's reviews on amazon, you'll notice that many of them are mediocre: some good songs, not the band's best or typical album, and such. But if you then read the comments to these reviews you'll see that, every time, the responder states that you can't appreciate the songs if you haven't seen the video. Why? Because each song was influenced by the recording studio in which it was recorded; by the history, the spirits if you will, of those who played before: the same piano that Ray Charles played when he recorded in that very same studio decades earlier, for example. And the lyrics that Dave Grohl wrote for each song were also some of the same words spoken by those interviewed throughout the episode. I think at one point Grohl even states that the song is more of a document, a record of the city's musical legacy.

Bear with me and I'll give you an example.

Here's the album's track list:
1. "Something from Nothing" - recorded in Chicago at the Electrical Audio Studio
2. "The Feast and the Famine" - recorded in Washington D.C at the Inner Ear Studio
3. "Congregation" - recorded in Nashville at the Southern Ground Studio
4. "What Did I Do?/God As My Witness" - recorded in Austin at the original Austin City Limits Studio
5. "Outside" - recorded in Los Angeles at the Rancho De La Luna Studio
6. "In the Clear" - recorded in New Orleans at Preservation Hall
7. "Subterranean" - recorded in Seattle at the Robert Lang Studios
8. "I Am a River" - recorded in New York at the Magic Shop
The last episode featured the city and music of New York. In 1961, when Bob Dylan was nineteen, he knocked on the door to Woody Guthrie's apartment. Guthrie's daughter, Nora, answered the door. When she saw it was some stranger, she closed the door on him. He knocked, she opened the door, and closed it once again. The third time Arlo answered the door, saw that this young stranger had a guitar, and invited him in. Dylan has always said that Woody Guthrie was his biggest influence. If he didn't get invited into that apartment that day, what affect would that have had on the burgeoning folk -- and later folk-rock -- scene at the time in New York City?

Nora Guthrie also tells of receiving a package in the mail shortly after 9/11, long after Woody had passed away. The package was wrapped in brown paper and twine, with no return address -- exactly the type of package she should not have opened at the time, but she did so knowingly anyhow. The package contained four small spools of silver wire; no note in the package; she had no idea who had sent this to her. The spools contained "live wire" -- a recording process used for about a year and a half in the late 1940s, after which recordings were made using tape. These wire spools turned out to be the only recorded performance of Woody Guthrie in front of an audience. Steven Rosenthal, at SoHo's Magic Shop recording studio, brought that wire recording to life. The album The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949 won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.

In the Foo Fighters' song "I Am a River," the lyrics "The channel's changing / The heart is racing / From voices on a wire" refer to that "live wire" Woody Guthrie recording. And the song title itself? "I Am a River"? Refers to the underground river that Jimi Hendrix discovered when he built Electric Lady Studios in New York. Who would have thought a river flowed beneath 52 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village.

This, and more, is what I learned from just one episode of the Sonic Highways Blu-ray.

Check out the three-and-a-half-minute trailer below, and then go buy your copy of Sonic Highways from amazon, or wherever it is that you buy your vids.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Now Reading: Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa

Freak Out!In my previous blog post I wrote that I was boxing up years of editorial ephemera and shipping it out to the respective authors -- or, if unwanted by said authors, tossing it into the city-provided recycling bin. Yes, just one publisher for right now, nearly ten years of my life, in boxes and bins.

Anyhow, the process of unloading so many paper-filled boxes in my office allowed me to access other boxes that I haven't been able to get to in years.

And in one of those boxes I found this book -- Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa, by Pauline Butcher -- that I had been wanting to read for some time, but was unable to find it! Yes, things (books, postal scales, notepads, cables and other gear) actually do get lost in my office. I purchased this book in the summer of 2012 (it was officially published in October 2011) after learning about it on Facebook, from the author herself, on a Frank Zappa page.

Ms. Butcher was employed by Forum Secretarial Services, located in the heart of London in 1967. On August 16, 1967, Pauline happened to be the one to answer the phone because the owner was out of the office. The call was from the concierge at the Royal Garden Hotel: "We have a client who wants a typist at six-thirty." As Pauline took the call -- and none of the other workers were particularly anxious to go out -- she accepted the job.

Upon arriving at the hotel, and taking the "lift" to the fourth floor...
...I trotted along the corridor to Room 412, set my cases on the floor, and knocked.

Nothing prepared me for the figure that opened the door.

Squiggly, ink-black curls fell below his shoulders. He had a long, thin face with a thick, drooping moustache and an extra tuft under his bottom lip. He wore an orange t-shirt and pink trousers over the skinniest of bodies. I blurted out, " Oh, I'm sorry, I've come to the wrong room."

"Par-leen Butcher?" he said in a deep, American drawl.

"Yes, is Mr. Zappa here?"

He held out a straight arm and I stood there, astonished. This was Mr. Zappa? Undeniably, he had a Mediterranean air with his swarthy skin and dark eyes that held mine in a bemused gaze. We shook hands and he said, "Come on in." He pressed his back against the door as I picked up my bags and brushed past. He kept nodding confusedly, as if he'd expected a fifty-five-year-old with flat shoes and Lisle stockings.

Pauline eventually went to work for Frank Zappa -- and later his Bizarre Records label -- initially living in the Laurel Canyon "log cabin," located in the Hollywood Hills, for about a year, with at least a dozen other people: aside from FZ and his wife Gail and daughter Moon, there was PamZ, Christine (one of the GTOs), Calvin, occasional members of the Mothers of Invention (primarily Ian Underwood), and others. At any time, day or night, you might find Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful hanging about, or members of The Monkees, or Eric Clapton, or Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, or members of Pink Floyd, or Grace Slick, or.... Once word got out that FZ was residing in the log cabin, anybody and everybody managed to drop by at some point in time.

Ms. Butcher kept a journal during her tenure with FZ, and wrote regular letters, at length, to her mother in England, who kept those letters. This memoir is based on her journal entries and letters to her mother.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Boxing Up The Years....

When you decide to lighten yourself of nearly a decade of publishing ephemera -- master manuscripts, page proofs, digital proofs, binder proofs, dust jacket proofs, editor/author communications, dust jacket flats, etc., etc. -- and this from just one publisher --

This is what it looks like, as all these boxes head out to their respective authors, who so wished to have the material sent to them. For those who didn't want any of the material? Well, I've now filled a huge recycle bin -- twice -- with more on hand for next week's pickup.

And yet I still have dozens of boxes to deal with....

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Redux: Some Hard Facts About Pirate Utopia By Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaDid you read my July 14, 2016, blog post, in which I announced that Bruce Sterling's novella, Pirate Utopia, would be initially published in hardcover?

And at $14.95 no less -- extremely rare for any hardcover, especially one that contains pages -- and pages -- of period illustrations by none other than John Coulthart.

Shortly after posting that blog I learned about the caveat: the $14.95 price tag is indeed correct, but it's the Amazon-only
pre-publication price. Order the book from any other source and the price will be $19.95, which will also be the retail price after publication.

Now the problem with buying from Amazon is a) some people prefer not to support Amazon, and b) with a $14.95 purchase, you have to pay shipping, because $25 is the minimum purchase amount for free shipping on books (unless you are a Prime member).

But, I have an alternative solution:

With the assistance of Tachyon Publications, you can now purchase the Pirate Utopia hardcover through the Tachyon online store at the $14.95 price -- but you must use a coupon code at checkout, and this coupon code is only valid through Sunday, August 7. And if you reside in these United States and select media mail as the shipping option, shipping will be free.

A $14.95 hardcover, free media mail shipping, and you are supporting an independent publisher...It doesn't get any better than that.

The coupon code is MOREREDINK. Catchy, huh! But remember, it's only valid through August 7 -- that's a little over three weeks from now.

Here's the link to the Pirate Utopia product page at Tachyon Publications online.

The hardcover is the default option, so click the "Pre-Order Now" button, then enter MOREREDINK in the "Coupon Code" field, click the "Apply Coupon" button, and, if you live in the U.S., you should be good to go. Of course, you'll then have to pay for the book!

One more thing: this coupon will work for up to three hardcovers ($5.00 off on each of the three books), and since the publication date is November, you might want to consider purchasing a couple extra copies for holiday gifts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Received: The Fisherman by John Langan

The FishermanBefore I begin this blog post, I must apologize -- to publisher Word Horde and author John Langan.

You see, I have received my comp copy of John Langan's new novel The Fisherman -- and I hadn't yet written about my work on this project, which I completed more than three months ago.

Aside from a million other things going on (a collapsing 47-foot-long, 2-foot-high brick retaining wall in the back yard that needs to be replaced; and a new fitness regimen (one and a third miles each day, five days a week, for three months now)), my wonderful, supportive, lovely wife has forbade me to leave my office until I clean up nearly twenty years of accumulated material from my work on over 200 books. That's a lot of paper! -- stacks and stacks of manuscript boxes.

My point being that The Fisherman is already in hand after little more than three months, which is a testament to the quality (production, scheduling, etc.) of Word Horde, and publisher Ross E. Lockhart. So, again, my apologies for not giving The Fisherman the attention that it was due in a timely fashion.

But now that the book is readily available from Amazon or your bookseller of choice, there is no reason for any hesitation whatsoever to purchase a copy of this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year. But don't take my word for it, here's an excerpt from a review by Shane Douglas Keene on the This Is Horror portal:
A very human tale, The Fisherman deals with issues of loss and continuance, of learning how to carry on in the face of insurmountable grief and pain, and Langan delivers this often poignant narrative with a heart as big as the moon, feeding out details with one of the strongest, most captivating authorial voices to come along in recent times....

The Fisherman is largely character driven and Langan carries the story along through the use of skillful dialogue and character interaction, interspersed with his brilliant descriptions and vivid, almost sensual imagery. The conversations between various individuals in the book are both natural and purposeful, driving action or imparting information necessary to the motion of the story, but never bogging it down and, while the book is often strikingly deep, at no point does it become anything less than captivating....
The protagonist, Abe, recently widowed (his wife died of cancer), finds comfort and contentment in the act of fishing. He later befriends a coworker, Dan, whose family died recently in a traffic accident. The two friends now go fishing together. While stuck in a diner due to a torrential downpour one day while on their way fishing, the two men learn the story of Rainer and his family and the tale of Dutchman's Creek, told to them by Howard, the diner's owner. The Fisherman is a story within a story: the tale of Dutchman's Creek occupying at least half of the book.

Here's another review excerpt, this one from Anthony Watson on Dark Musings:
[The story of Dutchman's Creek] makes up part two of the book – the bulk of it, in fact – and is entitled Der Fischer: A Tale of Terror. Which is about as apt a title as I can think of because the journey this tale takes the reader on truly is terrifying. Some of the imagery conjured up here will take your breath away – this is epic storytelling, encompassing huge themes. It's in stark contrast to the intimacy and emotion of the opening section and – possibly – all the more powerful for that. Special mention here to whoever chose the painting (Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870 by Albert Bierstadt) which has been used for the book's cover as it perfectly reflects the narrative within, men portrayed as insignificant against the immensity of nature....
And if that's still not enough to convince you to snag a copy of The Fisherman, then check out this interview with John Langan on Electric Lit -- and then buy a copy of the book!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

$1.99 For The Alien Contact Ebook [Ended]

I don't know how long this offer will be available: the ebook edition of Alien Contact is currently priced at $1.99.

The $1.99 price is for both the mobi (Amazon) and the epub (B&N) editions of the book. If you haven't already done so, now is your chance to read 170,000 words of some of the best alien contact stories for a buck-99, all between the virtual covers of a single ebook.

Just click the large Alien Contact book cover to the right to make your way to Amazon. For the epub edition, click this Nook book link.

Once caveat: The ebook editions do not contain the Stephen King story, "I Am the Doorway."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Some Hard Facts About Pirate Utopia By Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaI recently completed my review of the page proofs for Bruce Sterling's forthcoming novella Pirate Utopia.

If you are on the Tachyon Publications list to receive a review/reader copy of the galleys, they should be shipping out to you shortly. If you have access to NetGalley, the Pirate Utopia e-galleys should soon be available as well. But if you aren't on the list, and you don't have NetGalley access, but you would like to review an e-galley of Pirate Utopia, then please leave a comment below: provide me with your book blog URL or venue for which you review, as well as contact information, and I'll be in touch.

As to the "hard facts": Due to popular demand, the alt-history, Futurist, dieselpunk Pirate Utopia, which was to launch as a trade paperback, will now first appear in a collectible hardcover edition for the mere retail price of $14.95. A Bruce Sterling hardcover for only $14.95? Say it ain't so!

Tachyon Pubs's marketing consultant, Rick Klaw, posted these words about Pirate Utopia:
Who are these bold rebels pillaging their European neighbors in the name of revolution? The Futurists! Utopian pirate-warriors of the tiny Regency of Carnaro, the unlikely scourge of the Adriatic Sea. Mortal enemies of communists, capitalists, and even fascists (to whom they are not entirely unsympathetic). 
The ambitious Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are lead by a brilliant and passionate coterie of the perhaps insane. Lorenzo Secondari, World War I veteran, engineering genius, and leader of Croatian raiders. Frau Piffer, Syndicalist manufacturer of torpedoes at a factory run by and for women. The Ace of Hearts, a dashing Milanese aristocrat, spymaster, and tactical savant. And the Prophet, a seductive warrior-poet who leads via free love and military ruthlessness. 
Fresh off of a worldwide demonstration of their might, can the Futurists engage the aid of sinister American traitors and establish world domination?

In my June 10 blog post I shared the "Cast of Characters" in Pirate Utopia; and in my June 14 blog post I provided a sneak peak at some of the interior illustrations by John Coulthart, who also did the book's cover (above). Well, there are dozens of interior illos, and the three I provided simply don't do the book justice, so here are a few additional illustrations to whet your appetite:

Now imagine these illustrations in a beautifully done Bruce Sterling hardcover! Pirate Utopia will be published in November, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon or your fave bookseller.

* * * * *
A follow-up post (with a coupon code) on the hardcover price.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 4th - "Today we celebrate our independence day!"

Last night my wife and I partook in our July 4 guilty pleasure: we watched the 1996 movie Independence Day (ID4) while the neighborhood's illegal fireworks provided the incessant background explosions. The movie starred Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore, Will Smith as Marine Captain Steven Hiller, and Jeff Goldblum as MIT-educated computer hacker David Levinson.

Afterward, after searching my own blog, I realized that it has been four years since I last posted President Whitmore's speech and video -- four years: I can't believe it's been four years already!

So, to indulge my/our guilty pleasure, here it is yet again, from ID4:

Good morning. Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can't be consumed by our petty differences any more.

We will be united in our common interest.

Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:
"We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on, we're going to survive."
Today we celebrate our independence day!

—President Thomas J. Whitmore
    July 4th, 1996

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Redux: Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia - The Illustrations

Pirate UtopiaIn my previous blog post on Bruce Sterling's new novella, Pirate Utopia, I mentioned that the cover artist was John Coulthart, and that he had also written a 1,000-plus-word essay, "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design," to be included in the book.

What I didn't mention at the time is that John is also providing interior illustrations for the various sections of the novel. I didn't mention this because I didn't have access to any of the illos, then.

But I do now....

In that blog post I also stated that the story opens in Occupied Fiume, in January 1920: Lorenzo Secondari, the Pirate Engineer, and his group of Croatian pirates are off to the cinema to celebrate their new and improved torpedo, recently built at his Torpedo Factory. Here's the illustration for Section One: The Pirate Cinema:

And here's the illustration for the Pirate Utopia title page:

And lastly, here's the illustration for Section Two: The Ace of Hearts, who was a charismatic combat air ace and renowned expert in aerial reconnaissance (see "Cast of Characters" in my previous blog post):

So that's just a wee sampling of the interior illustrations by John Coulthart. Want to see the rest? Pirate Utopia will be published in November and is now available for pre-order direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or Amazon, or your preferred bookseller.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Editing in Process: Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

Pirate Utopia
Cover Art by John Coulthart
Over the past fifteen years, I've worked on a few projects with author Bruce Sterling. The earliest project that comes to mind is Paul Di Filippo's short story collection, Strange Trades, which I acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press in 2001. Bruce wrote the introduction to this quirky collection of stories in which Paul reconstructs our (mis)conceptions about what it means to work for a living. Another project? In January 2009 I emailed Bruce for permission to use his story "Swarm," one of his Shaper/Mechanist stories, in my Alien Contact anthology. More than two years passed before the anthology was finally published, but published it was.[1]

Then in the fall of 2014 (September 18, 2014, to be exact), when I was on the hunt (and still am!)[2] for a new novella for Tachyon Publications, I immediately thought of contacting Bruce Sterling. Of course, to be fair, not only is Bruce one of my fave authors, but Tachyon publisher Jacob Weisman had previously informed me that he was a huge fan of Bruce's writing as well, particularly Bruce's short stories. Over email, Bruce and I discussed word length, fees, and such, and that was that. About ten months later, on July 14, 2015, I followed up with another email to Bruce. By this point, two of Tachyon's recent novellas on which I had worked had won awards: Nancy Kress's Yesterday's Kin had won the Nebula Award, and We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory had won the Shirley Jackson Award. If one is trying to promote a publisher's novella program, it always helps to have had previous novellas win awards.[3]

Bruce responded the very next day, stating that he just happened to have a novella available -- Pirate Utopia: "a 25,000 word dieselpunk alternate history yarn set in Italy in 1919." (The story actually takes place in 1920.) And, as "they" say, the rest is history, or, at least, alternate history.

About Pirate Utopia: Following the Great War, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States and tyrant of the League of Nations, gave Fiume away to Yugoslavia, which resulted in the Fiume rebellion and the rise of the Regency of Carnaro. The story opens in Occupied Fiume, in January 1920: Lorenzo Secondari, the Pirate Engineer, and his group of Croatian pirates are off to the cinema to celebrate their new and improved torpedo, recently built at his Torpedo Factory. Adventures ensue...including an eventual meeting with a team of American Secret Service Agents.

Bruce and I put together a rather detailed "Cast of Characters." I've already introduced Lorenzo Secondari; here are a few others (in abbreviated form):
Blanka Piffer: The Pirate Engineer's business manager, interpreter, and purchasing agent; a Fiume native and Communist union leader.

The Prophet [Gabriele D'Annunzio]: the military dictator of Fiume, its guiding light and great orator; leader of the "Desperates."

The Constitutionalist [Alceste de Ambris]: Carnaro’s greatest political theorist.

The Ace of Hearts [Guido Keller]: The Prophet's right-hand man; a charismatic combat air ace and renowned expert in aerial reconnaissance.

The Art Witch [Luisa Casati]: a Milanese millionairesse, patroness of the arts, and occultist, who entertained The Prophet.

Giulio Ulivi: a young visionary Italian radio engineer, who discovered a new form of radiation which he named the "F-Ray."

Other "characters" include Benito Mussolini, Guglielmo Marconi, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Harry Houdini, Howard Lovecraft, and Robert "Bob" Ervin Howard. But you'll have to wait for the book to learn the roles these individuals play in the story. And remember, this is an alternate history story.

The cover art for Pirate Utopia is brought to you by the mighty hand of John Coulthart. Evidently the period of time in which this story takes place is of special interest to John, and in fact he includes a very enlightening 1,000-plus-word essay entitled "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design." About the cover art, John writes:
...there's a nod to Soviet Constructivism on the cover, with colours, letterforms, aircraft formation, and a flag-waving crowd that suggest the propaganda posters of the period. If this seems at odds with the Futurism within, consider it a hijacking (or pirating) of the graphics of a rival ideology...just as Secondari pirates (or hijacks) the Lancia-Ansaldo IZM from the unfortunate Communists. That armoured car is accurately depicted, incidentally, as are the Caproni bombers on the cover and inside the book....

Pirate Utopia will be published in November and is now available for pre-order direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, Amazon, or your preferred bookseller.


[1] My anthology Alien Contact was published in the fall of 2011 and contains 26 stories, and 165,000 words, of some of the best alien contact stories published in the past 30 or so years (from when the book itself was published). Here's my dedicated Alien Contact page -- start with "Beginnings..."

[2] In addition to Bruce Sterling, I contacted a handful of other authors to let them know I was acquiring original novellas for Tachyon Publications. It never ceases to amaze me when authors do not have the professional courtesy to even respond to such a query from an acquiring editor. I guess these writers have tons of editors breaking down their door to buy their stories. It must be nice. Just tell me you're not interested, or you're too busy, or whatever. You never know when you may have to work with me in the future.

[3] The Nebula Award win and the Shirley Jackson Award win for Nancy Kress and Daryl Gregory, respectively, were only the two most recent wins for Tachyon Publications -- and the two most recent novellas that I had worked on. In 2013, Nancy Kress's After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall won the Nebula Award, and was also a finalist for the Hugo Award. And Brandon Sanderson's The Emperor's Soul won that very same Hugo Award.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hugo Award and Locus Award Finalist: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Slow BulletsI was fortunate to have worked on Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds -- I acquired and edited the novella for Tachyon Publications -- so I am quite pleased to be able to announce that Slow Bullets is now a finalist for both the Hugo Award and the Locus Award.

The winners of the Locus Awards will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle, WA, June 24-26, 2016; Connie Willis will MC the awards ceremony. Here is the complete list of the Locus Award finalists, including details on the awards weekend.

The 2016 Hugo Awards will be presented on the evening of Saturday, August 20, during a ceremony at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, in Kansas City, MO. Here is the complete list of the Hugo Award finalists, including voting numbers.

I'd like to quote a paragraph from my June 8, 2015, blog post:
If you are unfamiliar with the various works of author Alastair Reynolds, then Slow Bullets would be the perfect starting point. If you read Alastair Reynolds already, preferring his longer novels and series work -- still, don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading this story, as Slow Bullets has more ideas than some novels that are twice its length.
And to further that aim (and to help promote the novella), here are my previous blog posts, in order of publication, on Slow Bullets:
February 9, 2015: Editing in Process...Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

May 29, 2015: Now Shipping: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds [includes quotes from Michael Bishop and Michael Swanwick]

June 1, 2015: Alastair Reynolds on the Genesis of his story Slow Bullets

June 8, 2015: "The pace of the novella is never less than breakneck": a review of Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds [from Green Man Review]

July 21, 2015: "Some readers may find themselves thrown off balance by the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness—" [from the Los Angeles Review of Books]

October 21, 2015: Book Received: Slow Bullets Limited Edition by Alastair Reynolds [includes the Strange Horizons review]

And if you haven't gotten the hint yet, you should consider purchasing a copy of Slow Bullets, which is available from Amazon, or from any other fave bookseller.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Received: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

New Central Station
Cover art by Sarah Anne Langton
I worked on Lavie Tidhar's Central Station the latter part of last year, which you can read about in my November 30, 2015, blog post.

Since then, the final cover art has been revealed, as shown on the left.

I included a couple excerpts from the book itself in that November 30 blog post; and you can access the publisher's website -- Tachyon Publications -- to read the starred Publishers Weekly review and the starred Library Journal review.

What I want to include here this time around is some thoughts on the book from the author himself, from Lavie Tidhar's own blog post on July 2, 2015, announcing the sale of Central Station to Tachyon Publications:
....In a way, [Central Station] both represents everything I have to say about the shape of science fiction – and a large part of it is a sort of dialogue with older (mostly, admittedly, quite obscure) SF – and a way of talking about the present. It is set in the old central bus station area in south Tel Aviv, currently home to a quarter of a million poor economic migrants from Asia, and African refugees, and I wanted to explore that area through the lens of science fiction (one of the weird things I found recently is that the fictional sort of "federal" political vision of Israel/Palestine I have in the book is now being touted as a real solution by a group of political activists). My other ambition was to write a book which was mostly about character interaction: about extended families, about relationships, in which the "shiny" science fiction future serves as a sort of background rather than taking centre stage. My other inspiration was that I always wanted to write a novel in short stories. Science fiction has a long tradition of doing this – from The Martian Chronicles to Lord of Light – but my inspiration was also partly V. S. Naipaul's Miguel Street.
You can read the full blog post, including the Comments section, on the author's website. Central Station is now available from Amazon or your favorite bookseller.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Redux: Old Records Never Die By Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His PastIn my April 20, 2016, blog post I wrote that I had received a copy of Eric Spitznagel's memoir Old Records Never Die -- and I included an excerpt from the book, and a link to the YouTube trailer (which features singer, songwriter, and producer Jeff Tweedy, the book's introducer).

Because I read books and manuscripts for a living, I often find opportunities for personal reading few and far between; I'm not an individual who can read multiple books concurrently, and I am envious of those who can. So I typically find time for personal reading in the late evening, before turning out the light for bed. Thus reading a personal book to completion (which doesn't always happen) can often take days, if not weeks, depending on the size of the book. But, I am nearing the final chapters of Spitznagel's Old Records Never Die, and I came upon another brief excerpt that I would like to share with you.

I assume most readers come to this blog because of the work I do with writers, publishers, and their books. However, if you also read the music posts -- or you now access this blog strictly for the music-related content -- please do let me know in the Comments section below. I really would like to know.

And even though this excerpt is strictly about the music-listening experience, it would also pertain to some degree to the discovery of new books, or new stories, particularly those by writers with whom we are not as yet familiar. Here's Eric Spitznagel:
Despite my initial misgivings, I listened to [the record] again. I listened to it at every opportunity. Because that's what you do when you're in your twenties. You give new music a fighting chance. Because you know something might not click until the fourth or fifteenth or even fifty-second listen. That's how long it takes sometimes. You have to let music live with you for a while. You have to listen to it when you're not really listening to it. It has to sneak up on you when you're doing something else, or it finally starts to trust you. Because music is alive, and it's as wary of you as you are of it.

The author, of course, is speaking of his past, and his discovery of music; but I have to hope that we all continue to discover new music -- and new books and new authors -- in our thirties, and forties, and to infinity and beyond.

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel is available from Amazon at the link, or from any other bookseller you may prefer.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

In Memory

Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison, and Prince
perform "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.

You must watch until the very end: Prince and his guitar....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Received: Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His PastA little less than a year ago I got my turntable and record collection out of storage, had the turntable serviced, and have been playing records since. I've even added a few new titles to the collection.[1]

However, as I went through my records, cleaning them (using the Spin-Clean Record Washer System) and then cataloging them via, I discovered, much to my dismay, that dozens of titles were simply missing. My wife said that maybe, in my misguided youth, I sold the records for cash and simply forgot that I had done so. But I ask you: Who sells an original pressing of Led Zeppelin II, or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or Zappa's Ruben and the Jets? Hmmm? Who, I ask you?

Somewhen, probably while I was traveling (I had hitchhiked across the United States in my youth), and/or attending college (UCLA, UMass/Amherst, Sonoma State, UofO/Eugene, and back to Sonoma), and/or living in different areas and states, my record collection was pilfered. I won't name names, but I have a fairly good idea what may have happened to them, but I won't talk about my family here.

I've searched online for some of these albums, but most are too pricey and/or in too poor a shape, for the original pressing, or else all that I can find are reissues, and more reissues. During one of these searches, I came upon a review for a book entitled Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel. The premise is that Eric sold/traded in, over time, his massive record collection, mostly for spare change (gas money, fast food, movies, etc. -- his John Mellencamp Scarecrow album garnered a whole ten cents!). And now, in his 40s, he's feeling the loss -- and decides he's going to return to the scenes of the crimes and try to track down some of those records. Not replacement copies, mind you -- but the exact same copy of the record that he once owned! Crazy? I'll have to wait to see, as I'm only on chapter two.

The introduction is by Jeff Tweedy, singer, songwriter, and producer, whose bands include Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco. Here's Tweedy's and Spitznagel's four-and-a-half-minute trailer for Old Records Never Die:

I don't know that I could search for the exact copies of my missing records, since I don't know where and when they went missing, but I'll still have to find a VG+ or better replacement copy of the original pressing at an affordable price. Forget the reissues; worse case I'll just settle for the CD. Here's an excerpt from Old Records Never Die:

As I browsed Reckless, there were albums that were entirely foreign to me, and albums that were instantly familiar. But the old friends, they'd all been given an upgrade. Fugazi's Repeater? A reissue. The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead? Another reissue. Anything by the Replacements? Only one Tim and two Pleased to Meet Mes, both reissues. Even the crown jewel of my collection, the record I bought solely because a guy with Elvis Costello glasses and a nose ring behind the counter at Record Swap recommended it, Screeching Weasel's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People, was only available as a reissue.

Everything was a deluxe edition, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, now with original artwork. The stickers that used to read FEATURING THE RADIO HIT . . . now promised things like INCLUDES A DOWNLOAD CODE AND HIGH-RES DIGITAL AUDIO EDITIONS IN 2.8 MHZ, 12 KHZ / 24-BIT, AND 96 KHZ / 24-BIT! I recognized the covers, but the albums felt different. It's not just that they were new; there was something too slick in the design, too high-definition in the packaging.

...[I] drifted toward the used section, which was actually labeled LAST-CHANCE SALOON.

This was more promising. Here were the records that might've come from my personal library. Not the titles, necessarily, but the general poor condition. They smelled like something that'd been left in the basement during a Chicago winter. If you grabbed them with too much force, the sleeves folded back. I spent almost a full minute cradling albums like Bryan Adams's Cuts Like a Knife and the Greg Kihn Band's Kihnspiracy, not because they were records I particularly cherished, but because they had the physical battle scars of music from my era. Also, it didn't hurt that the average price for a bargain bin record—fifty-nine cents on the high end—meant I could probably buy back my entire collection for about a hundred dollars.

I'm all for superior sound quality, but vinyl made after 2000 is fundamentally different from vinyl made in the twentieth century. It smells different, it feels different. The vinyl copy of the Pixies' Doolittle I purchased at Reckless in 1990 is only tangentially related to the reissue vinyl copy, ticket price $19.99, currently for sale at Reckless. I don't give a shit about rare test pressings. Or when new albums come with free download coupons. Or colored vinyl. Or goddamn picture discs. I want the records I recognize. The records that feel like a part of my double helix.

You can read more about this book on the author's website: In fact, the website has a special section, Lost Found, where people can post photos of the records they have found, that were all marked up by the original owner, along with the original owner's name, if it was written on the album. Check it out.



[1] As I wrote in my December 15, 2015, blog post entitled "And Now for Something Completely Different: Vinyl," I begrudgingly gave up on buying LPs when the recording industry moved, in earnest, toward the CD. Finally, on July 13, 1990, I broke down and purchased a CD player and my first stack of CDs. I still have my CD library and, in fact, many of the LPs I'm missing are in my CD collection, or bits and pieces of those LPs are included in box sets. But vinyl...vinyl is the true love of music listening.