Aug 31, 2009

YetiReview: Abyss (FotJ Book 3)

20 words or less: Fate of the Jedi plotline begins to pick up in a typically uneven Denning novel that does more right than wrong.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pros: Interesting Luke/Ben subplot finally delivers on potential; Spot-on characterizations; Series plotlines finally start to come together

Cons: Poorly written dream sequences; Denning continues to demonstrate a weakness for describing action sequences; Techspeak crutch used to arrange scenes

The Review: After reading Omen (review here), the Fate of the Jedi series left a bad taste in my mouth. Now, after Troy Denning’s Abyss, I’m happy to say the series appears to be back on track. In the first two books, it was clear that LucasBooks were trying to fix some of the issues that plagued their first attempts at large story-arcs (of the 9+ book variety); mostly regarding continuity errors, sloppy characterizations, and dropped plotlines. It was easy to see that each book had a specific start and end-point and the author was responsible for navigating between the two. This structured approach felt unwieldy in the first two books, possibly a result of the authors not being given enough plot to fill a 350 page book with or creative struggles on the author’s part. It might be the fact that the overarching plotlines are finally starting to intertwine, but Abyss felt like a fully developed story rather than 3 unrelated novellas that simply occupied the same chronological space in the Star Wars Universe. The characters all have something interesting to do, rather than visiting the galactic pet market or teaching sages the importance of living life to the fullest or whatever one-dimensional storyline was used to bridge the predefined end points for Han, Leia, and Luke.

The Luke/Ben plotline specifically was a huge improvement over previous entries and very interesting in its own right. Retracing Jacen’s journey to various Force-wielding cultures around the galaxy sounds like a very intriguing story on paper. However, the first two entries came and went with only minor amounts of “galaxy-building” development or Force philosophy leaving only a massive amount of wasted potential behind. With the Mind Walkers, a secretive sect hidden amidst the galaxy’s largest Black Hole cluster, Denning delivers on that original potential, fleshing out a strange and possibly ill-intentioned group of Force-users that inhabit an equally mysterious space station. In previous books, the Luke/Ben story was a glaring weakness. In Abyss, Denning has improved it into one of it’s strengths.

The second plotline concerning the “Jedi-sickness” plaguing young Jedi Knights continued as well. This was one of the most intriguing parts of the first two books and Denning managed to add some much needed momentum to the story after it started to crawl in Golden’s Omen (10% of the book involved two characters going to dinner). The multi-faceted Jedi/Republic/Empire/Press conflict continues to develop as loyalties change and additional incidents occur. The third plotline is Sith being Sithly. Which doesn’t disappoint, although they aren’t quite as evil as they possibly should be. Clearly, all three plotlines are related but this is the one that is really going to make things interesting in the books to come. Overall, the series made tremendous improvements plot-wise in this volume.

While I was much happier with the plot advancement of Abyss, it still had some stylistic problems, albeit not nearly as many as Omen. Where Golden was a Star Wars “noob” still finding her voice, Denning is a seasoned Star Wars author. He gets what Star Wars characters do and don’t say (at least pre-Phantom Menace characters anyways). The majority of the dialogue and galaxy-building is strong aside from Denning’s tendency for tech-dumping. Inventing “mirfields”, “wallscopes”, and other technologies for a single scene is more lazy writing than anything else. Rather than trying to come up with an internally consistent reason for the situation he wants to write, Denning resorts to “new technological advancements” to introduce a conflict. It doesn’t help that these buzzwords never really get explained and don’t make much sense from any of the context clues. This is further compounded by Denning’s apparent inability to write an action sequence. As soon as the action gets going, whether it’s the exploration of an ancient run-down space station, a lightsaber battle in zero gee, or a chase through the streets of Coruscant, the characters get lost in general spatial vagueness and an absolute vacuum of detail. Anyone who has scene Star Wars knows that the visual elements are tremendously important and Denning just can’t deliver up to expectations. I spend so much time trying to figure out what is actually happening that it’s almost impossible to get lost in the thrill of a fight. Normally, I would be a little lenient but Denning does this in every Star Wars book he has every written. I suggest he try a little Joe Abercrombie to see what how an action scene should be done.

Ignoring my distaste for a couple of Denning’s bad habits, Abyss is still a worthwhile entry in the Fate of the Jedi series and it really put the series back on track without straying from the more rigid serialized structure that is cleaning up the series continuity issues quite nicely. This was especially nice to see after Omen failed to advance the plot in any appreciable way and wasted a huge opportunity with the Luke/Ben subplot. Honestly though, if you aren’t a Star Wars junkie like me, there’s nothing really worth talking about. I would say you were missing much. As a fanboy, however, I’m very eager to see where the story goes in future volumes. Unfortunately for me, FotJ Book 4, Backlash, won’t be out until next March.

Aug 28, 2009

The Heroes (UPDATED)

In somewhat timely fashion (Best Served Cold Review), Joe Abercrombie has announced the title and a rough description of his next novel in the First Law Universe (does it have a name yet). He's anticipating it will be similar in length to Best Served Cold and unfortunately, probably won't be released until Feb 2011.

Here's the summary:

Both because the action centres around a ring of standing stones called the Heroes, and because it's about heroism and that (meant semi-ironically, of course). It mostly takes place over the course of three days, and is the story of a single battle for control of the North. Think Lord of the Rings meets A Bridge Too Far, with a sprinkling of Band of Brothers and Generation Kill. It's about war, you get me? Principally it follows the (mis)adventures of six assorted persons on both sides and different levels of command, whose paths intersect during the course of the battle in various fateful, horrible, wonderful, surprisingly violent, surprisingly unviolent, and hilarious ways. With the Northmen: a veteran losing his nerve who just wants to keep his crew alive, an ex-Prince determined to claw his way back to power by any means necessary, a young lad determined to win a place in the songs for himself. With the Union: A depressive swordsman who used to be the king's bodyguard, a profiteering standard-bearer, and the venomously ambitious daughter of the Marshal in command. But of course a fair few familiar faces show up on both sides...
Check out the full story over on Joe's blog. And if you haven't read any his work yet, you are missing out on some seriously good stuff.

UPDATE: I asked a question of Joe over on his blog regarding the title of his fantasy world/series title. His fantasy world is The Circle of the World and the overarching book series is "The Song of the Sword of Time of the Fallen." I think he's being sarcastic but I really hope he's not.

Aug 26, 2009

Keeping An Eye On... Paul Melko

This week we are Keeping An Eye On Paul Melko. Like so many of the authors on SFSignal's Watchlist, Melko has debuted with a bang. His first novel, Singularity's Ring, was a SciFi essential book and, even more impressively, he managed to take home the 2009 Locus Award for Best First Novel. Since then he's published an unrelated second novel, The Walls of the Universe, based of a Hugo-, Nebula-, and Sturgeon-nominated novella of the same name. He's also got a short story collection out from Fairwood Press, chock full of the best and hard-to-find short fiction Paul has authored. One of the members of the surprisingly large Ohioan SF Revolution, Paul is also one of the relatively newer names of the watchlist and one of the names that SFSignal helped me discover.

Since then, Paul's been on my Watchlist and it was a pleasure to see what he's going to be up to in the immediate future. Read on to find out for yourself.

SoY: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently? What are you writing now?

PM: What's coming next? Good question! In August I finish up my MBA at The Ohio State University. I hadn't expected it to put a halt on any new words from me for 18 months, but it did. During that time my second book (THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE) arrived and my first book (SINGULARITY'S RING) won some awards, so there's been a fair amount of writing business going on. I'm looking so forward to picking up some old projects that my brain is salivating. I have four choices on what I'm going to do:

  1. Write a sequel to THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE.
  2. Write a new stand-alone humorous SF novel based on my Cankerman short stories.
  3. Write a middle-grade hard science fiction novel with my friend Ben Rosenbaum.
  4. Write a middle-grade fantasy novel based on my Kirby Drogan stories.
Really, I'm ready to do any and all of them. The question is what to do first. Before a reader sees any of those, look for the trade paperback version of THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE, hopefully in stores sometime next year.

SoY: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this, what is the one single piece of work of yours (novel, short story, cave painting, etc.) would you like them to read?

PM: If you, our hypothetical reader, have but a few minutes, then read my short story, "Ten Sigmas," which I think is my best short story, first published in Talebones and collected elsewhere. If you have an afternoon for me, read the novella version of "The Walls of the Universe." If you want to spend the next two days with me, read my first novel SINGULARITY'S RING.

SoY: Describe your writing style in haiku-form.


I write only prose,
as the frugal use of words
causes me much pain

SoY: Singularity’s Ring won both the Compton Crook Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It’s the first novel you’ve had published. Was it also the first novel you wrote? Can you describe the journey between concept and sale for all of the aspiring writers who might be reading this?

PM: SINGULARITY'S RING started as a short story for Lou Anders' LIVE WITHOUT A NET. We had just been introduced, and he said he was editing an anthology in which the future of humanity did not depend on computers and hardware and Internets. I was struck by the idea for biological networks almost immediately, and I wrote "Singletons in Love" for Lou. It went on to get collected in the Year's Best SF by Gardner Dozois. I found the characters so intriguing that I wrote more stories in the same universe. "Strength Alone" in Asimov's became chapter 1 of the book. "Singletons in Love" was chapter 2. And a third story "The Summer of the Seven" was a prequel.

It was not the first novel I wrote. THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE, in radically different form was the first, sorta. There were several abortive attempts prior to that. But WALLS didn't cut the mustard, and so I pieced RING together into a novel when I realized I had 3 or 4 chapters just sitting around. "The Walls of the Universe" novella, a Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon nominee, was a distillation of the best parts of the crappy novel. I used that to write the second version of the novel.

RING sold to Tor, and WALLS sold after that.

SoY: What authors would you describe as your primary influences in developing your personal narrative style?

PM: Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Heinlein, Harry Harrison, Gregory McDonald.

SoY: Some of the other up and coming authors I’ve interviewed have mentioned how hard writing a novel is compared to their experiences writing shorter fiction. What did you find hardest about making that transition? Was it easier the second time around?

PM: Writing in general is hard. The skills required are slightly different for short and long fiction, and if you learn one set of skills, the other set of skills feel out of place in your brain until you get the hang of it.

Neither length seems any easier than the other to me at this point.

SoY: Every author has that one story they’ve always wanted to tell. Is either Singularity’s Ring or The Walls of the Universe that story? Or is that one still to come?

PM: THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE is probably the book I've always wanted to write.

SoY: Who wins in a battle to the death between Ender Wiggins, Paul Atreides, Gandalf, and Harlan Ellison?

PM: Honor Harrington

SoY: I’ve heard of the British SF revolution but you seem to be part of the Ohio SF revolution. Why are there so many up and coming genre authors coming out of Ohio. Is there something aspiring writers should know?

PM: Serendipity. I grew up in Ohio and luckily the town I grew up in had three great bookstores downtown, one of them a used bookstore with a trove of old SF. But that's true of practically all small towns in Ohio.

When I moved back to Ohio, I immediately looked for a writers workshop to attend. I ran into Charles Coleman Finlay and Tobias Buckell, and all three of us were at nearly the same points in our career. How unlikely is that event?

Writing is one of those things that is usually learned in isolation and for one's self. Having a cohort of writers at about the same level as you -- a gang of journeyman -- was a phenomenal help to me. And just as likely to happen any place as Ohio.

SoY: Are there any original stories left? Hollywood doesn’t seem to think so. Do you think the way most people consume their media today is influencing the creativity of our culture?

PM: I like the idea that we as a species evolved with story as a part of intelligence. When we see disconnected facts, our brains try to piece it together as narrative. This works to our advantage -- we can reason and strategize -- and disadvantage – we end up making stories (myths, astrology, religion, bad theories) to fit the facts. But in any case, we're hard-wired for prose, and that will not change. People will need story, but of course the medium of story will change, but the common characteristics will not. We need heroes, vivid description, plot, a moral, exotic settings, romance, interesting people doing interesting things.... And of course we'll need people to write those stories.

SoY: You’ve also got a short story anthology out from Fairwood Press. With developing authors, there can some times be an urgency to publish a collection as soon as they’ve got enough stories. How did you select the stories for Ten Sigmas & Other Unlikelihoods?

PM: I've had a enough stories to publish a collection for a while, but just recently I had enough science fiction prose alone to fill a collection. Looking through my oeuvre, I realized I had Hugo-, Nebula-, and Sturgeon-Award nominated works, stories that had appeared in the year's best anthologies, and stories that had only appeared in small press magazines. It seemed like a collection was in order.

SoY: An incident occurs resulting in your removal from the list of up-and-coming genre stars. What is the most likely cause of that incident? (can be as serious or as funny as you would like) Who do you nominate in your place?

PM: What could happen? Tor doesn't pick up my third book. I find another genre or media of interest. Life gets in the way. I get bored. It's really quite tenuous, isn't it. Read me while you can!

Jack Skillingstead, Mary Robinette Kowal, John Pitts, Ken Scholes can all have my spot.

Now Paul neglected to answer my question regarding ways to follow him online but I was able to find an official website as well as a blog. I'm guessing he wouldn't be opposed to me posting those here since they are overflowing with information on his work. I'd recommend checking him out, as well as picking up at least one of his two outstanding novels. I have a sneaking suspicious once you get one, the other might be on your bookshelf before long.

Thanks again to Paul for participating and if you enjoyed the interview, come back next week for more interviews. I've been getting a lot of responses lately, so I might be trying to move to a quicker release schedule in the coming weeks if I can find time.

Alternate Perspectives Requested...

If anyone who found this blog over the weekend is still around, I'd be curious to know what you thought about this post over at World in a Satin Bag. The author is essentially making the same point I was trying to, but not failing quite as hard as I did. Where I tried to be ironic, the author took the more direct approach.

Go over there, have a read, let me know what you think.

Aug 25, 2009

YetiReview: Best Served Cold

21 Words or Less: A bloody story of revenge filled with murder, mayhem, and a memorable cast of characters as endearing as they are dysfunctional.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Good: Strong, interesting antiheros that you can’t help but cheer for; world-class action sequences that put you in the story; a fast-paced, well-plotted story that twists and turns but never loses momentum

The Bad: A few too many reused characters/connections from The First Law; some plot twists work better than others; still no map

Preview (contains publisher’s description, expectations, and other thoughts)

Your average fantasy author wouldn't use murderers, traitors, and psychopaths as the bad guys. But then again, Joe Abercrombie is not your average fantasy author. In Best Served Cold, the standalone revenge tale set in the same fantasy world as his highly praised First Law trilogy, Abercrombie takes mercenaries and barbarians, poisoners and serial killers and not only writes them as the focus of the story but inexplicably manages to make you care enough about them to cheer them on. If Joe ever suffers from crippling writer’s block (god forbid) and he needs to take on a day job, he’d make good money as a defense attorney. He’s got an uncanny ability to make a hardened killer seem like the luckless underdog. Friendly. Monza. Morveer. Without giving any surprises away (and there are plenty of them), these are just three of the brilliant characters that you’ll remember as long as Glotka, Ninefingers, and Bayaz from the original trilogy.

I could go on and on about how great the characters are but I want to be clear that Best Served Cold is by no means a character study. It’s a full blown revenge fantasy for the sake of Khalul! It’s fast paced, tightly plotted, and beautifully violent. Now, beautiful isn’t a word I typically use to describe violence but Abercrombie writes an action scene that is easily envisioned and almost effortlessly enchanting to the point where I would be tempted to say Abercrombie is writes the best fight scene in the genre today. It's arguable that the action reads as smoothly as watching a movie scene but when you’re filming a movie there’s a limit to what you can do without CGI (or at least without killing your actors). And while the action might seem gratuitous at times, it never is. Best Served Cold is tightly plotted and ever detail serves to further the plot, set up a twist later on, or provide a hint at the bigger war between the Gurkish and the Union. Unlike most standard fantasy, Abercrombie’s sandbox is not tied to one individual destined for greatness. Instead there’s a bigger conflict going on behind the scenes and it’s still not clear who the good guys are, if there are any. Essentially you’ve got morally ambiguous and altogether untrustworthy characters working for powerful men with divided loyalties who are mere puppets of shadow organizations with bottomless coffers and hidden agendas all of their own. If that doesn’t allow for unexpected plot twists, sudden reversals of fortune, and endlessly intriguing chaos, there isn’t too much more to ask for.

I was really tempted to give Joe a 5-star on this one and Best Served Cold by any other author would probably have earned it. But Abercrombie is so good, he’s judged by a higher standard. The main issue that held me back was Abercrombie’s propensity for reusing characters from his First Law Trilogy. 2 of the main characters appeared in Abercrombie’s first trilogy as well as several minor names. While I can’t blame him for wanting to reuse his typically spectacular characters, a few characters were shoehorned into the novel in ways that seemed too convenient to be plausible, particularly when this novel was set across the sea from the setting of his first trilogy. (Although I wouldn’t know for sure since we still don’t have a map!) Some inclusions worked wonderfully and felt natural, others came across as forced. In much the same way, a few of Best Served Cold’s twists strained plausibility, particularly one character’s unexpected return and another pair’s romantic relationship. Hopefully in the next entry in this outstanding series, Abercrombie can balance these cameos in a slightly more subtle fashion.

This is only Abercrombie’s fourth novel and there isn’t a weakling in the bunch. It’s amazing how already I consider Abercrombie to be one of the best fantasy authors in almost every category. Characters, action, dialogue, plot, world building? It’s all there and it’s all top-notch. Abercrombie is the king of blood-soaked fantasy. Or at least a prince with a pile of gold, a hidden dagger, and an eye on the throne.

Women and Writers of Color Suggestions

Last weekend I had the brilliant idea of engaging a rather vocal subsection of the genre community in a lively little discussion. Long story short, they aren't just vocal; they're also correct on a number of very good points, two of which were the importance of trying to be conscious of your unconscious bias and expanding your reading network. Without realizing it, I tended to write off female writers, and I'm not sure why. I wasn't presuming that they would only be concerned with relationships or children or unicorns or something like that but when I reflected on it I wasn't reading that many books not written by my own demographic.

So today I saw this list of Mindblowing SF by Women and People of Coloron There is a ton of info there. They've got lists of short stories, novels, and a list of authors you should check it out. I've looked it over and while I've read some of the authors )LeGuin, Niffenegger, Kress, Willis, Bear, Parker, Atwood, among others) there are a lot of authors I've always meant to read but haven't (Buckell, Russell, Butler) and several I'm ashamed to say I haven't heard of.

So check out their list. If you've read a lot of those authors and more, let them know who they might be missing. I'm not well read but I didn't see Lauren Buekes, author of the fantastic Moxyland on their list. If you aren't as well read, maybe pick up a book or two, try something new for a change.

Aug 24, 2009

Covering Covers: Galileo's Dream

I saw the cover for Kim Stanley Robinson's Galileo's Dream for the first time accompanying Adam Robert's glowing review at the Guardian website. I grabbed a brief summary of the novel from his review which is quoted below:

Two-thirds of the novel is a scrupulously researched and brilliantly effective historical tale dramatising Galileo's life and times; the remainder is set among the colonised moons of Jupiter in the year 3020. Alien life has been encountered beneath Europa's ice; it may be benign or it may pose a terrible threat to Jovian human society. By means of temporal entanglement (with just a little Robinsonian hand-waving), Galileo is brought "proleptically" forward to lend his prestige to the debate over what to do.
That sounds very interesting and the cover blends Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle with any of a number of Alastair Reynolds covers. Devoted SFF blogosphere followers might recall that Adam Roberts referenced Galileo's Dream in his rant about the mediocrity of this year's Hugo slate as one of the books he's read that he would nominate over any of the actual novels on the list. I'm definitely interested in reading this one but unfortunately it falls into the category of books that are published in the UK with no US release date in sight. I just might have to bend my rule about foreign releases once again...

What do you think of the cover? Any UK readers out there?

Update: Reader Kimon provided a link to the US Cover as well as a US Release Date of December 29th, 2009. There's also another review, this one from The Independent.

Here's the US cover:

I don't know about you but the cover + release date is two votes for the UK edition and two strikes against the US one. Book Depository Free World Wide Shipping, here I come.

Aug 22, 2009

Apologies to Jonathan Strahan...

After some mostly civil discussion in the comments of my recent post about Eclipse Three, I'd like to say a few things. And since it's my blog, you can't stop me.

1st) I'd like to apologize to Jonathan Strahan for the "rocket" crack. I was using it as a turn of phrase to introduce the point of "compensating" rather than any real suggestion that trying to be mindful of bias (conscious or not) somehow related to male endowment. That wasn't my intention at all. I also don't feel like Eclipse Three suggests anything negative about him or his work. I didn't think that Eclipse Two or One did either though, and I feel like he was unfairly criticized then. I still suspect that Eclipse Three was influenced by the Eclipse Two situation and this lead to questions about the the role of the individual editor (or reader) when it comes to mitigating bias.

And just to be clear, I will be, and always planned on, buying Eclipse Three (and Four and more) regardless of what's in the ToC. My goal was never to get Strahan to revise the ToC and add more white male authors. That would be silly.

2nd) I'd like to apologize for the somewhat (or maybe excessively) troll-ish nature of the original post. I used the ToC for Eclipse Three to spark the debate over some thoughts I've been mulling over since the Mindblowing SF discussion a few weeks back. It was an easy target due to the several previous gender-themed discussions that the Eclipse series has generated in past years and I may be guilty of consciously choosing a voice that would generate comments. You can't fully develop any thought without discussing it outside your own brainspace and engaging with people who have a different point of view only help you more.

I don't have any ads and I'm not getting paid to write so I wasn't looking for hits or clicks, I was looking for civil discussion. I started this blog because I wanted to talk about books and the publishing industry in general and the vast majority of the people in my life (except for a few select people who knows who they are) weren't willing or able to talk about that kind of stuff. And while it was possible (though difficult) to find someone who was willing to listen, it was impossible to find someone one engaged enough in the SFF scene to present a counterargument or a lively debate.

3rd) This discussion has made me a little more cognizant of my own unconscious bias. I (like many readers) read mostly for pleasure so I tend to stick to my comfort zone, which is predominantly comprised of work I relate to more easily. I feel like this is a fundamental bias of life and not necessarily a bad thing. You like talking about stuff you are interested in, you enjoy spending time with people you get along with, and you derive pleasure out of reading books about situations you can relate to and characters you can connect with. Will I, as a white male, enjoy reading a story featuring a white male character more than a woman of color (assuming the writers are of equal talent)? Most likely. Is there bias? Of course. Does that make me sexist? I don't think so.

However, one of the goals of my blog is to help others (and myself) find new authors worth reading. And unless I expand my own horizons, it's going to be harder to do that. Which I think was the fundamental point I was missing when I was mulling things over internally. I think cofax said it best in the comments:

Now, he's [Strahan] a lot more aware of the issue, and he's clearly reaching out to a broader network of writers. This is what has created the E3 TOC--not quotas, but a conscious effort to expand his level of comfort to include writers from outside his own personal ingroup.

I thought this made a lot of sense. But recognizing that there are some holes in my reading lists is only the first step. I need some more informed help for the next part. Who should I be reading?

Please recommend any author you think is worth checking out regardless of gender or race. Please include why you recommended them as well.

I'm also willing to continue the discussion on gender bias in the original post comments if anyone is interested in joining.

As a final note, the cover on Barnes and Noble (shown above) has a different set of authors than the one originally posted by Strahan. This one includes Kim Stanley Robinson and James Blaylock, neither of whom are in the anthology. The cover Strahan posted featured Peter Watts, who is also not in the anthology. I don't know the best set of authors to put on the cover to move copies, but I would suggest using ones that actually appear in the book.

Aug 20, 2009

Jonathan Strahan must have a small rocket...

...because it looks like he's compensating for something.

I saw for the first time the ToC for Eclipse Three, an ongoing anthology series of new fiction.

  • The Pelican Bar, Karen Joy Fowler
  • Lotion, Ellen Klages
  • Don’t Mention Madagascar, Pat Cadigan
  • On the Road, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Swell, Elizabeth Bear
  • Useless Things, Maureen F. McHugh
  • The Coral Heart, Jeffrey Ford
  • It Takes Two, Nicola Griffith
  • Sleight of Hand, Peter S. Beagle
  • The Pretender’s Tourney, Daniel Abraham
  • Yes We Have No Bananas, Paul Di Filippo
  • Mesopotamian Fire, Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
  • The Visited Man, Molly Gloss
  • Galápagos, Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • Dolce Domum, Ellen Kushner

  • Notice that 11 out of the 16 authors are women. (Also notice that the cover advertises Peter Watts but he isn't in the ToC but that's beside the point) That's an unusually high number.

    Let's take a look at the original ToC for last year's Eclipse Two:

  • The Hero, Karl Schroeder
  • Turing’s Apples, Stephen Baxter
  • Invisible Empire of Ascending Light, Ken Scholes
  • Michael Laurits is: Drowning, Paul Cornell
  • Elevator, Nancy Kress
  • The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm, Daryl Gregory
  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, David Moles
  • The Rabbi’s Hobby, Peter S. Beagle
  • The Seventh Expression of the Robot General, Jeffrey Ford
  • Skin Deep, Richard Parks
  • Ex Cathedra, Tony Daniel
  • Truth Window: A Tale of the Bedlam Rose, Terry Dowling
  • We Haven’t Got There Yet, Harry Turtledove
  • Fury, Alastair Reynolds

  • Hmmm... only 1 woman in the original ToC for Eclipse Two. And no authors that are clearly members of minority groups. Hey! Isn't this the same anthology that got criticized last year for not having enough women and minorities? Wasn't the ToC later revised to include Ted Chiang and Margo Lanagan? Boosting that diversity factor by 200%?

    The covers are strange too. In Eclipse One the ratio of M:F was 9:7 but all 6 cover authors were men. In Eclipse Two, the ration of M:F was 13:2 and both women made the cover (after Eclipse One received some heat for that). Eclipse Three has 4 female authors on the cover, one male author, and for fun another author who isn't even in the table of contents! That's Jonathan Strahan just screwing with us right there. "I'll put 10 male authors on the cover but have all of the content written by female authors. Who's sexist now?"

    Now I'm not suggesting that any one of these authors don't deserve to be in the anthology or can't write. That's not the case at all. I'm suggesting that the disproportionately high number of female authors gives the impression that Jonathan Strahan was purposefully trying to build an anthology around female authors. This is even more suspicious when you consider the criticism that was voiced around Eclipse Two last year. I know its counter intuitive but I think this does a disservice to the authors. To me the ToC says "I got in trouble for not having enough women authors last year, this ought to shut them up" instead of "Hey here are some really good SF&F stories, enjoy."

    I realize I'm walking a fine line here but I feel like you can't react to Eclipse Two or The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF with outrage without at least raising an eyebrow at the make-up of Eclipse Three. Why does a book with an unusually high amount of men cause outrage but an unusually high amount of women slip by? Don't they both suggest that the editor might have been considering something else other than the stories themselves when it came to commissioning/selecting work?

    Certainly, with any EditorFail you can't know for sure what the editor's intention was. Jonathan Strahan probably didn't realize that he had a lot of women this year, just as I'm sure he didn't realize it was mostly men last year. It appears he is leaning to more of a slipstream/fantasy feel for this anthology and maybe he had more female authors in mind for the style of stories he was looking for. I can't be sure if he did or not. You can only know what you personally interpret it as or what you think it could be interpreted as by someone else. And I can clearly see how some people could see this as an apology, as pandering, or as biased; even more so than last years. Unfortunately, there's also no clear right way to fix the problem. It would appear that the Jonathan Strahan's anthologies might be eclipsed by the stigma of EditorFails for years to come.

    And why is there still only one author clearly representing a minority group? Not as easy spell that out on the cover? Are we saving that for Eclipse Four?

    Aug 19, 2009

    Keeping An Eye On... Jay Lake

    In this week's entry in Keeping An Eye On we have yet another author who needs no introduction. Jay Lake, who can write fiction faster than most people can read it, was one of the most commonly suggested authors SFSignal's Genre Watchlist. I'm guessing anyone who didn't name him assumed he was too prominent to qualify. Like many of his fellow Watchlisters, Jay Lake won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer; his award coming back in 2004. Since then, he has published several novels (most recently Green) and a number of collections, edited a dozen anthologies, and written countless short stories. I'm not kidding about this, look at his bibliography, there are at least 200 stories there. I'm not counting that. It goes without saying that more than a few of these works have been reprinted in anthologies such as Johnathan Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year and several editions of Gardner Dozois's The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

    I was just hoping that Jay would stop writing for long enough to answer a few questions. Luckily enough, he did:

    SoY: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently?

    JL: Just lately I've wrapped the first draft of ENDURANCE, a sequel to my current novel GREEN. There will be a third book as well, probably entitled KALIMPURA. Short fiction continues apace, and I've got some cool stuff coming out next year, including a collection entitled THE SKY THAT WRAPS from Subterranean Press, and a single title novella from PS Publishing, THE BABY KILLERS.

    SoY: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this, as unlikely as that may be, what is the one single piece of work of yours (novel, short story, Hawaiian shirt, etc.) would you like them to read? (This can be for whatever reason you would like)

    JL: Either my Dick-and-Jane shirt (a strong candidate for the most heinous aloha shirt ever), or my new novel GREEN. What the hey, start at the top in your pimping. People looking for a free, quick hit might try my short story in the Clarkesworld archives, "The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black", or my collaboration there with Shannon Page, "Rolling Steel."

    SoY: Describe your writing style in haiku-form.

    JL: words come together
    like rain falling on pizza
    making a new thing

    SoY: Some of the other up and coming authors I’ve interviewed have mentioned how hard writing a novel is compared to their experiences writing shorter fiction. What did you find hardest about making that transition? Has it gotten easier over time?

    JL: Novels require more courage, I think. Typing "Once there was man", knowing you'll be living inside that manuscript for months – years, really, with the full life cycle of the editing process – is a huge step for anyone sane. Short stories are like the raid on Entebbe. You get it, you trash the place, you get out. It's over before you can really shit yourself in fear. Novels are like the invasion of Normandy. Lots of things to go wrong, lots of time to worry about it.

    SoY: You seem to be more prolific than entire creative writing classes. How do you keep the writing fresh and the ideas flowing? What advice would you give to young authors who are frustrated with their writing careers?

    JL: Write more. That's it. Writing is self-reinforcing. Don't make a fetish out of it, and don't surrender to the myth of the garret, or the myth of the chained muse. It's like playing the guitar, or practicing taekwondo, or having sex. The more you do, the better you get. The better you get, the better it feels. The better it feels, the more you want to do. For me, that opens the channel for ideas, and keeps things from going stale.

    SoY: What’s with the Hawaiian shirts?

    JL: You can always find me in a crowd, right?

    SoY: You’ve done a fair bit of editing work in addition to your writing. Is it easy to take off the writer hat and put on the editor? What the biggest difference between reading a story as a writer and an editor?

    JL: Actually, that transition isn't as easy as I might like it to be. Also, I'm always a writer first. Being an editor is ever an exception case for me.

    Reading, oddly, is not that different, as I have to work hard to turn off my critical eye these days. Reading critically and reading editorially are not the same thing, but they're kissing cousins. It's the difference between "how would I fix this" and "how does this need to be fixed".

    SoY: As someone who has written for the cycle (short stories, stand-alones, series work, and editing), what’s your favorite thing to do?

    JL: Series novels, I think. Though there is great joy to the lapidary crafting of a short story.

    SoY: What are your writing habits like? Do you have any peculiar writing habits that somehow work for you but everyone else would find quirky (and/or insane)?

    JL: I don't think I'm quirky, you'd have to ask everyone else. I can write anywhere – in a noisy bar, at a party, on a plane, in the bathtub. I just take the time and do the work. I always use a laptop – never paper and pen, never a desktop. And I fidget a lot. Sprawl on the couch, sit up, move to the easy chair, wander into the kitchen and fry a quesadilla with the computer beside the stove. So many people seemed to need a structured location, or a clean desk, or a ritual. I just need time and my laptop. Quirky? Maybe. Practical? Immensely so.

    SoY: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened during your career as an author?

    JL: The very earnest rejection letter explaining to me the difference between Jell-O and Kool-Aid.

    SoY: If I kick you off this list due to your status as an established author rather than an up-and-coming genre star, who would you nominate in your place?

    JL: Ken Scholes, or if he's too established, C.S. Inman, who's so new you haven't heard of him yet.

    SoY: What’s the real reason for the Hawaiian shirts? I know you were lying before.

    JL: They help me maintain my trim, girlish figure, and also cure gout, scabies and bedbugs.

    SoY: It’s common knowledge that you are a hardcore super-secretive Michael Jackson fan. By common knowledge, I mean something I totally made up on the spot. How will his death shape your writing in the future?

    JL: Once I'm through with my mourning year, I plan to dedicate myself to raising funds to build a giant, free-range Michael Jackson robot with lasers in his eyes. Fricking lasers, to be specific. Think of a Beverly Hills gundam. That will shape much of my writing for the foreseeable future, as the dedication required to properly honor the King of Pop will lead me down nigh-obsessive paths.

    SoY: What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

    JL: Wow, that's toughie. Some really good books and stories, both published and unpublished, have passed through my hands. Kaaron Warren's SLIGHTS, C.S. Inman's I DIDN'T WANT TO GO ON YOUR STUPID QUEST, ANYWAY. An as-yet-unpublished short story called "We Happy Few." Robert Charles Wilson's JULIAN COMSTOCK. It's so hard to choose.

    SoY: How many story ideas did you come up with during the course of this interview?

    JL: About four. Seriously.

    SoY: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]

    JL: Why, yes. This is echoed to as well. Also, I'm on Twitter as @jay_lake.

    My thanks to Mr. Lake for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. I also wish him the best of health and hope that he pushes his bibliography into the low to middle thousands.

    I definitely recommend checking out his work (both novels and shorts) although I urge you not to try and read it all without first consulting a doctor.

    Come back next week for another interview with a new interview with another rising genre star!

    FPS Syndrome

    This was too good not to share.

    Originally found here

    Aug 18, 2009

    io9? More like ioLyin'

    Bad pun aside, there appears to be some less than honest dealings going on over at

    I became aware of this story (via David Moles's blog) which is being run out of the WrongQuestions blog (Abigail Nussbaum)

    If you've visited io9 any time in the last week, you may also have noticed that on July 24th, site editor Annalee Newitz gave District 9, which she saw in an advance press screening at Comic Con, a rave review, and that on Tuesday, news editor Charlie Jane Anders, in an article ranking the con's biggest buzz generators, gave District 9 the top spot.

    Commenter oliverkirby, who suggested, albeit not very diplomatically, that District 9 triumphed over James Cameron's Avatar in the latter article because of the advertising buyout, was told by Anders that "that's the most ban-worthy comment we've had in ages." I commented yesterday, saying that the film's sponsorship of io9's Comic Con coverage represented a clear conflict of interests. The comment appeared some time during the night, was replied to by commenter zenpoet, and has since been deleted (comment permalinks don't appear to be working. Click on 'show all comments' at the bottom of the page to see oliverkirby's comment and the reply to mine). Both user accounts are now banned from commenting on the site.

    I never had a whole lot of respect for io9 but it was a semi-decent place to read about SF media news. I've got even less now. I've also removed io9 from my recommend sites.

    Aug 17, 2009

    Fantasy 202 Syllabus

    Over at A Dribble of Ink, Aidan responds to the New Yorker's somewhat lazy list of Seven Essential Fantasy Reads that you should read once you get past the introductory texts of Tolkien, Narnia, and Potter.

    I've included the list below. You can visit their site for their justifications.

    1. The Dragonbone Chair, the first book in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, by Tad Williams.
    2. Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, but particularly Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Sailing to Sarantium, and The Fionavar Tapestry (a trilogy that begins with The Summer Tree).
    3. Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind.
    4. Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb.
    5. The Scions of Shannara, by Terry Brooks.
    6. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.
    7. Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson.

    Although I would consider the list to be suspect after the inclusion of Twilight in their first list of Fantasy Classics, the list isn't horrible. The inclusion of Rothfuss, Erikson, and Kay suggests that they are at least slightly knowledgable on the topic. Some people however, find the list to be very "safe" and "unoriginal" Fantasy author Mark Charon Newton (Author of Nights of Villjamur) went so far as to comment thusly:

    "I said that this was unimaginative, ironically, for such an imaginative genre. I’m not saying individually the selections are bad (apart from one, and I very much like a couple) but that this smacks of nothing more than wiki research. Fantasy is a vast and diverse genre - but you wouldn’t think so from this."

    Well, Aidan told Mark to post up or shut up (not in those exact words) but Mark took up the challenge and provided his own list of 7 Fantasies That You Should Read. Here's Mark's list (again visit his site for rationale)

    1. The Scar by China Miéville
    2. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
    3. The Book of the New Sun sequence by Gene Wolfe
    4. The Book Of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
    5. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
    6. The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
    7. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

    Now, I've heard of every book on the New Yorker's List but only 5 of the 7 titles on Mark's (unfamiliar with The Fortress of Solitude and Invisible Cities). Does that make his list better? Not necessarily. Does it inspire me to look into some books? Yes. The New Yorker's list is nothing new and easily forgotten.

    But at the same time, I don't think The New Yorker article was targeting the kinds of people who write or read enough Fantasy that they write books or blogs about it. Based off their introduction, it sounds like they were trying to reach people or parents of children who enjoyed the most mainstream Fantasy and were looking for something more, not people who were looking for the most original or most spectacular in the history of the genre.

    Which list do you think is better? What titles would you recommend to Potter graduates looking for more?

    Aug 16, 2009

    Star Wars Tidbits

    As anyone who follows this blog knows, I'm a Star Wars junkie. On Sue Rostoni's blog, she has updated the Del Rey release calendar through 2011.

    Key updates with my thoughts:

    "May 25, 2010 -- CLONE WARS GAMBIT: SIEGE by Karen Miller. Second part of the two-part Clone Wars era story. Trade Paperback."
    First time we've seen a title for Karen Miller's 3rd Star Wars book. She is picking up some of the slack from Karen Traviss who was originally suppossed to be authoring most of these books. If you haven't heard, Karen has recently decided not to pursue any additional work set in the Star Wars EU after her existing contracts are fulfilled, citing continuity difficulties.

    "July, 2010 -- Coming attraction by well-known author. Not to be disclosed. I can't answer ANY questions about this one, and probably shouldn't even put it in here. So pretend you didn't see it, okay? Really. I won't even acknowledge your questions about this. Maybe I just stuck it in here for conversation... who knows?"
    The key phrase here is "well-known author". Is this a well-known within the Star Wars circle or a well-known author in New York Times Bestseller circles. Are we talking Michael Stackpole (please?) or Neil Gaiman? My guess (with absolutely no insight whatsoever at all): Jim Butcher. He's done tie in work, has a huge following, and one of his two series is ending this winter. But again, absolutely no basis for that whatsoever.

    "September, 2010 -- Another one I'm not able to confirm. There might be a book here and on the other hand there might not. Signs point to yes, but situation is hazy. Ask again later, or better yet, don't ask at all."
    I'm so excited for this one. It's going to be great!

    "October 5, 2010 -- UNTITLED by Joe Schreiber. Oh, is this the first you've heard of this? The first book did so well (I'm projecting here) that we decided another was in order. Just to note -- this isn't a sequel to DEATH TROOPERS -- it's a stand-alone. Hardcover."
    I'm hoping this is the result of confidence in the author as a result of reading the manuscript and not merely the fact that the book has an eye-catching cover.

    "February 2011 -- UNTITLED novel by Alex Irvine. This is the one that features Nomi Sunrider. Hardcover."
    I've spoken with Alex as part of the Keeping An Eye On interview series. And this is one I'm really keeping an eye on even more so after he provides a few teases. I believe this got pushed a few months though, which sucks.

    "April 2011 (maybe late March) -- CONVICTION by Aaron Allston. Fate of the Jedi book seven. Yes, we just decided on the title. Nice, huh? Hardcover."
    Conviction, eh? Little interplay between legalese conviction and moral conviction. They've been using these 1 word titles for a while and they are running out of words that will easily generate buzz like Legacy of the Force titles Sacrifice or Betrayal. I guess at this point you settle for ambiguity.

    "September 2011 -- UNTITLED by Timothy Zahn. Set after ALLEGIANCE, the working title is CHOICES --- probably won't be the final title, though. Hardcover."
    Tim Zahn is one of my favorite authors but his recent Star Wars work has left me unimpressed. Still The Thrawn Trilogy and the non-SW Conqueror's Trilogy are some of my favorite reads ever.

    "October 2011 -- UNTITLED by Jeff Grubb. Paperback."
    I believe this is a new announcement. Don't know anything about Jeff Grubb. Time to go digging.
    In addition to Sue's blog she also noted on the message boards that both Elaine Cunningham's Blood Oath and Karen Traviss's Untitled Boba Fett Stand-Alone have been canceled. Blood Oath has been delayed off and on as I've mentioned previously. The Boba Fett book falls into the category of that uncontracted work which Karen Traviss is not interested in pursuing.

    Sue had this to say:

    "You'll still be getting Zekk's story -- it'll just come out in different ways."
    Also, just a reminder that Troy Denning's Abyss comes out tomorrow. This is book 3 of the Fate of the Jedi series and I really hope the plot picks up. Book 4 doesn't come out until next March and if they don't give the readers something in this book after a mediocre Book 2 (Review Here), they are going to give up on this series.

    Thanks to for the links!

    Aug 13, 2009

    YetiPreview: Best Served Cold

    Here's a brief overview of the next book in my queue: Best Served Cold

    Publisher’s Description: Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

    There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. Armies march, heads roll and cities burn, while behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

    War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

    Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

    Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

    Expectations: I ripped through 1,713 pages of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy in about 3 weeks earlier this year. I read a lot but I don’t read that fast unless it’s really something special. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve enjoyed Abercrombie more than any epic fantasy author I’ve read in the past five years, perhaps ever. His characters are , violent, and incredibly addictive. The torturer Glotka and the barbarian Logen Ninefingers are a pair of most cold-hearted bastards I’ve ever read and Abercrombie writes them in a way that you can’t help but cheer them on. But Abercrombie is not a one trick pony. He’s not all character. He writes a better swordfight than any author I’ve ever read. When things get violent, and they often do, you feel like you are watching the action so closely you should be worried about the blood splatter. Abercrombie also has a natural gift for dialogue and poetic prose, managing to be hilarious, often darkly so, without being corny and connecting the thoughts and words of the characters to the action and plot in unexpected but brilliant ways. His fantasy world is also incredible. There a history and depth that lends itself to a bigger story, in which the main characters are but pawns. I can only imagine how the war between the Union and the Gurkish will play out on the plains of Styria.

    If you can’t tell, I am a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie. That being said, I expect all this and more. In The First Law, Abercrombie built his sandbox, now it’s time for him to play in it.

    Cover Art: I have a confession to make. I love the UK version of the cover so much that I had to order it from Book Depository LTD. (Not to mention the fact that the UK edition came out a month and a half earlier, but let's not focus on that...) Blood, money, land, and steel. Simple. Straightforward. No awkward character depictions to ruin that image in your head (unlike the US cover), no blurbs to distract the eye. This is an absolutely gorgeous cover, not to mention the meta-level commentary on the lack of maps in The First Law trilogy.

    10 Things I Currently Hate

    Ten Things I Currently Hate

    1. The Population of Earth - The "not me":"me" ratio is currently sitting at about 6,500,000,000:1. Assuming that only 0.000001% of people write a story worth reading each year, that's still more books than I can manage to keep up with.

    2. Daryl Gregory - Apparently the powers that be took my share of writing talent (most likely with yours too) and gave it to this guy. Even if I do ever manage to write a book, it will never be as good as this guy. Everyone should read Pandemonium and buy enough copies to wallpaper their room.

    3. The Earth's Rotational Velocity/Human Biological Requirements/Basic Economic Principles - 24 hours a day is not enough time to sleep, work for enough money to eat/buy stuff, and do much else I want to

    4. Any Fantasy Author Who Isn't Joe Abercrombie or Brandon Sanderson - Publish on a regular schedule for the love of Tolkien.

    5. Urban Fantasy Covers - We get it. You've got nice shoulder blades, you like medieval weapons, you got drunk in Mexico and ended up at a possibly magical tattoo parlor.

    6. Fox Executives - If they could cancel you, they would.

    7. UK Only Releases - I want Galileo's Dream, The Quiet War, and the latest Felix Castor novel now. Let the Revolutionary War go already...

    8. The Dragon Page Podcast - Like I need more stuff to read.

    9. Ray Romano - Consider it "Everybody Minus One"

    10. Creative Wanderings - I know it's fun, and I know it's good for your creativity and I know it allows me to catch up on other reading. But publish another adult novel already! You know who you are.

    What do you hate?

    Anonymous Anthologies

    With all of the discussion (SFSignal, that has been going on regarding EditorFails involving the lack of diversity in SFF Anthologies, I had an idea that I thought was worth discussing: Anonymous Anthologies.

    The TPB anthology (or series of anthologies) would include 10-20 stories from authors who were looking to expand their readership base or interested in genre diversity. Preferably, the editor would pick authors across a range of genders/races/sexual preferences/national origins/favorite movies/whatever. We wouldn’t want to have an EditorFail in an anthology oriented toward diversity. Each author should also preferably have a published novel or anthology available. Stories would be commissioned work at a fixed rate (either per story or per word).

    The catch is that the anthology would be published without the names of the authors clearly linked to their stories. This would eliminate bias from the equation and focus solely on the content of the stories. It would also encourage authors to work harder to write an outstanding story when they might otherwise phone it in. The story has to stand completely on its own merits. The publisher/ editor/ publicists/ whomever would then create an accompanying website that allows the reader to discover who wrote their favorite story(ies) in the anthology with links to buying/reading their other work. They could include interviews with the authors/discussion of other work/essays on the role of diversity within Science Fiction/ and other additional content.

    The marketing approach would be threefold
    1) Discover new genre authors without any bias from names/covers/reviews
    2) Marketing SFF as futuristic fiction beyond prejudice
    3) The allure of the mystery box gimmick

    Possible Enhancements/Other Ideas:

    • Publish the author names on the cover or in a Table of Contents but don’t link the authors to the stories in any way (could boost sales with a few stories by A-list authors but would eliminate people buying the anthology and reading only one story)

    • Encourage some (or possibly all) authors to write a story from a perspective different from their own (gender/race/whatever)

    • Group stories by theme (Urban Fantasy/Hard SF/Space Opera) so that readers can find new names within their preferred reading area

    • No tie-ins to existing universes to ensure author anonymity

    • Possibly provide a method for buying a longer work from the mystery author of your choice without knowing who wrote it until you receive the book

    • Include the author names at the end of the stories (although this would tempt readers to cheat)

    • Don’t let the editor see the names of who wrote the stories until after he selects them (or perhaps ever). He could send out the request to 15-20 authors and have them collaborate and send all 15-20 stories together or respond to edits via an anonymous method.

    • Make the discovery of the authors interactive with some type of tie in with the stories. For example, you could have clues to website password in the stories themselves. This could appeal to the SFF fans who also love a good puzzle.

    • Don’t ever announce who wrote which story. Release the list of authors but leave the individual stories open for debate.

    Granted there are still the people that would try and spoil themselves on the authors. These are the same people that would read the last chapter of a book first or read the crew reports to see whose guest starring on Lost next week. You would need to balance the anonymity of the authors with the challenge/difficulty of finding out who they are. Too easy (at the end of the story) and the effect is wasted. Too hard (secret password mathematically encrypted into the text of the story) and then people will become frustrated.

    I personally love discovering new authors and the idea of walking into a story with no authorial expectations would intrigue me greatly. I would buy an anthology like this in a heartbeat.

    What are your thoughts? Readers, would you buy this anthology? Authors, would you contribute to it? Editors, would this be publishable / sellable?

    Aug 12, 2009

    Keeping an Eye On... Cory Doctorow

    This week's featured author in my 21-part Keeping An Eye On... series probably doesn't need an introduction. Cory Doctorow, internet superstar, is arguably the best known of the 21 authors on this list. Cory Doctorow won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer way back in the year 2000 and followed that up with the Locus Award for Best First Novel three years later with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Cory's latest book, Little Brother, garned both a Hugo nomination for Best Novel and a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. Besides his fiction, Cory is also a vocal technology activist, most notably on the subjects of digital rights management and other copyright/content related issues. He is also a well respected journalist and blogger on these here interwebz, serving as a co-editor of, which anyone who stumbled across this blog should already be aware of.

    I think that's too much introduction for an SF author who needs none, so onto the interview itself.

    SoY: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently?

    CD: Next novel: Makers, from Tor and HarperCollins UK, at the end of
    October, currently syndicated on

    Next short story collection: With A Little Help, an ambitious,
    self-published open content project with several different hardcopy
    editions, an audiobook and more

    Presently working on For The Win, a YA novel about union organizers in
    games, tentatively scheduled by Tor/HC UK for spring 2010; and a short
    story, Chicken Little, for a Fred Pohl tribute anthology from Tor.

    SoY: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this,
    they are obviously lying. But if we are playing along, what is the one single piece of work of yours (novel, short story, binary code, etc.) would you like them to read?

    CD: Little Brother:

    SoY: Describe your writing style in haiku-form.*

    CD: My writing
    Is poorly suited
    To haiku

    SoY: Your most recent book, Little Brother, was primarily marketed as a YA novel. What was the hardest part of writing a YA novel? How do you respond to adult readers who dismiss YA novels as something below them?

    CD: It wasn't hard in any way that is distinct from the difficulty of writing adult-oriented novels! As to adults who say it, I just throw a copy of Tom Sawyer at them, and follow it up with The Hobbit if necessary.

    SoY: Little Brother, which just came out last year, has already been adapted into a play in Chicago. What did you think when you first heard about the adaptation? When you actually got to Chicago to see it, was it what you expected?

    CD: I was very excited to hear that the adaptation was underway; the company has also adapted Gaiman's Starlight and I'd heard good things about them. Seeing the production was a trip, I didn't stop grinning for days.

    SoY: Your next book, Makers, is being serialized for free on What are the benefits of publishing your work like this?

    CD: Well, I've never done this kind of serial before, so it remains to be seen. We hope that it'll get people excited about the book for its publication.

    If you mean, what are the benefits of free electronic release, I'll just quote Tim O'Reilly and say, "My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity."

    SoY: You’ve been at the forefront of the publishing industry and one of the biggest supporters of utilizing technology to deliver content. What is at the bleeding edge of the intersection of publishing and technology?

    CD: Print on demand, as used by publishers and individuals, to reduce the
    capital cost of experimenting with print.

    SoY: What is the biggest mistake mainstream publishing is currently making in their efforts to keep up with current technology trends? I would say the ebook pricing model.

    CD: No, it's DRM, especially the Kindle. It's abominable that in 2010, after the *record industry* has figured out that DRM doesn't work, alienates customers, and gives too much control to the DRM companies, publishing is still mouthing inane noises about how DRM is necessary.

    SoY: In one of my favorite webcomics,, you have a recurring role as an internet superhero. How do you feel about this?

    CD: I'm tickled.

    SoY: How do you respond to criticisms that authors with a strong internet presence (such as yourself or John Scalzi) have an unfair advantage in competing for non-juried awards?

    CD: I don't. That's a silly thing to say. It's like saying Heinlein has so many fans that they all vote for him on the Hugos, which are a measure of which books fans like.

    SoY: If I told you I was charging a dollar per view of this interview (I’m not), what would you say to me?

    CD: I'd say that I'm doing this for free, in the ten minutes I have between 5AM and 510 when my daughter wakes up, at the expense of income-generating activity, because I understood that you were working
    for free too. If you want me for commercial activity, we can talk about my word-rate and go from there.

    SoY: For years, you’ve been one of the most recognizable internet “celebrities.” How do you balance maintaining your internet presence with continuing your writing career?

    CD: Blogging and writing are the same thing - blogging is how I keep track of everything that will become writing some day.

    SoY: Hypothetically, you get kicked off the list for being too well known. Who do you nominate in your place?

    CD: I don't really follow, think about, or care about celebrity, so I can't really answer this. Nicola Tesla, he's cool.

    SoY: You get to choose a single SF/F author (can be living, dead, or zombie) to write one additional book. Who do you choose and why?

    CD: I'd love to get another Borribles book out of De Lairabeitti, because that's the rockingest trilogy I've read.

    SoY: What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

    CD: I suck at "bests" -- which is why I wrote 40,000 blog posts instead of
    picking the 10 best things on the internet and stopping.

    That said, Kadrey's Sandman Slim, which I review today on BB, is great.

    SoY: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]


    Well that's it from Cory. I know it's a little brief but I'm sure Mr. Doctorow is quite busy juggling his tremendous content output in addition to supporting a family so I'd like to thank him again for responding at all. It's great to know that the small fish in the pond can get some time with the big sharks out there. Yet another reason why the SFF community is so incredible.

    And if you haven't checked out Cory's work, go buy (or download a free copy under Creative Commons Licensing from Cory's website) Little Brother. It was one of the best novels I read last year and I'm not sure I've read a book that was as "unputdownable" since. I've also bought numerous copies as gifts for my teenage relatives and they loved it just as much as I did. Can't recommend it enough.

    Aug 11, 2009

    Using the Interwebz...

    I'm slowly getting through the Keeping An Eye Oninterviews and getting responses back but I have been unable to get in touch with Naomi Novik and Vandana Singh via their websites, blogs or other means of means of polite contact.

    I'm not looking to invade their privacy and ask for their e-mail addresses but if any of you readers out there are connected enough to know them, any help you could provide would be appreciated. Maybe you went to the same writing workshop, share the same agent, or happen to be conjoined twins, who knows? It's a small world out there and if they are willing to participate in the interview series, they can e-mail me at YetiStomper [at] gmail [dot] com to set things up.

    I'd like to note that I'm not a stalker and I haven't been pestering these authors. These two authors don't appear to have a readily available contact page on their websites and any inquiries to their publishing house publicity departments have gone without response for several weeks. As far as I am aware, they aren't aware I'm even trying to interview them. They are certainly more than welcome to decline but I figured I would at least try to get the whole list.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Update: I was able to get in touch with Naomi Novik. I'm still trying to get in touch with Vandana Singh as well as Mary Rickert.

    ...Comes great awesomeness

    Last week, over on his blog, Lou Anders posted the ToC for his upcoming superhero anthology, With Great Power.

    Introduction: The Golden Age by Lou Anders
    "Cleansed and Set in Gold" by Matthew Sturges
    "Where their Worm Dieth Not" by James Maxey
    "Secret Identity" by Paul Cornell
    "The Non-Event" by Mike Carey
    "Avatar" by Mike Baron
    "Message from the Bubblegum Factory" by Daryl Gregory
    "Thug" by Gail Simone
    "Vacuum Lad" by Stephen Baxter
    "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows" by Chris Roberson
    "Head Cases" by Peter David & Kathleen David
    "Downfall" by Joseph Mallozzi
    "By My Works You Shall Know Me" by Mark Chadbourn
    "Call Her Savage" by Marjorie M. Liu
    "Tonight we fly" by Ian McDonald
    "A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)" by Bill Willingham

    This anthology features Daryl Gregory and Chris Roberson (who some might recognize from the list of Up-and-comers I've been basing my Keeping An Eye On... series of interviews on. I also see Ian McDonald, Bill Willingham and Mike Carey on the list. Is there such a concept as being oversold? What's the catch? Terrible cover? Stories are Twitter entries? The anthology will be published in Mandarin?

    I can haz ARC, please?

    Aug 10, 2009

    Congrats to the Hugo Winners!

    Neil Gaiman took home the big prize at last night's Hugo Awards for his YA-novel, The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and he has an almost indescrible talent for writing. I'm not a judge of form or language or other literary aspects but if I had to pick the best "story-teller", it would be Gaiman. He can make any story completely enchanting and profoundly creepy, often at the same time. I've read a lot of fiction and I'd like to think I can recognize some of the tricks of the trade but I have absolutely no idea how he does it. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some supernatural aspect to it but I'll wait for Gaiman to tell that story. He'd do it more justice that I ever could.

    That being said, I loved The Graveyard Book but I don't know if it necessarily deserved the Hugo award over the other nominees. I'm of the opinion that none of the nominees (or any SFF book for that matter) was a clear runaway winner and I can't say that The Graveyard Book is better at what Gaiman set out to do than what Cory Doctorow was trying to accomplish with Little Brother or what Stephenson tackled with Anathem. Or Scalzi. Or Stross. It's like comparing Lord of the Rings to Ender's Game, there's very little objective means for ranking books (especially when there is no longevity to consider). Thus it comes down to a subjective opinion, thus inviting controversy.

    Basically, I can't provide a reason why The Graveyard Book deserves the Hugo over any of the other books but I can't provide a reason why any of the other books deserve the Hugo over The Graveyard Book. They are all very strong books and I would recommend all of them to any SFF fan.

    I am happy that, unlike the Nebula award, I don't need to go out a grab a book that I haven't read to catch up on another award. I was much more prepared for the Hugo awards (4 out of 5) than I was for the Nebulas. Only Scalzi's Zoe's Tale has escaped my clutches and thats only because I am waiting for the oh so pretty Subterranean Press editions to line up on my bookshelf next to Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. Scalzi did manage to take home a rocket ship for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded which was incredibly entertaining, although I still think my hate mail should have been included!

    Other notable winners included :

    Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
    Best Novelette: “Shoggoths in Bloom”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
    Best Short Story: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
    Best Editor Short Form: Ellen Datlow
    Best Editor Long Form: David G. Hartwell

    You can see the full list here. Congrats again to Mr. Gaiman and to all of the winners!

    Note: You can also find out who got exactly how many votes at the link above but I can't make complete sense of the results based solely on the pdf. Maybe I'll try and figure it out tomorrow.
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