Fall Reading List

Seems like I’ve been reading Shogun by James Clavell for ages, but hey- the book is like 900 pages.  Enjoying it quite a lot – review should be soon forthcoming.  After that we’ll move on to longtime ally Benjamin Percy’s The Wilding, which has garnered excellent reviews.  By most accounts, this book should both horrify and provoke the intellect, and if I know Ben (and I do), it will have some ambitious, hard-charging language as well.

Next it’s on to John Le Carre’s latest, Our Kind of Traitor. Have’t read a Le Carre book in some time (after devouring seven or eight quickly about ten years ago) but based on the buzz and the synopsis I’m looking forward to this one.  That will get me into winter, and by then I’ll probably be in the mood for something sci-fi/fantasy.  However, with The Walking Dead set to premier on AMC week after next, I may want to revisit Kirkman’s graphic novel series.  Last checked in around trade paperback #7, and to be honest, was starting to get tired of the lack of narrative momentum and higher-level plot ideas.

A short story collection could also be in order, and Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian Science Fiction (edited by Jason Sizemore) looks promising.  Have also been meaning to look at the latest  Year’s Best Science Fiction, shepherded as ever by Gardner Dozois.

Drop me a line with other suggestions, if you dare.  It’s always nice to have options.

Books: YBFH 2007

The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007, edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant.

This series has long been hailed as vital reading for connoisseurs of short speculative fiction.  The 2007 edition, which is the twentieth in the series, headlines Joyce Carol Oates, M. Rickert, and Gene Wolfe, and clocks in at more than 250,000 words (452 pages).  I am glad to report I enjoyed most of the stories in this volume and only failed to finish a handful*.

Any time you’re reading a Year’s Best compilation, what you’re really getting is the best according to the series’ editors.  In Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror this is doubly so as these collections are published before the annual awards are announced in the summer.  In this case we have Datlow, former editor of Omni and Sci Fiction (the late lamented original sci-fi/fantasy webzine hosted at scifi.com; if I ever meet the shiftless corporate boob who cancelled Sci Fiction, it’s on…), and we have Link and Grant, who run Small Beer Press, publishers of the zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and other stuff.  These are excellent editors and true professionals, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t question a few of their choices. Continue reading

The Portal: Now Online

…at The Harrow.  It took some doing to get this short story out there.  First it was accepted under condition of revision by a relaunch of ‘Amazing Stories’ a few years ago, and then the editor quit before my revision, after which the magazine soon ceased publication.  Several other editors liked the story enough to tell me so, but either couldn’t quite get past the narrator’s voice or found other reasons to pass on it.  Bias against gamers within the Fantasy genre?  Possibly.  Too long for some markets?  Certainly.  Hard to pin down within genre convention?  Doubtless.

I remember working the first draft — I wanted to write from the perspective of how a true geek squad might really deal with the paranormal if it suddenly appeared before them.  Hopefully that comes across.  So click here (or on the banner below) to check out The Portal. If it’s too long for a single sitting, bookmark it and come back later.  And while you’re over at The Harrow, check out some of the other fine stories…

A Story by Ben

…on Esquire’s website. It’s called April 20, 2008. We should have linked to it earlier, but were too busy with the mad edits on Wikipedia.

If I know Ben Percy (and I do), he probably had a strong desire to call this story ‘Dead Face’, which would’ve been excellent as well. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Ben’s writing is his ability to creep me out. And he does it again. So be forewarned…

There are a number of fun Ben-techniques on display here, and I thought I noted a line/theme/move or two from the old workshop days. I was also immensely pleased to note Google Ads for ‘Floor Steamers’ and ‘Toenail Fungus Cure’ on the story’s sidebar pages.

Click over and read! That link, once more.

Short Fiction Market Question

…for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, aka the grand triumvirate of speculative fiction.

The question posed over at the SF Signal: Is the Short Fiction Market in trouble?

The pros chime in, and a few editors respond in the comments below. In terms of financial viability for the traditional print magazine, most seem to think the answer is yes. It’s the same old same old of high costs, an aging subscriber base, and competition for the entertainment dollar and attention span. Several of the writers point out that payment for short stories has essentially stagnated since the 1930s and no one is making their living writing shorts any more.

Some of the other comments point to no. The reason, of course, this interweb thingie (thanks again Al!) with all the e-zines and sites, as well as a greater number of quality anthologies (think Best of… and Themed works). Not to mention all the new writers who have more niches and opportunities to fill. (I would add, this applies as long as you are writing shorter short fiction).

So where does that leave us?

Continue reading

Now Online: Argonaut

read it in Fusion Fragment #5

This short story is part cyberpunk mystery, part bio-tech horror. It was originally written for creative writing workshop at SIU, which seems like a long time ago, and has since undergone numerous revisions. The protagonist, Clay, has gone from utter clueless jackass to somewhat naive but (hopefully) sympathetic virtua-loving dude. See what you think.

And while I like the sci-fi/space expo goodness of the Fusion Fragment visual theme, if anyone would like to read Argonaut in good old fashioned black-text-on-white-background, let me know.

And have a look at Fusion Fragment’s other featured stories: ‘Sometime After’ by Krishan Coupland and ‘Life Without Crows’ by Gerri Leen.