Monday, January 23, 2006

Pyr in the News

Publishers Weekly has a nice review of John Meaney's Resolution, the concluding volume of his Nulapeiron Sequence, out in March from Pyr:

British author Meaney brings his ambitious saga exploring the nature of space and time to a triumphant conclusion... Fascinating and highly detailed, this third volume of Meaney's SF epic pulls all the various characters and their time lines together for an emotionally and intellectually satisfying finale.

Meanwhile, favorably reviews Michael Blumein's The Healer and Scott Mackay's Tides. And Rob H. Benford of writes of Mike Resnick's Starship: Mutiny that "the fun, adventure, and WOW-factor of the expansive universe sings off the page... I can recommend Starship: Mutiny without hesitation. "

Finally, George Zebrowski and I are interviewed concerning his upcoming Macrolife in Sci FI Wire.

Strange Futures

Mahesh Raj Mohan has written a very long and thoughtful review of FutureShocks up today on Strange Horizons. He writes:
"Whether the anthology's constructed realities are alien, ugly, frightening, awe-inspiring, or all of those qualities in one, they all made me consider my world—and the future—in a new way.... I've spent the past couple of months thinking a lot about these stories, even the ones I didn't feel were completely successful. That speaks highly of the authorial passion driving the stories and the editorial vision guiding them. Futureshocks is well worth your time, and highly recommended."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Stick it to the Man, One Last Time

A big piece of my formative years has just risen up out of the blue and informed me that it was dying. "Outlaw" publisher Loompanics Unlimited has just announced they are going out of business. An indie publisher and mail order bookstore, who offered titles like The Anarchist's Cookbook and How to Keep a Severed Head Alive, their catalog was as much fun as any of the books they published. Between Loompanics and High Weirdness by Mail (I don't recall which one lead me to the other), the early-to-mid 90s were a wonderfully skewed time in my life, in which I discovered Robert Anton Wilson and became an ordained minister courtesy of the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California (quite by accident I assure you.) Strange days indeed! Not a time I'd like to revisit necessarily, but I'm sad to see Loompanics go. Still, the sting is taken out of this passing by the Great Loompanics Going Out of Business Sale. I may have to order a book on how to build an orgone collector for old times sake.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Princess of Counter-Earth

The first science fiction novel I ever read was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was thirteen, or possibly younger, in a B. Dalton bookstore in a mall, and my father trust it into my hands and said, "Here, read this."

Because I didn't like to do anything my father told me (what thirteen year old does?), and because we were a good Christian family, and because my father was a lawyer -and thus, open to debating his decrees- I took one look at the gorgeous Michael Whelan cover (today, my favorite of his illustrations), and said, "But it has a naked woman on the cover!"

"I know it has a naked woman," replied my father, "but it's still a good book." And he bought it and ordered me to read it. Which I did. And I went on to read the other 10 books in the series, the entire Tarzan series, the Pellucidar series, and many more over the course of the next year or so, for a total of 62 Burroughs paperbacks (still on my bookshelf today, in the same condition they were purchased in, if a bit yellowed at the edges). Suffice to say there was a lot of naked people in the Anders' house, and at least one or two embarrassing incidents involving teachers at school.

From Burroughs, I graduated to Tolkien and Moorcock and Leiber, and on to the rest of genre fiction, but I never forgot sailing over the moss-covered plains of Barsoom, and I confess to gazing up at the heavens more than once while lying on the ground, trying to slip my astral self out of my fleshy shell like a hand from a glove so I could cross that cold emptiness in a blink and join Tars Tarkas on the field of battle.

So it should come as no surprise that we have not one, but two homages to ERB within the first three seasons of Pyr's line. The first is the wonderful fantasy novel, The Prodigal Troll, from Charles Coleman Finlay, called "anthropological fantasy of quite a high order" by Locus magazine and "unusually intriguing and satisfying" by Kirkus Reviews. A tale of an orphaned boy adopted by a mother troll grieving for her own lost offspring, it's not hard to spot its literary roots in the lord of the jungle.

The other, due out this coming May, is Chris Roberson's Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, which takes not the Lord Greystoke as its inspiration, but the Warlord of Mars, if one adds in a touch of The Land That Time Forgot and alters the fighting man of Virginia to a female Russian cosmonaut fresh out of 1960s Star City. Paragaea is nothing short of an old style pulp fiction, with all the swashbuckling adventure of an Edgar Rice Burroughs or a Leigh Brackett, but with the attention to actual science that Roberson is swiftly becoming known for. As Mike Resnick says, Roberson "brings Edgar Rice Burroughs and Alex Raymond into the 21st century."

Now, following swiftly on the heels of fellow Pyr author David Louis Edelman, Roberson has produced a content-rich website in support of the book, As well as the usual bits and bobs, the site contains a beautifully illustrated map of Paragaea (courtesy of the wonderful map-maker Ellisa Mitchell), character bios, and an entire novel, the prequel Set the Seas on Fire, which features Paragaea protagonist Hieronymus Bonaventure in a nautical adventure set during the Napoleonic wars (with zombies, natch). The prequel is available for free in a variety of formats via a Creative Commons license. Described as "Horatio Hornblower meets Lovecraft," Set the Seas on Fire is a great introduction to Roberson's work, and a perfect way to tide oneself over until May.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tremors Before the Quake

David Louis Edelman, whose novel Infoquake, which is "as imaginative as Dune and as real as today's Wall Street Journal," and which we are publishing in July, 06, now has a greatly-expanded, content rich site at

David has posted the first three chapters of the novel, as well as a glossary of terms, background articles on the technology and society of his world, press information, even a section of "further reading." Some of this material, such as the author's explaination for the question, "Why I wrote Infoquake," are exclusive to the website. Some of the other material constitutes the appedices of the book itself. It is these appendices which first sold me on publishing Infoquake to begin with. I was two chapters in, skipped ahead when I noticed them, and fell in love with the richness of the world he has constructed. Reading them, the Dune comparison became obvious, but comparisons to Asimov's Foundation and Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age also came to mind. (When he spoke about wanting to create a website in support of the book, I insisted on a special provision in his contract to allow the whole appendices to be uploaded.)

In particular, the author's historical timeline is not to be missed. Although David is a first time author, he brings with him an assured vision, as well as extensive experience in the dot com world, and his book is truly extraordinary. It is, as Chris Roberson styled it, "A new subgenre unto itself: the science fiction business thriller." I know that any time you do something completely different, you take a risk. Sometimes, even a genre as forward-looking as science fiction can be conservative in what it will embrace. Here is a novel with no shoot outs or space battles, but I promise you it has plenty of action, page-turning tension, politics, high stakes wheels and deals at all levels of power, battles to control world-altering technologies. It's everything science fiction is about, deeply steeped in its tradition, and still refreshingly other. I'm very proud to be presenting it as part of the Pyr line, and I do hope that you will check it out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hot Diggity Damn - PKD Award Nominees!!!

Just got this in my in box. I am so psyched for Justina I cannot begin to express:

For Immediate Release

2005 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2005 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society are pleased to announce six nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:

COWL by Neal Asher (Tor Books)
WAR SURF by M. M. Buckner (Ace Books)
CAGEBIRD by Karin Lowachee (Warner Aspect)
NATURAL HISTORY by Justina Robson (Bantam Spectra)
SILVER SCREEN by Justina Robson (Pyr Books)
TO CRUSH THE MOON by Wil McCarthy (Bantam Spectra)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 14, 2006 at Norwescon 29 at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. Last year’s winner was LIFE by Gwyneth Jones (Aqueduct Press) with a special citation to APOCALYPSE ARRAY by Lyda Morehouse (Roc). The 2005 judges are Charles Coleman Finlay, Kay Kenyon, Robert Metzger, Lyda Morehouse, and Graham Murphy (chair).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rogue Economics and the real Edge

One of the most enjoyable nonfiction reads of my past five years has been Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The book, which originally came out in 2000, concerns the viral nature of ideas and the way behavioral patterns can reach a critical mass and spread out into "epidemics." Though the idea is not new, Gladwell identifies three personality types crucial in the spread of memes: Connectors, who bring people together, Mavens, who love to pass along knowledge, and Salesmen, skilled at convincing the unenlightened. In the book, Gladwell explores this notion in examples as diverse as Paul Revere's ride, the drop in crime in New York City, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The book was very influential in shaping my thinking about thinking and forms the basis of a lot of my own ideas about marketing. (I read Gibson's Pattern Recognition on the heels of The Tipping Point, and was so struck by the similarities that I spent a few months trying to get each to admit that they read the other, then, when that failed, to try to get each to read the other.) And though I've not read the author's follow-up, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, the book jacket combined with the few interviews I've heard has convinced me that he's describing the way my own decision making process operates.

So, Gladwell's endorsement on the cover, combined with that of the friend who had recommended Gladwell to me, was enough to get me to pick up Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. The book operates on the frequently expressed premise that if morality is how we want the world to work, economics is how it actually does. Inside its pages, the authors cover cheating in sumo wrestling, suggest that Roe vs. Wade has dramatically decreased the crime rate (ironically discrediting Gladwell's own position on the matter), and has some interesting statistics on the effects (or lack thereofs) on popular high and low income names on a child's eventual achievements. Now, don't get me wrong, the book had some interesting ideas in it, but it was hardly the fodder for "a thousand cocktail parties" worth of stories as the jacket promised. Sadly, its slender 256 pages read all to much like what they are, a heavily-padded expansion of the New York Times profile that Dubner wrote of Levitt in 2003. And, in fact, while Dubner sings Levitt's praises to the point that the reader begins to feel embarrassed for him, there's little in the book to convince one that Levitt is the maverick genius his co-author insists he is. (He may be, but the book doesn't sell it.) Most of the research cited is that of other economists and researchers, and there really are only about six or so case studies in the whole book, each stretched out and reiterated to the point of engendering irritation. A fun read for an airplane, but not the revolution in thinking I was hoping for.

Which is why I was so glad to discover this: The Edge Annual Question - 2006: What is Your Dangerous Idea? Founded in 1988, the mandate of the Edge Foundation is "to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society." Every year, The Edge asks over one hundred scientists and thinkers a question, and the results of the 2006 question, which should be required reading for any serious science fiction writer, are positively fascinating. I'm mainlining 119 ideas in its 75,000 online words, from such notables as Freeman Dyson, Ray Kurzweil, Rupert Sheldrake, and Frank Tipler- not all of which I agree with, of course, but that is hardly a prerequisite for enjoyment or enlightenment, and it's so much more intellectually satisfying than Freakonomics proved to be. I was glad to see two bona fide science fiction writer in the bunch, Gregory Benford and Rudy Rucker, with comments on the Kyoto Accords and panpsychism respectively. Still, pondering both the new ideas and the familiarity of those concepts which I have already encountered through genre fiction, I would love to see the question put to such illustrious members of our community as Charles Stross, Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, Neal Stephenson... It is times like these that the dignity of our genre impresses itself upon me. Perplexing it is to me that when the greater world at large acknowledges daily that we are living the stuff of science fiction, that science fiction is not called upon to explain such stuff more often than it is.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

FutureShocks on Sci FI Wire & B&N's Explorations

Some more news on the FutureShocks front.

First,'s Sci Fi Wire runs a nice interview with yours truly.

Then, Paul Goat Allen, editor of Barnes & Noble's science fiction and fantasy newsletter, Explorations, has some very kind things to say about the book:

"Refill the prescription for your most potent anti-anxiety medication and schedule an appointment with the psychiatrist as soon as possible! From editor extraordinaire Lou Anders comes an anthology of 16 science fiction tales - some terrifying, some triumphant - from some of the masters of speculative fiction that, according to Anders, 'envisions the dangers lying in wait for us on the road ahead, or lurking just around the corner of history.' Included in this killer collection are stories by Paul Di Filippo, Kevin J. Anderson, Robert Charles Wilson, John Meaney, Alan Dean Foster, Robert J. Sawyer and Louise Marley.

Noteworthy stories include Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove's collaboration 'Before the Beginning,' where the authors ask what would happen if humankind could construct a device capable of viewing every single second of history (did Jesus exist, who killed JFK, did OJ really do it, etc.) including the moments before the Big Bang; and Di Filippo's 'Shuteye for the Timebroker,' which envisions a future where, with the help of anti-somnolence drugs, humankind never has to sleep. Alex Irvine's 'Homosexuals Damned, Film at Eleven,' arguably the most disturbing story in the collection, visits an oppressive future America where religion and government are one and the same.

As has come to be expected from Anders (editor of 2003's Live Without a Net and editorial director of Prometheus Books' science fiction/fantasy imprint Pyr), his newest anthology is as thematically compelling and thought provoking as it is wildly original. From artificial intelligence sold on street corners to future utopias populated by genetic vigilantes, this collection is - not surprisingly - extraordinary.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Our Romantic Future

The Romantic Times reviews FutureShocks in their February 2006 issue. They single out stories by Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove, Alex Irvine, Louise Marley, and Paul Melko, and further say:
"Taking a cue from current events, the stories are mostly dystopian, but the collection is stellar nonetheless.... every story in this volume is interesting and thought-provoking. Science fiction fans should waste no time in acquiring it."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Nice Resolution to the Paradox

Playing off the title of John Meaney's second published novel in Britain, Robert J. Sawyer once remarked that "the only real paradox is why he's so well known in the UK and such a secret in North America."

Well, the paradox is over. Barnes and Noble have just posted their Editor's Choice: Top Ten Novels of 2005. Guess who comes in number two in the science fiction and fantasy category?

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Word of Warning for Brandon Routh

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane… It’s the Great Pretender?

George Reeves was 45 years old in 1959 when he was found dead in his home from a single gun shot. There was a lot of talk of foul play at the time, though the death was officially labeled a suicide. Depression over his typecasting as the Man of Steel and failure to find other work was the likeliest target, and rumors even spread that, in a drunken (or pain-killer) induced state, Reeves had mistakenly assumed he could fly and leapt from a tall building in a single bound. But over the years, many startling facts about the case have surfaced. One, that no fingerprints were found on the gun that fired a bullet into Reeves' right temple. Two, that the discarded shell was found under Reeves' naked corpse, difficult to explain in a suicide. Three, that Reeves had recently been the victim of a months-long harassment from mobster Toni Mannix, whose wife Reeves had had an affair with. Four, that the suicide occurred at a party at Reeves house, and the guests had waiting thirty minutes before alerting the authorities. And finally, five, that Reeves depression had ended and he was, according to friends, in the highest spirit in ages about his upcoming marriage to Lenore Lemmon and the decision by the producers to film another season of The Adventures of Superman after a three year hiatus, and thus unlikely to commit suicide at this time. In the 1980s, both costars Noel Neill (Lois Lane) and Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) revived the case with their claim that the man in the tights had been a victim of foul play. But whatever the actual events of his death are, they’ll most likely remain a mystery for evermore.

Now, let’s allow a quick aside to establish that synchronicity is already at work here. Bump back up and notice the name of Reeves' intended. Lenore Lemmon. Notice the alliteration of the double Ls? Well, any aficionado of the Big Blue Schoolboy worth his salts knows that all the significant people in Kal-El’s life sport that double L: from his first Smallville puppy love Lana Lang, to the lesser known ill-fated Atlantean Lori Lamoris, to his long time paramour and eventual wife Lois Lane. And, let's not forget, (and I suppose there are Freudian implications here) his number one arch enemy Lex Luthor. Reeves attraction to a real-world lover with the same name alliteration may have been an identification with his alter ego on a subconscious level, or a tip of the hat to the casual observer that the Universe is up to its old tricks again.

The next man to put on the tights was Christopher Reeve, who brought Superman to the silver screen in four adventures, two of them excellent and two of them abominable. But whether the plots supported or undermined his efforts, Reeve’s acting magically captured Superman for millions of moviegoers worldwide. No one could deny that Reeve was the character, born to play him with a dignity and humanity and small town naiveté that still defines the Last Son of Krypton to this day.

But then in May of 1995 (and here please note that 95 is the reverse of 59), Reeve’s thoroughbred, Eastern Express, pitched him forward during a cross-country and jumping “eventing” in Culpeper, Virginia. Reeves fractured his uppermost vertebrae in his spine, and was instantly paralyzed. Now, this writer has absolutely no interest in demeaning the dignity nor importance of the life that the late Christopher Reeve lead in his final decade prior to his accident. His work with the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation was a tireless crusade worthy of a real life superhero, and work perhaps more meaningful and laudable than his previous career as an actor. (In fairness, Reeve was a dedicated activist before his injury and remained a consummate actor after it). But it can’t be glossed over that it was this injury which began the idle speculation that something supernatural existed called the Superman Curse. Of course, for Lois and Clark star Dean Cane, the only injury done to him after donning the red cape was to his career. Though it is worth pointing out that Dean Cane’s inicials are D C, the name of the Warner Communications subsidiary that has reigned over Superman’s exploits since his debut in 1938. (There’s that synchronistic thing with initials again.)

But leaving Cane aside, there’s a third player that can legitimately be linked with Metropolis’ favorite son who shares some very peculiar similarities with his two big screen predecessors. What played first as subtext and metaphor in the initial film was front and center in The Matrix Reloaded. Keanu Reeves, as Neo, the martial arts superhero chosen to be “the One,” stops bullets, leaps buildings in a single bound, and flies. In The Matrix, Keanu even exits the unlikely prop of an old style phone booth (long a staple arena for Clark Kent’s costume changes) before taking off into the sky. In the second film, Nebuchadnezzar crewmember Link strips the veil of subtlety away, proclaiming when asked about Neo’s whereabouts, “He’s doing the Superman thing again.” Neo’s aerial rescuing of his own Lois Lane, the leather clad Trinity, as she is falling off a skyscraper in the film’s climax is straight out of the pages of a hundred Action comics.

What is so striking however is that, if we count this metaphoric Man of Steel as one of only three big screen appearances of Superman, than the synchronicity between all three actors becomes unbearably obvious. All have the same last name, minus the S on one of them (S for Superman?). Reeves. Reeve. Reeves.

Interestingly, a quick Internet search for the etymology of the name Reeves returns the information that it is derived from the word reeve, and means a bailiff, provost or steward. In his Christ-like assumption of responsibility for the whole of humanity, both Superman and his computer-counterpart Neo certainly shine as the greatest steward the Earth has yet produced. But let us not dally on these minor synchronicities, mere breadcrumbs to lure us deeper along the path that lies ahead.

Like the inverse of our next subject’s own career path, we’ll be jumping out of Hollywood and into politics (dare I mention that DC initial again?) to pull a strange analogy from the life of an American President – that of Ron Reagan, who sports the double initial alliteration, and whose apparent nemesis was also a bald supervillain. Gorbachev even sported a James Bond evil genius-style scar on his chrome dome. And if one manages to suffer through Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, it becomes painfully obvious how the Kryptonian’s heavy-handed dealing with the nuclear proliferation of the Arms Race and the film’s feel-good ending mirrored (and was directly inspired by) Reagan’s gradual about-face transition from viewing the USSR as the “evil empire” to advocating a cessation of the cold war. More of the Reagan / Superman connection was made in Frank Miller’s landmark graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, but we’re concerned here only with the assassination attempt by lone gunman John Hinkley Jr.

But before we get there we have to go back to 1840, and an Indian Curse leveled on President William Henry Harrison. The legend is a fairly well known one. How the brother of the slaughtered native American chieftain Tecumseh cursed Harrison for the death of his sibling, proclaiming that if when he became the “Great Chief” Harrison would die the following year. He went on to proclaim that every twenty years, each person elected to the Highest Seat in the land would suffer a similar fate. True or not, on April 4, 1841 Harrison passed away due to pneumonia, the first US President to die in office. The Curse resurfaced two decades later when President Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1856. It returned to claim President James Abram Garfield. Elected in 1880, he failed to prove “faster than a speeding bullet” when he was shot the following year by Charles Giteau. Elected to his second term in 1900, President McKinley was shot by an unnamed assailant in 1881. Warren Harding died of a heart attach two years into his term, after being elected in 1920. In 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office of a cerebral hemorrhage. Elected four times, his third term began in 1940. If you believe the Warren Commission, it was another Lone Gunman that took the life of President John F. Kennedy. Elected in 1960. Died 1963. But by the Gipper’s time the Curse must have diminished in power. Elected in 1980, Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981 getting into his car by John W. Hinckley Jr. with a bullet that borrowed to within one-fourth of an inch of his heart. As 2000 came and went uneventfully, we can infer that Ancient Indian Curses have a potency of exactly 140 years, after which time they fade.

But what of our Costumed Crusader and the Curse that is supposed to follow those with the hubris to assume the role of this god among men? George Reeves died in 1959 by a gunshot to the head. Christopher Reeve suffered paralysis from the neck down from a horse-back riding mishap in 1995. And unlikely Buddha-figure Keanu Reeves? In a puzzling situation for the star of an action movie to be in, Keanu Reeves was actually seriously injured when he committed to filming the first Matrix film. Similar to Christopher before him, Reeves had suffered an injury to his cervical spine requiring surgery prior to his four months of intensive kung fu training. Whatever critics have to say about the depth of his performance, no one can fault this actor’s dedication. The one-third of a year exhaustive work with fight choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, as well as the actual filming of the fight scenes itself, was a risk that could easily have landed Keanu with permanent and serious injuries to his spine. One could almost suppose that, like the dwindling pattern breakdown of the Indian Curse that began with Harrison and fizzled out with Reagan, the Superman Curse that killed George Reeves and left Christopher Reeve a paraplegic made its play for Keanu Reeves and was rebuffed. With Superman Returns due from Warner Bros. in 2006, time will shortly tell if the Curse has finally run its course. But looking back on the long, strange screen-life of the most famous of comicbook icons, one wonders what infernal forces could orchestrate such a Sea of Synchronicity. One could even go so far as to speculate that we must be living in some unimaginably complex, artificial, scripted reality. Dare we say it? A Matrix perhaps...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

FutureShocks hits shelves!

Just spotted FutureShocks on the shelf at Books & Co., the high-end store from Books-A-Million. I don't have my own copies yet from Roc, so this is the first time I've seen it. As they no longer send out cover flats, this was also my first glimpse at the spine and back cover. I'm well pleased.

Books & Co. stickers their books (ack!), which, while annoying to the collector in me, is a handy way to keep track of their sales at an individual store. (For instance, Mike Resnick's Starship: Mutiny was stickered as "1 of 4" and they only had three copies left, so I know one sold.) In this case, FutureShocks was labeled "1 of 1". Which meant that I resisted the almost-overpowering urge to buy it myself, lest I take that opportunity away from some other Alabamian, and I'll have to wait on Roc and the U.S. post to get me my (and my contributors') copies. Despite my impatience, it's a nice way to kick off the new year.

Update: I've just noticed that Rick Kleffel over at the Agony Column has posted a long piece on the relationship between Alvin Toffler's famous work and this anthology. Since the anthology's title is a deliberate allusion, I'm psyched to see someone calling it out. Thanks, Rick.