Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Spotting: The Blade Itself & River of Gods

So, here's how the busy editor spends his weekends. There are two Barnes and Nobles within driving distance of me, and I check them frequently to see Pyr books on the shelf there (and see how they move). So I was very gratified to see two faced out copies on the new books shelf of the new trade paperback edition of Ian McDonald's River of Gods, as well as four copies of Joe Abercrombie's debut fantasy The Blade Itself. (Sometimes I can tell when my brother has been there before me, as he frequently faces out Pyr books when he spots them, but this time he verified that the B&N faced the RoGs out on their own initiative.)

However, at the 2nd B&N, the two copies of The Blade Itself they had weren't faced out. Now, the busy editor who loves his authors would have just turned the books faced out quickly if he could, but the shelf in question was packed so tightly that you couldn't slide a credit card between any two books. I looked, and there wasn't any space to be had anywhere on the whole bookcase. In fact, the only space at all was on the next bookcase to the left. So, with one eye on the lookout for store staff and the other on my two year old (who was busy with his own creative reshelving behind me in the westerns section), I restocked an entire bookcase and a half. Most books I've ever moved before and the fastest I've ever done it. Whew! Now, go forth and do likewise.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sideways in Crime - Cover Mock-up

My forthcoming alternate history mystery anthology, Sideways in Crime, has a dedicated page at the Solaris Books site now. And it features what I think is a mock-up - not a final cover - but I'll post it here anyway, since they've posted it there. Curious to see what people think.

The TOC has been reordered a bit too, so the final running order will look like this:

Running the Snake by Kage Baker
Via Vortex by John Meaney
Fate and The Fire-lance by Stephen Baxter
The Blood of Peter Francisco by Paul Park
The Adventure of the Southsea Trunk by Jack McDevitt
G-Men by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Sacrifice by Mary Rosenblum
Murder in Geektopia by Paul Di Filippo
Chicago by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
The Sultan's Emissary by Theodore Judson
Worlds of Possibilities by Pat Cadigan
A Murder in Eddsford by SM Stirling
Conspiracies: A Very Condensed 937-Page Novel by Mike Resnick & Eric Flint
The People's Machine by Tobias S. Buckell
Death on the Crosstime Express by Chris Roberson

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just a Thought

Given all the recent media and print interest touting how content producers are waking up to the buzz generating marketing potential of events like Comic Con, E3, etc... , not to mention how people grouse at a poorly run con, it seems to me that a "Con Running for Dummies" manual would be a timely book.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm a Believer: Eric Spitznagel and the Mountain Goats

I love the Internet. Here's why today.

I spent 1991-1994 living in first England and then Chicago studying and performing theater, with a guy named Eric Spitznagel. Then in '94, I left Chicago for Bama and then California, and, back in the Stone Age, that would have been the end of it. Intermittent letters and phone calls maybe, long years of silence. Timothy Leary defined life and death as a continuum state, not an either/or, pointing out that you were already "dead" in parts of the world where you had no influence or contact, whether you were still alive in another locale or not, and you were still "alive" even after your physical death in areas where your ideas and concerns still had active impact. So, for all intents and purposes, in the pre-Internet age, Eric and I would be effectively dead to each other (with the occasional séance).

Instead, the following:

A few weeks ago, I realize that one single on a compilation CD that came with the Believer magazine keeps sticking in my head. It's "Palmcorder Yanja" by the Mountain Goats, and since Eric, in addition to being an author,is an editor at the Believer I shoot him an offhand email asking if he's familiar with them. He doesn't respond. I forget about it. Weeks go by. Then he pops up in my inbox explaining that not only is he obsessed with the Mountain Goats, but rather than respond to my email, he's blogged about his love of John Darnielle (the man behind the band) at great length. Here's a sample of what he wrote:
I love that the band's name is plural, even though it's just one guy playing an acoustic guitar. I love that John Darnielle, the lead singer (okay, the only singer), has a piercing nasal tenor that makes most people scrunch up their face and say, "What the hell is that?" I love that he's written hundreds of beautiful and sometimes hilarious songs about gardening, talking animals, abusive relationships in Florida, Aztec mythology and ancient Danish burial traditions - sometimes all at the same time. I love that most of his songs were recorded on a Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox, giving them the same crisp sound quality of an answering machine circa 1988.
So I read his blog, which so expressively communicates his passion that it inspires me to go to the Mountain Goats website, where I discover a horde of mp3s for free download. (There's also an equal amount of material available to stream, but I'm still hooked on ownership, so I only sample the music I can download into my iPod.) Well, I'm enough of a musical obsessive myself that I go hunting the net for photos of live performances I can use as faux CD-covers and to make sure I get the year of recording correct. I convey this to Eric while I'm still in the process, who happens to be online at the time I write him, and he response with a flurry of additional mp3s in my inbox - all bootlegs, live gigs, and rarities - not commercially available stuff I could buy - as neither he nor I want to take food away from an artist, particularly not one working on this scale. And besides, I know that having amassed around 30 or so songs for free, I'm not going to make it out of the day without going to iTunes and picking up something by the Goats as a dual act of thanks and clean karma. (I got "New Asian Cinema" - you should too). So now I'm a die-hard Mountain Goats fan. I've taken my iPod off "Shuffle Songs" for the first time since I got it, am playing Darnielle constantly, memorizing lyrics so I can sing them out of tune in the shower, and am working on converting my wife and child.

Which is why I love the Internet. Because, apart from being a case-in-point that Cory Doctorow is totally right when he argues that giving it away free generates sales, someone on the other side of the country who would have remained an increasingly-distant memory receding into my past has an active, vital, ongoing influence in my life in real time. All hail techology and old friends and the way the one brings us together with the latter.

The Career Bandwagon

You all know what this is.

1. Go to
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.
3. Take their “Career Matchmaker” questions.
4. Post the top results:

So mine is:

1. Director
2. Set Designer
3. Costume Designer
4. Special Effects Technician
5. Stylist
6. Craftsperson
7. Desktop Publisher
8. Potter
9. Fashion Designer
10. Cartoonist / Comic Illustrator
11. Animator
12. Director of Photography
13. Makeup Artist
14. Producer
15. Artist
16. Graphic Designer
17. Musician
18. Computer Animator
19. Comedian
20. Art Director
21. Medical Illustrator
22. Composer
23. Website Designer
24. Actor
25. Magician
26. Foreign Language Instructor
27. ESL Teacher
28. Jeweler
29. Professor
30. Sign Maker
31. Corporate Trainer
32. Computer Trainer
33. Media Buyer
34. Critic
35. Communications Specialist
36. Writer
37. Print Journalist
38. Translator
39. Advertising Copywriter
40. Retail Buyer

Disappointed that "writer" is so low and that "super spy/crimefighter" is surprisingly absent, and anything with me and a foreign language is right out, but not at all surprised by number one, and happy with the overall artistic/creative bent of it all. Not sure you'd want me doing your makeup though.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Age of Steampunk

A friend asked me today whether steampunk is viable or whether it's past its sell by date. Which is an interesting question, because steampunk was only ever here by the slenderest margin - it's "major canon" something you can count on the fingers of one hand - Gibson & Sterling's The Difference Engineand Paul Di Filippo's The Steampunk Trilogybeing it's most visible works. Yes, China Mieville's more recent Perdido Street Stationcan be counted, but perhaps because the book's category contains so many hyphens that steampunk is bound to be one of them.

Yet, as has been remarked upon elsewhere, steampunk may just now be coming into its own. We have the new Steampunk Magazine, and we have two steampunk anthologies forthcoming - Jeff and Ann Vandermeer's for Tachyon and Nick Gever's Steampunk! for Solaris Books. (I'll be picking up both of these.)

Even more interesting, we have steampunk breaking out of prose into all sorts of other areas, including the DIY of the Make magazine variety, as witnessed by the remarkable Steampunk Workshop. See this article, "The Age of Steampunk," in the Boston Globe. Another good site for tracking steampunk in the culture at large is Brass Goggles. And, of course, we all know Dr. Grorbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators & Other Marvelous Contraptions. What's really interesting there, beyond the gorgeous ray guns themselves, is the metafictional way they've built hints of a story around the props. To say nothing of the various comics and animated projects. And, of course, a visit to Wikipedia shows how large the canon of steampunk really is, including a lot of alternate history, much of Tim Powers, and labeling a lot of classic fiction as "proto-steampunk" in the same way PKD and Bester are sometimes said to be proto-cyberpunk.

So, is steampunk a niche of a niche of a niche? Or is the real age of steampunk just beginning?

Update 9/21/07: This discussion has jumped over to George Mann's new blog, and is really worth checking out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

John Meaney Done Good

After nagging him about it for-f'ing-ever, I see that the fabulously talented John Meaney finally has a proper blog where people can comment and everything. Please everyone go post a welcome on it. Such smart behavior needs to be encouraged.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Burning Down the House

Just got word that my parent company, Prometheus Books, had a fire and had to evacuate the office. It looks like a short circuit started an electrical meter on fire and made the power go out. No real damage, thankfully no one hurt, but some rewiring will be needed. In the meantime both the Prometheus and Pyr sites are down, as you may have noticed. So, no need to worry. They'll probably be off into early next week though.

Update: They have brought in a generator, and, as a result, both sites appear to be working. Don't be surprised if they go wink in and out though during the repairs. My work related email is also back.

ApolloCon 2008: Now It Can Be Told

Now that I see the website has been updated, I'm very excited to announce that I'll be the Editor Guest of Honor at ApolloCon 2008. Alan Steele is the Author GoH, Anne K. G. Murphy is the Fan GoH, and the Artist and Filk GoH's are TBD. Meanwhile, this is my first GoH, so I'm uber-psyched.

Some Fantastic Evening

The Summer 2007 issue of Some Fantastic is now online, available here as a downloadable PDF. Wherein whose pages you will find, Jessica Darago reviews my anthology Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge,which she describes as having an overall tone of "cheerful pessimism." Jessica praises Paul Di Filippo's "Wikiworld" as "a geektastic, giggle-inducing romp...a standout even in such a solid collection of stories," and is kinder on some of the "nostalgic" stories in the anthology than others have been. With what I hope is an acknowledgment of my desire to remain respectful of SF's historic roots, she says, "Even the future got started in the past." She calls out stories by Elizabeth Bear, Ken MacLeod, Stephen Baxter and others, and hasn't an unkind word for the book. Finally, Jessica concludes, "Fast Forward will be an interesting anthology series to watch. It is an ambitious project with a savvy, tasteful editor and could easily become the bedrock publication for Pyr."

Naturally, I won't presume to debate her.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Lou & John's Unbogus Journey

I'm just 24 hours back from Nippon 2007, and yet I see my most excellent traveling companion, Mr John Picacio, has already beaten me to blogging by a whole day (my title above is a riff on his). So, feeling that I'm blogging belatedly, but with the advantage of my first full night's rest in a week, here is my end of our shared con experience:

John and I met in the Houston airport and lucked out with a three-seat middle row all to ourselves, so we talked most of the way to the Tokyo airport (I did manage to read half of Spook Country.More on that when I'm done.) As he points out in his post, this was a hit and run trip for us, just 72 hours on the ground, from Thursday night to Sunday morning. John was justly worried about getting his art show set up Thursday, so we were like bullets from the plane to the Narita Express train to the Minatomirai subway to the Pan Pacific Hotel to the convention center. Fortunately, Kevin Standlee's directions made the trip disproportionally easy given the distance traveled. The Narita Express, in fact, sadly constituted the totality of our tourism. But the Minatomirai subway drops you right into Queen's Arch, a huge shopping complex that connects directly to the Pan Pacific and the convention center.

After setting up the art show, we explored the convention, which was just shutting down. The center itself was wonderful (which is a good thing, since we never left it). First up was a special reception for the Hugo nominees thrown by the Heinlein Society and the very gracious David Silver, where the cluster of friendly faces helped get us into "con mood." Afterwards, however, we were struck by the lack of night life, but apparently that's not the done thing in Japan. No bar scene and not much of a party one, so after wandering aimlessly for a bit, we ended up in the ASFA suite, whose hospitality, sushi, and food was very much appreciated.

Friday is con proper, and that began when, before we'd ever entered the convention hall, John's friend and fan Takahiro Hirata, who presented him with gifts while I played Man Friday under a steadily accumulating mound of packaging and wrapping. I must say, I was pretty impressed all weekend with the degree to which John's work has already penetrated Japanese fandom.

Friday night was the Chesley Awards. It was my extreme honor, not only to be nominated, but to be accept on behalf of Stephan Martiniere and Dan Dos Santos, for Best Cover Illustration Hardback and Paperback respectively. I was particularly thrilled to accept for Stephan, as his win was for the magnificent cover he created for our Ian McDonald book, River of Gods.Irene Gallo took Best Art Director, and rightly so; it being honor enough to be nominated alongside of her.

It was wonderful to get some real time in with my good friend Paul Cornell, he of Doctor Who fame, and his lovely wife Caroline Symcox. They introduced me to the wonderful Jessica Langer, who happens to have Adam Roberts as her graduate adviser. (Can you imagine?) Spent quality time with Bob Eggleton and Marianne Plumridge. Also got to spend a little more time with Hugo-nominee Robert Charles Wilson and his wife Sharry (pictured left).

Highlights included the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan reception (SFWJ), where the always elegant Grand Master Robert Silverberg spoke about a bit of the history of the SFWJ in relation to the SFWA, where I got to see all I saw of Ted Chiang (who is apparently even more of a superstar over there than he is here - as one fan told me "If Greg Egan is a god in Japan, Ted Chiang is a demigod.") It was also a great honor to meet Hiroshi Hayakawa, President & Chief Operating Officer of Hayakawa Publishing.

My panel experience was mixed. It was a shame that only three people showed up for our panel on "Remembering Robert Anton Wilson," given the profound influence that old sixties gonzo philosopher has had. One of them was Pat Cadigan, however, and her stories of RAW's influence on her own career made my time there well-spent. Meanwhile, my own annual Pyr panel was full, with a respectable-for-where-we-were 21 people in the room. It was hard to do the presentation without my authors in back of me, but it seemed and I'm told that it went well. All the catalogs disappeared, and I got to meet Professor Wu Yan, who teaches a course on science fiction at Beijing Normal University. He was glad to learn that my wife is Chinese, and hence we plan to travel to China regularly. Hopefully, I can visit him in Beijing at some point. Meanwhile, the panel wouldn't have happened at all if John Picacio hadn't devoted three frustrating hours to tracking down and assembling all the necessary equipment for his own presentation the hour earlier. Really, really grateful to John for doing what wasn't his job and shouldn't have been his responsibility. Finally, I had a well attended kaffeeklatsch, with about six enthusiastic folks. Thanks, ya'll. It was fun.

I mentioned earlier I was impressed with the awareness of John Picacio among Japanese fandom, and I was equally impressed by the new inroads into same John made over the weekend. My one regret about the weekend is that the programming tracks were pretty segregated (at least mine were), with fewer Japanese fans in the audience than I was hoping for. However, my autograph session made up for that. It was opposite Michael Whelan's (who had a line a mile long) and my three or four signatures would have felt like a total washout if it wasn't for my new friend Hayato Kato, devoted science fiction reader (200-300 books a year) and sometimes reviewer for Hayakawa magazine. To my surprise and great pleasure, Hayato has read practically the entire Pyr list to date (though some books were read in their corresponding UK editions, which is just and good) and is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic reader of smart, literate SF. He's also quite a proselytizer for English language SF in Japan. (He told me Justina Robson was next on his list of authors to push. I recommended David Louis Edelman as well, which he has in his "to read" stack but hasn't reached yet.) But Hayato is a very nice guy. We talked the entire hour, and when I offered him my one copy of Fast Forward 1as a thank you, he informed me that he already had it. Meeting Hayato was one of the highlights of the whole con for me, and I hope I see him again at a con in the future. (He is pictured here with John Picacio.)

The Hugo reception was fantastic. I'd been disappointed that our hit and run trip didn't allow time to eat out more than once. And while that meal was fantastic for the company (Picacio, Cornell, Symcox, Langer), the sushi wasn't any better than what I could get in, say, Atlanta. So I was thrilled when the reception had some really fantastic sushi - included tuna as red as blood and as transparent as a Jolly Rancher candy. Which went fast. Also on hand was gourmet chocolate topped with real gold leaf, of which I probably ate a hundred.

As to the awards themselves, this will have to go down as my favorite ceremony of all time. Leaving aside the fact that this was my first time attending as a nominee, the Japanese put on a long, untranslated show in which my childhood hero Ultraman 1 (soon joined by three other Ultramen) engaged in harrowing martial arts combat with four fierce rubber monsters. I think the lack of an English language translation made it even better, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. Ultramen were also on hand during the awards ceremony itself, and Ultraman was also on the base - easily the coolest base in the entire history of the awards. I was totally fine with not winning until they unveiled it. One look, and rocket envy set in hard.

In all seriousness though, I was deeply honored to accept the award for Ian McDonald. Ian won Best Novelette for "The Djinn's Wife", originally published in Asimov's July 2006 issue. "The Djinn's Wife" is part of the future India milieu Ian created in his Hugo-nominated novel River of Gods, so this win, plus Stephan's aforementioned Chesley for the cover, is just more love for the incredible world that he's built. Cory Doctorow presented the award, and standing next to him and seeing him so sincerely beaming, I could tell that he was every bit as excited for Ian as I was. Ian would have been there himself, but that he is deep in development on an Irish version of Sesame Street (which, in my excitement I mistakenly referred to as The Muppet Show. I know the difference.) But if it had been anything but Jim Hensen Muppets, he would have been there. (Pictured left is co-host George Takei, Yours Truly, and Ian's beautiful Ultraman Hugo. Also, be sure to see Jay Lake's LiveJournal for some more great pictures from the show.)

A big congratulations to Steve Moffat for his Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form for "The Girl in the Fireplace." This is his second Hugo in the category after last year's win with "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances." As Moffat is penning some of the best episodes of Doctor Who in the series, hell, some of the best science fiction television period, I'm thrilled with the results. I fully expect him to be on the shortlist next year with "Blink," though Paul Cornell's absolutely perfect "Human Nature/The Family of Blood" will give him a run for his money and is my personal prediction for winner. Any future where both of these gentlemen write a good many more episodes for the Doctor is one I want to live in.

The rest of the evening was spent with the aforementioned Cornell and Moffat, as well as their wives Caroline Symcox and Sue Vertue (wonderful person and producer of Coupling, among other things), and friend Jessica Langer. And by the rest of the evening I mean 3:45 am. Moffat, it turns out, has his head on straight where Batman is concerned, as if I needed further proof of his genius. That's Picacio, Moffat and Vertue pictured left, at the Hugo Loser's Party, along with Moffat's award. And lots more chocolate. Below that is Yours Truly with Paul Cornell, whose had such a good time he promises to come to this year's World Fantasy Convention as well.

Meanwhile, a shout out to Karen Jones, Michael Whelan, Ellen Datlow, Greg Ketter, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Paul Melko, Gay Haldeman, Marc Zicree (whose Star Trek: New Voyages episode he kindly gave me on disc and which I'm dying to see), Geoffrey Landis, Mary Turzillo, Jay Lake, Karen Haber and anyone else I've missed. You all made for a wonderful, wonderful time.

Jump to 5:45 am. I woke up 2 hours after I went to sleep, whereupon John and I had a nice leisurely breakfast with Bob Eggleton and Marianne Plumridge (I will so miss the nato), then made a final pass to say goodbye before breaking down his art show, catching the subway to the train to the plane to the USA.

And that was it. Japan in 72 hours. A most excellent adventure, and one I'll remember for the rest of my life.

And now, for your viewing pleasure (and via Chris Roberson via Gavin Grant and Kelly Link), we present -- Ultraman @ the Hugo Ceremony: