Monday, September 29, 2008

The Stormcaller, from Today's Publishers Weekly

Tom Lloyd's The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign
Cover art by Todd Lockwood. Now, here's Publishers Weekly on the interior:

"British literary agent Lloyd begins this dense and involved sword and sorcery debut by introducing Isak, a penniless young man with no fixed home who serves as a slave to his resentful, unhappy father. Worse, Isak is a white-eye, born with distinctive eyes, a large frame, unusual strength and an exceedingly quick temper. Isak’s world changes in an instant when Aracnan, an immortal sorcerer, tries to offer Isak a mysterious scroll. Within a day, Isak has become heir to Lord Bahl of Farlan, and he learns that he is a nascent mage and the focus of a thousand-year-old prophecy. Whether Isak is willing or able to fulfill that prophecy is just the beginning of this tale. Lloyd pours enough testosterone into his high fantasy to power past a few inconsistencies, creating a fine start to a reported five-book series."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Borderlands Books

Borderlands Books has added a totally cool feature to their homepage that shows a panoramic view of their store and allows you to zoom in. Not only do you get to see what a beautiful store it is (I miss it terribly), but using the zoom feature, you can get so close as to read the titles off individual spines. I, concerned editor that I am, was thrilled to immediately spot David Louis Edelman's Infoquake and MultiReal in a shelf along the left-side wall.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Stargate: Atlantis Book Club

Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughtermade its second appearance on Stargate: Atlantis last night, in the episode "First Contact." This one is a much better cover-shot than in the previous episode. Thanks to John-Mark for the screenshot, who has several more posted on his blog. Thanks also to Joe Mallozzi and the rest of the Stargate team for arranging this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pick a book... any book!

That's what We Read Science Fiction did.
After reading endless positive things about Pyr’s books, I acquired six of their titles. With statements like “Pyr only publishes Gems” and “Pyr can do no wrong!” I wanted to see it for myself. I read through their list of available books, looked for a few themes that fit my tastes (and a few that didn’t) and when the pile arrived I randomly picked one. Assuming they only publish awesome stuff, it should be a good book right?
They picked Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughter.And was it a good book?
It was. I loved [it]... The characters are awesome, the story is as compelling as it is bloody and the history-is-repeating theme all make for a memorable read. ...a great choice for anyone who likes alternative history, historical fiction and military conquest."

Stargate: Atlantis "First Contact" & Pyr

So, remember to watch Stargate: Atlantis' episode "First Contact" tonight for another (and much better) shot of Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughter.

Dusty was reading the book last time. I wonder who will read it tonight.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fast Forward 2 is here!

Fast Forward 2is in stock at Amazon. Which means it should be showing up elsewhere very soon.

I'm very excited about this one, which might be the best anthology I've ever assembled. Next week I'll be putting up an entire short story from the book at the new Pyr Sample Chapters page. And, when the Pyr newsletter goes out next on October 1, we'll be offering the previous volume - Fast Forward 1 - at 50% off cover price in a special offer exclusive to our newsletter subscribers. If'n you're not one and want to be, go to and sign up (from the link below the menu buttons in the left margin).

Todd Lockwood's Stormcaller, From Sketch to Finish

Over on, art director Irene Gallo has just posted "Todd Lockwood's Stormcaller, from Sketch to Finish" a very in-depth breakdown of the evolution of the cover for our forthcoming title, The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign,by Tom Lloyd. This was my first time working with Lockwood - whose art I had admired for years - and I was blown away by the result. (He's just recently delivered the artwork for book two, btw, though that will have to wait for another day...)

Meanwhile, with quotes from Yours Truly and a LOT of commentary from Lockwood himself, and 20 different sketches, roughs and detailed close-ups, the post is well worth checking out.

The book is also well worth checking out, which you can do here.

I'm Tired of Flying Cars

Or rather, I'm tired of people trotting out the cliched quip of "Where's my flying car?" whenever they talk about the future not living up to expectations. And I got to say, what's the big deal about flying cars? The future is certainly living up to my expectations without them. I carry over 7k songs around in my pocket in something smaller than a pack of cigarettes - that's every CD I've bought since 1985. I talk for free every other day to my buddy George Mann in the UK, on a "videophone" called Skype, and I read all my news off the same screen, and the pictures next to the columns of words all move. If I want to know the complete lyrics to a song that's rattling around in my head and I can only remember three or four words, I can call it up within 30 seconds on something called "Google" (and "google it" is an SFnal neologism if there ever was one), and just about anything else I need to know too. And I never get lost because my car, which admittedly doesn't fly, plots out all my guidance routes and then tells me where to go. It also tells me when it needs service and when the air pressure in my tires gets low. My television records things it thinks I might like without being asked, and it forwards them to my laptop. There's an International Space Station over my head right now. Meanwhile, when they aren't trying to sell me my next communicator, there are hard-&-software billionaires falling over themselves to commericialize space tourism.

So, I can do without flying cars, thank you. No, what I'd like to see is sane and rational leaders ushering in those SFnal visions of world peace, an end to poverty and disease, inequality. That's a future I'm still waiting for, one that's still worth believing in and writing about. So I find myself both in agreement and taking issue with this article in the Guardian by Damien G Walter, "Science Fiction Doesn't Have to Be Gloomy, Does it?" But certainly I'm onboard with this sentiment: "The best science fiction, as with all great art, doesn't just reflect the world but seeks to influence it."

Update: Kathryn Cramer's "Gloom & Wartime SF: A reponse to Damien Walter" is worth checking out. "...what I would substitute for 'influence,' as a goal, is that writers provide us with perceptual tools with which to understand the world, the future, and what is to be done. I view science fiction partly as a set of perceptual tools we take with us into the world. I don’t think SF can be held responsible for finding solutions to all the world’s problems, but I think it is SF’s task to help us understand them."

Update 9/26/08: Jetsie de Vries alerts us to his lengthy response to Kathryn Cramer. He takes issue specifically with her comments about SF's scope of influence, and says, "Now shoot me, but I like to think SF that's really audacious, gutsy and forward-looking dares to make predictions against the flavour of the month. Dares to make totally unexpected predictions, and -- in the process -- dares to be wrong: but nevertheless inspires others to carry the torch of progress. Depicting a world like today that's going down the drain is easy: people love to complain, and blame the world's problems on someone else. Depicting -- convincingly -- a world that changes -- even if marginally -- for the better, is much more difficult, for an SF writer."

In callng out SF's obligation to be audacious, to act as if it can change the world, whether or not that notion is realistic, he reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of all time:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
--George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pyr's New Sample Chapters Page

Hey, check out what's happening here on the new Pyr Sample Chapters page. Currently has excerpts from 35 books up, most of them quite substantial excerpts. Scroll down to see the list.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Steampunk is the New Black

Interesting piece in The Galaxy Express, claiming "Steampunk is the New Black." I agree. Watch this space for news.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Stormcaller - Free Online Reading

Check out this enormous excerpt from the soon-to-be-released fantasy epic, The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reignby Tom Lloyd.

I am really excited about this book. I'm not the only one:

"Magical creatures and high speed action scenes... packed with detail without being too heavy. The Stormcaller shows how high the bar has been raised with its sheer vision and inventiveness." —SFX

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to the Future: Live without a Net worth a read!

Blue Tyson takes me back to the beginning with his Not Free SF Reader review of Live Without a Net,my first professionally-published, original SF anthology. He makes me smile when he says, "So far, it seems, anything Anders has edited is worth a read, and you can't do better than that." But what I really like is this comment: "...the wild World War Two spy novella by John Meaney, that is the strongest work here."

More love for John Meaney always good!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

David Louis Edelman Reading Tonight

The Barnes & Noble in the Spectrum Center in Reston, Virginia will be hosting David Louis Edelman tonight, Wednesday, September 17 at 7:00 pm. He’ll be reading from and signing copies of MultiReal.Come on by if you are in the area! The store is at 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190, phone number 703-437-9490.

And check out the recent praise for MultiReal:
  • io9: “I’m in it for the long haul, because it feels like Edelman is writing about real people and real issues, in a thrilling, engaging way. And that’s rarer than it should be.”
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: “This is one sequel that delivers! No middle book syndrome for David Louis Edelman… The Jump 225 trilogy remains one of the very best ongoing science fiction series on the market.”
  • Bookgasm: “Infoquake’s strengths have carried over to its sequel… With Infoquake and MultiReal, [Edelman]’s got new archetypes aplenty, and he doesn’t need old tropes to slow him down.”
  • Chicago Center for Literature and Photography: “(Rating: 8.8 out of 10) This is a series that genre fans will definitely want to check out, and an individual chapter here that could very well garner a Hugo nomination next year.”
  • Through a Glass, Darkly: “Even for a reader who loves laser battles and big explosions, MultiReal still comes across as extremely satisfying and fun.”
  • Death Ray Magazine (not online): “A mix of cyberpunk and The Wall Street Journal… Where Edelman does excel, and the true focus of the book, is exploring the economics and political powers behind new technologies, their development and routes to market and the social and moral implications of such advancements.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Net Wisdom

A ton of good advice floating round.

Sean Williams on Adventures in SciFi Publishing giving advice to new writers at the Writers of the Future event.

Jason Stoddard on "What's an author to do?" given self-marketing/promotion advice. Jason again on "What's a small publisher to do?"

And although it's a few months old, I just listened to this Agony Column podcast with the owner of San Francisco's Booksmith, Praveen Madan (direct link).

Consuming all this across 2 days makes the ganglia twitch. In a good way.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Plague Year: The Movie

A big congratulations to Jeff Carlson, who sends me this:

Seven Seas Jim takes on 'Plague Year'
Feature version of Carlson's sci fi thriller planned

Jim McNally of Seven Seas Jim is producing a feature version of Jeff Carlson's high concept thriller "Plague Year."

The novel, which is currently the lead hard cover from European publisher Minotauro in Spain and has also seen major releases in North America and in Germany, is about a medical nanotechnology that breaks loose and devours all warm-blooded life below 10,000 feet elevation.

"Plague Year" is the first of a planned trilogy published by Ace/Penguin in the U.S. and Canada. "Plague Year" was released last summer and its sequel, "Plague War," appeared this August. Carlson's other works include more than a dozen short stories such as the Writers of the Future award-winning novelette "The Frozen Sky" and an upcoming adventure novel in collaboration
with New York Times bestselling author David Brin.

Of "Plague Year," McNally said, "It's the unusual concept that spoke to me first, but ultimately the characters in this story are who really grabbed me-their grit and their resourcefulness in the face of ever-mounting odds."

Film rights were secured via Vince Gerardis of the Created By Agency in a "nice" option against a mid-six figure pickup.

Jim McNally was vice president at LifeSize Entertainment, an international sales company and domestic distributor of over 50 specialty titles such as Academy Award Nominee "Zus and Zo," Spirit Award Nominee "Oasis," Kim Ki Duk's "Time" and Venice film festival award winner "Khadak." McNally is also the producer and editor of the feature films "Sleepover" and "Fear House." He envisions "Plague Year" as a post-apocalyptic summer blockbuster.

PLAGUE WAR, from Ace Books in July 2008
"Long Eyes" in Fast Forward 2 from Pyr in October
and MIND PLAGUE, from Ace in Summer 2009

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Now this is interesting....Harper's Angry Robot

The press release...

Harper launches new sci-fi imprint

HarperCollins is to launch a new science fiction imprint, which aims to have a global appeal, selling directly to consumers as well as through retail channels. Angry Robot's first titles will be published in July 2009. The publisher has hired Marc Gascoigne, former publisher of the Solaris and Black Library imprints at Games Workshop, as its head.

The imprint will publish two books per month, ramping up to three within the first two years. The majority of titles will be B format paperback originals but there are plans for limited edition hardbacks and deluxe versions.

"This year, and not for the first time, other areas of mass-media such as movies, television and computer games have enjoyed massive popular success across a variety of science fiction and fantasy subjects," said Gascoigne.

He will report to HarperCollins' m.d. Amanda Ridout and will work alongside publishing brand manager Chris Michaels to develop its sales, marketing and digital models. Ridout said that Gascoigne was "the perfect person to spearhead this innovative and creative venture". The business will be based in Nottingham and is expected to employ around five people by the end of its first year.

Michaels told The Bookseller that it would be a completely different model to HC's existing Voyager imprint. "We really see Voyager as the gold standard for science fiction," he said. "They take big name authors like Robin Hobb or Terry Goodkind. At Angry Robot we will be building the next wave of authors, people like Cory Doctorow or Fiona McIntosh who are on their first books with us at Voyager."

The imprint will target early adopters of science fiction, who begin reading the genre between the ages of 14 and 16, and the "massively aggressive consumers" of the titles, who are aged between 27 and 40

Angry Robot would have a transactional website, which will sell the imprint's titles as well as digital audio and e-books. "The trade paperback pricing will be at the generic standard," said Michaels. "The interesting thing is that there is no definitive business model. This is an opportunity to see what people want to pay for digital content."

Michaels said the imprint would also have print on demand books available for those "titles that have gone beyond their conventional shelftime".

Mind Meld: SF with an Opposing Viewpoint

Over on SFSignal, my earlier post "Science Fiction Belongs to the World" provides the inspiration for this week's Mind Meld. They ask, "As a reader, can you enjoy a story that is pushing an opposed viewpoint from one that you hold (religion/politics)? If the author is prone to holding, and writing about, views opposed to yours, can you enjoy their works or do you stop reading them?"

Here, Charles Stross does a good job of articulating what several people commenting in my original post said, which is that there is a difference between art and propaganda, when he says, "I don't really care what politics or religion an author advocates, so long as their portrayal of all viewpoints is honest. Why? Because fiction is an attempt to construct a consistent vision of a universe which accommodates the human condition; and twisting the beliefs of your characters to fit some ideological preconception damages their humanity. This in turn tends to introduce gaping plot holes that rely on the protagonists being stupid or self-destructive for no obvious reason (other than that they are wearing the Bad hat that makes them do Bad Things). And it frequently goes hand-in-glove with Idiot plots, where the Idiot wins out in the end purely because his heart is pure, and the author said that it was so, and re-arranged the plot accordingly."

My favorite response comes from Cheryl Morgan, who reminds us "that science fiction has always been a conversation. And that doesn't mean just a conversation about methods of faster-than-light travel, or First Contact protocols; it also means a conversation about politics and religion. If you are not prepared to listen to other people, you can't have conversations with them. So yes, we ought to be reading books we disagree with."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Out of Two Anders Agree: Infoquake/MultiReal is Brilliant!

Over on the Pyr blog, Mark Chadbourn asks "Should Scientists Forget Space?", citing an article on the UK's former Chief Scientist, Sir David King, who says that we are in need of a "re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society's inner attitudes towards science and technology." Sir King wants us to forgo experiments in space and in CERN in favor of addressing more immediate concerns at him. I've already given my opinion in the comments of Mark's post, but it's interesting to me to contrast it here with Charlie Jane Anders' review of David Louis Edelman's Infoquakeand MultiReal(books one and two of his Jump 225 trilogy).

Charlie Jane beings the review, which is titled "MultiReal is your antidote to science-bashing scifi," by saying, "With so much mass-media science fiction featuring anti-science heroes who battle to stop science from "going too far," it's great to read a really smart novel about a hero who's fighting to save scientific progress from being suppressed." She characterizes the books as being "about the nature of technological progress" and says, "Where MultiReal really shines, however, is in the debates over the ethics of this reality-twisting software. There really is no right answer to the question of how society should deal with software that 'liberates you from cause and effect,' and the sequence where Natch's mentor debates the government's attorneys is easily my favorite part of both books. It's a complex issue, and Edelman draws it out enough that you can see how it applies to today's real-life challenges: should we try to suppress new technologies, should we regulate them heavily? Is it possible to suppress new knowledge after all? Does information really want to be free? It's a lot more nuanced than the 'science iz scary OMG' idea that seems to be popular in media SF right now.

Now, with the understanding that I am generalizing horribly, I think that traditionally a majority of filmic sci-fi is concerned with maintaining the status quo and getting the genies back in the bottles. Something is developed, approaching, on the loose - and its up to the protagonists to stop it. An asteroid is going to hit the earth, aliens are invading, a man has turned himself invisible and is running amok - how do we divert it, repel them, contain him... In other words, there is a threat to consensus reality and by the end of the film or television show, it's been dealt with and nicely put away. Go on with your lives. Nothing to worry about here.

By contrast, literary science fiction is often set after such an event has already happened, sometimes a good deal after, and throws us in medias res into a world in which part of the fun of the narrative is working out how the world in the tale differs from the world we know and part of the theme lies in examining how these changes act as a lens to illuminate some aspect of humanity that we take for granted. So, an asteroid hit the earth and killed everyone over 18, how do the survivors cope? Aliens invaded and are now our overlords - would you let one date your sister? 1/3 of the population is invisible, what new class of people do they form? The intrusion isn't repelled, it's part and parcel of the way things are now going forward. I find this the more honest approach, and underscores on of science fiction's strengths as the genre that embraces the reality and inevitability of change.

There are, of course, examples of both approaches in both mediums. In fact, one of the (many) failures of The Matrix trilogy is that it began from what I'm calling a more literary position of science fiction and transitioned to the filmic. At the end of the first movie, Neo promises to hang up the phone and, "then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world ... without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible." The goal of the protagonists isn't to preserve consensual reality, but to destroy it, by ushering in a world where anyone can do the things he can. But instead of this, the subsequent films shift the emphasis radically away from the Matrix (which is never anything more than a set for agents and rebels to play in henceforth) to saving Zion and restoring the status quo of balance between machine and rebel. We never actually deal with another person who still believes in/is imprisoned by the Matrix's view of reality - and the battle that is fought is all about getting things back to the way they were in the first film. I don't know why this is, though the best explanation I've heard is that 9/11 occurred between the first and second films, forcing Warner to rethink the wisdom of making two more movies staring a group of admitted terrorists out to destroy 1999. (In some ways, V for Vendetta - which was released as public opinion was beginning to change re: the current war and Bush's approval ratings were dipping, and questioning him was no longer being seen as being unpatriotic - is the film the Wachowski's should have made out of Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions and didn't/couldn't at the time). But I digress...

To bring this back to the Jump 225 trilogy: What I personally love about Edelman is that he sets his story not before (and up to the point) of the radical transformation, nor after (and at a comfortable distance from) the transformation, but that he is actually charting the course through the societal singularity, showing how all the institutions of government, business, and society rearrange, realign, and topple. To an extent, Charlie Stross did this with his brilliant and essential Accelerando (though he moves his action off-world for a good deal of it - which is no criticism, it's a different animal), but I've never personally encountered a work that did such a thorough job and concentrated so much of its focus in taking us through the shift point between paradigms. I think that's why so many readers say that the future Edelman presents is a "believable" one, and why I think, though he mixes and matches tropes we've seen before, his approach is so unique.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Prometheus Books Debuts New Website

The parent company has a brand new website. The long overdue overhaul of Prometheus Books' online home debuts today. What do you think?

(I should point out that the submission guidelines are for their books only, not Pyr. We have separate submission guidelines here.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Peter Diamandis: Taking the Next Giant Leap into Space

Via TED: Ideas worth spreading. Peter Diamandis, who runs the X Prize Foundation, says it's our moral imperative to keep exploring space in this talk, "Taking the next giant leap into space."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Stargate: Atlantis "Whispers" & Pyr

For those who watched Stargate: Atlantis' episode "Whispers," about mid-way through the episode, you may have noticed the character of Dusty reading The Martian General's Daughter.The cover wasn't 100 % visible in the frame, but you'll be seeing a full, clear cover shot in a forthcoming episode. Theodore Judson's book is reportedly part of the Atlantis book club!

A big thanks to John-Mark for the freeze frame image above.

Friday, September 05, 2008

And speaking of Stargate...

Unrelated to my previous post, here's Stargate: Atlantis Executive Producer/writer Joseph Mallozzi on Sideways In Crime:

"Editor Lou Anders assembles a little over a dozen contributions on the theme of alternative history and crime in this interesting mix of stories. As is the case with most anthologies, some of the selections resonate more than others. Stand-outs for me were Mary ’s “Sacrifice”, Paul Di Filippo’s “Murder in Geektopia”, and John Counrtenay Grimwood’s “Chicago”. Although I preferred the more wide-open possibilities found in Anders' Fast Forward anthologies(I was struck by how many of the stories in this collection touched on contemporized Aztec culture, Sherlock Holmes, and French-controlled Louisiana), Sideways in Crime proved an entertaining read in its own right."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Watch Stargate: Atlantis Tomorrow

Check out Stargate: Atlantis'  episode  "Whispers" tomorrow, Sept 5th, the 7th episode of their 5th season. Look for a special Pyr plug. I'll come back here and explain it after it's aired. 

MIND MELD: How Do Media Tie-In Novels Affect SF/F?

SF Signal is back with another great Mind Meld, this one asking, "How do you think media tie-in novels affect the genre of sf/f?"

It's a subject that I've had a change of heart on in recent years, going from borderline hostile to casually tolerant, bolstered largely by observations on the difference between 20th and 21st century fandom. But looking over the SF Signal posts, the arguments in favor go something like this:

1. Media tie-in novels are a gateway drug for (young) readers to discover "real" sf&f.
2. Even media tie-in novels get people thinking about important SFnal concepts.
3. The sales numbers associated with media tie-in novels brings its own kind of respect to our section of the bookstore and makes more non media tie-in works possible.

The arguments against go something like this:

1. Media tie-ins are eating the shelf space.
2. Work for hire isn't a good thing for a writer to be doing, career-wise.
3. Media tie-ins encourage people to want "same book, different cover" and not stretch.
4. Media tie-ins present the "poorest face" to the general public and hurt the perception of SF&F in the general public.

(A lot of these cons come from Alan Beatts, a very smart and articulate man, whose bookstore, Borderlands Books, is one of the best genre stores in America. The fourth point, which Alan makes, is probably the best argument against in my book.)

Now, as I said, I myself started out with a bias against media tie-ins that I've dropped when I realized it was a bias. As Rob H. Bedford points out when he says, "The funny thing is that the perception of non-genre readers towards 'us' is not too different than how genre readers look down upon media tie-ins." I don't ever want to take the position of "grumpy old man" and that alone might be enough to sway me.

Then I happen to have a lot of my friends writing them - from Paul Cornell (arguable the best of the Doctor Who novelists, though he's moved past it now), to Chris Roberson (X-Men, Star Trek, Warhammer 40k), to Sean Williams (who just hit the #1 spot on the NYTimes Bestseller list with The Force Unleashed.) Now, these guys are all great writers. I know this from their non-media tie-in work, but I can't imagine that they give any less when they do their tie-ins. And, in fact, I see reviewers calling out their work as being the best in their respective franchises.

And I've met enough people for whom the media tie-in was a gateway drug to know that it happens. As Kevin J. Anderson says, "A large percentage of the readers of my Dune novels with Brian Herbert have also followed my Saga of Seven Suns (enough that those books are now hitting general fiction bestseller lists). Anybody who claims that tie-in readers don't read other novels is simply misinformed..."

The Dune books are tie-in novels?!? (With the Dune films, maybe?) Still, the man does know media tie-ins, so if he says they follow him home, I am betting they do.

That being said, anytime you are trying to convert one type of behavior into another, you are dealing with very small percentage. So whether you are trying to get someone to respond to a direct mail campaign, or click through a banner ad on a website, or read a newsletter and buy a book, you are dealing with something like a 1 or 2% adaption rate. So while I don't doubt that the readership for the highest profile authors -- hugely-successful writers like Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, etc... -- are following them home to their non media tie-in material in significant numbers (because 2% of a million is significant), I'm not sure that the average media tie-in author is pulling a significant percentage of readers back to his/her creator-owned work. I'll be curious to see what Sean Williams' NYT Bestseller does to his Books of the Cataclysm, for instance, as the first is still on shelves in paperback and the second comes out in paperback in November. I certainly hope we get a bounce - but it might take two or three bestselling Star Wars novels in succession before we do. What Chris Roberson is doing - working his way through a succession of different franchises - might be smart, since if it's true that he's only going to pull off only a few percentages of a given fan base, then by writing for a different fan base each time he should be able to begin to aggregate these percentages into some measurable numbers.

On the other end of it, I'm not sure that media tie-ins are taking eyeballs away from the "real" stuff. My own experience penning over 500 articles for the pages of magazines like Star Trek Monthly, Babylon 5 Magazine, etc... is that the vast majority of the readers (that 97-99%) don't care about the byline, only the subject. As David Gerrold says, "Tie-ins are merchandising. They are marketing. They are also a particular kind of advertising, using the bookstores as additional channels to raise consciousness of the primary product." Walter Jon Williams reverses this when he says, "Trek reruns became nothing less than hour-long advertisements for Trek fiction- and the commercial advantages of having hour-long ads for your fiction soon became apparent." But the point is, I don't think the readers that are gobbling down Star Wars would pick up Brasyl if only George Lucas wasn't in the way. I think those readers wouldn't be in the SF&F section in the first place, they would be out watching more Star Wars and playing with Star Wars toys and games, and Brasyl's numbers would remain unchanged. As Andrew Wheeler says, "Avid tie-in readers are, again, fans of the property rather than of the genre as a whole, and expecting them to suddenly jump to books that aren't about that property is unlikely."

I also know from my time on Star Trek that media SF can get you thinking "in SFnal ways," as witness the large number of inventions, from the compact disk to the beds in use in our M*A*S*H units, that were directly inspired by the tech of Trek. And I do think that thinking "in SFnal ways" is good for the world at large.

But what really strikes me is how many of the fifteen people who responded to this question came themselves to SF&F through media tie-ins. So while maybe it's only a small percentage of media tie-in readers who graduate to the "real" stuff, it may be a high percentage of readers of the "real" stuff who came in via media tie-in. I know I came to SF publishing after a stint in SF television myself. And as Chris Roberson says, "You hear a lot about the 'graying of fandom,' and there are eternal cries for new fans and new readers. As nice as it would be to think that we could simply hand young readers the smartest, most 'challenging' novels that our genres have to offer, it seems unlikely to snare more than a bare handful of them. How much better to hit them where they live, to take franchises they already enjoy-in tv, film, video games, you name it-and offer them more of the same?"

Of course, the number one way that books are discovered isn't via browsing in bookstores. It's still good old word of mouth. Which means that the best thing you can do for SF&F is to share it. And on that note, I have to agree with Walter again when he says, "The success of media SF is on the whole a positive thing. It shows that there's an audience for SF, and that there's money to be made on science fiction ideas."

As long as those ideas are top notch, I think we're okay. Which it means its down to the individual writers to be excellent (even if excellent isn't a requirement). And, in a world where what we are being told to be is "spreadable," then seeing SF everywhere can only be good for the overall health of SF. As I've said before, more of everything means more quality as well as more crap. Omni-media SF is here to stay, we might as well start thinking of more ways to make it work for us.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Podcast: Lou ex Machina

I'm a guest today on Fantasy author Gail Z. Martin's Ghost in the Machine podcast. We talk about the two anthologies I have out this year, Sideways In Crimeand Fast Forward 2. We also talk about the difference in writing for short form vs novel length, Stephen King's It and The Gunslinger, and much more. And here it is:

The End of Science Fiction (yet again)

The Fix's Nader Elhefnawy offers The End of Science Fiction (Part One), the first three of "five big arguments for a bleak view of the genre's prospects that certainly merit consideration." These three - The End of Science, Changing Expectations, and The Life Cycle of Genres. He draws from John Horgan's The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age, Bruce Sterling's preface to Burning Chrome, and John Barnes's Helix column on science fiction as an “undead” genre (itself a fascinating read.)

I enjoyed the article, which if nothing else points to a lot of equally enjoyable essays and opinions, but I think the usefulness of this sort of thing is drying up for me. Is science fiction dying? From where I stand it appears to be exploding, but even if it is dying, what am I supposed to do with that? I'm reminded of the final lines from H G Wells' the Time Machine. "If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so. But to me the future is still black and blank..."

Here's to a black, blank future!