Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Raven Arrive on American Shores!

Just saw that James Barclay's Dawnthief,the first book in his Chronicles of the Raven trilogy, is up at Amazon. Should be in physical stores very soon now. Here's a shot of the full cover. The swords are by Sam Hadley, the design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht (and isn't that stark white title font effective?) and there's a story behind the rocky background. Really, really, really happy with the way this one turned out. My copies should arrive today, and I'm so excited to see them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Last friday, the 14th, it was my great privilege to be a guest speaker at the NETLS Collection Development Symposium, held in the Allen Public Library in Allen, Texas (outside Dallas). The conference was organized by Steve Seale, Continuing Education Consultant for NETLS (pictured left below), which stands for North Eastern Texas Library Systems. I spoke to the Central Texas Library Systems two years ago, giving a speech on collection building focused exclusively on science fiction. They recommended me to Steve (thanks!) and this time, I gave that same speech (updated) along with a new speech on fantasy collections. I gave each twice, so four hours of talking, which I'm told equates to 32 hours of "normal life" in terms of the adrenaline bursts, energy consumption, etc... Whatever the equation, it was exhausting but very fulfilling.

I did the two fantasy presentations in the morning, and the two science fiction presentations in the afternoon, with an hour break for lunch. All were well attended. The immediately-following-lunch session was the thinnest, an hour not being enough time to eat and come back, but the other three sessions were standing room only. They had to bring extra chairs in twice, and yet still people were standing, sitting on tables, etc... More importantly, the audience - comprised of librarians from all over the NETLS region, were very engaged and enthusiastic. (Plus they laughed at my jokes. For which I am grateful.)

My favorite comments were:

1. I plan to throw out everything, get rid of all the moldy old books, and rebuild our collection from scratch based on your recommendations.
2. I never understood fantasy before but you put it all in a context that makes sense to me.
3. I was never much of a fantasy reader before, but now I plan to start.

Another highlight getting to speech to the Allen Public Library Young Writers Group the day before. Actually members of several writing groups, as they have one group for ages 13 to 18 and another of upper teens to early twenties. There were four kids from the group (two boys, two girls) spread across probably 5 or 6 years in age. All were very knowledgeable fantasy readers, and enthusiastic, lifelong writers. Talking with them was really fun and informative, and I hope I gave as good as I got.

I was also very impressed with the library itself, which looks shiny and new and somewhat SF-y, with all it's curving balconies and glassed-in, circular "quiet rooms." A really nice facility. I was impressed to see they shelved SF&F in with "adult fiction" and that they already had a very nice selection of Pyr titles, including books by Abercrombie, Chadbourn, MacKay, McDonald, Meaney, Resnick, and others. And, as an avid lover of Mexican food, eating TexMex two meals and the anti-TexMex Urban Taco for a third, the food was really wonderful too.

I learned Texas is divided into 10 different library systems readings, too, so... 2 down, 8 to go!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 67th World Science Fiction Convention

Back from the Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Montréal, Québec, Canada. So much to say, so little time, as I'm off to Texas tomorrow to give two talks twice each at the NETLS symposium on Friday (held at Allen Public Library, 300 N. Allen, Texas) and I'm still tweaking one of the speeches, and playing mad-out-of-the-office-for-a-week catch up.

But, what a con! They had me on about 14 programming items (including participating in three awards ceremonies), and I sandwiched all my various meetings in between, such that I was still taking meetings as late as 10:30pm on Monday night! But Montreal was lovely, the city beautiful, the food good, the company what always makes the experience.

The general level of the programming was up over recent years. The talk between Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Charles Stross was exactly the sort of thing that I wish science fiction conventions would do more of. Over 1,000 people in attendance, to see two very smart people in dialogue. Fascinating and relevant, and exactly the sort of thing that WorldCon can do (and that a venue like the San Diego Comic Con can't or wouldn't). I'd like to see more conventions leverage these already-available resources for this sort of production. Also, was great to find out Krugman is a geek at heart, and a huge Stross fan. (And see how the event is described in the Ottowa Citizen, which is exactly how I'd want the press to cover it.)

On a much smaller scale, but playing to a packed-house nonetheless, the best panel I was on myself was Friday's "Modern Graphic Design in Publishing," which featured Your's Truly,'s Pablo Defendini, author Sarah Micklem, five time Hugo-nominated artist John Picacio, Baen graphic designer Jennie Faries, and moderated by Weird Tales Hugo-winner Stephen H. Segal. It was a slide presentation where the panelist talked the audience through the process of how a cover comes together, from initial concept sketches, to experiments with layouts, and how they address both artistic and marketing concerns. Really fascinating to hear the other panelists, though since Picacio brought a cover he did for Pyr (his Chesley winning art for Fast Forward 2) and I brought covers he did for us as well (his amazing Age of Misrule work), a lot of it was the John and Lou show. We got a lot of good feedback from folks in the audience, but feel enormously guilty that we ran out of time before Stephen got to show his own slides on the evolution of Weird Tales look/feel. Deep appy polly loggies, man.

But these and other panels really had a dignity and relevance and level of sophistication that is what I personally want from programming. I've been at too many conventions with panel topics like "Why do panels drift?" With all the ground we are loosing to media cons in recent years, this sort of Best Foot Forward programming is wonderful to see and experience (and I'd like more cons to actively promote this sort of thing to the local community before the con, you know).

Not to digress - but just looking at the pro attendees, and ignoring the obvious demigod that is Neil Gaiman, you had folks like Melinda Snodgrass (scriptwriter for Star Trek: The Next Generation), DC/Vertigo superstar & Fables creator Bill Willingham (and when you follow him around, it is an endless series of people doing double takes and then being overwhelmed to learn he was there/thrilled to meet him), Doctor Who television writer and Marvel comics author Paul Cornell, and artist and creator of Y: The Last Man Pia Guerra. Just recognizing them on the attendees list, then finding away to make their fan bases aware of their presence, and organizing some special programming specifically around them, and you could really leverage their presence to double the size of the convention, without having to become a giant "media con" at all --as if there is any chance of that. Really tired of people saying they don't do this because they don't want WorldCon to turn into San Diego. Please. As if that were even remotely possible. But leveraging these already available resources just might stop the scary con-shrinkage of recent years, combat the graying of fandom, and make sure there IS a WorldCon for us to go to in 2020...

But rant over, back on track, it was an honor to accept the winning awards for Mary Rosenblum and Chris Roberson for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. Mary won for "Sacrifice," published in my own Sideways In Crimeanthology. Chris Roberson for The Dragon's Nine Sons,both published by Solaris books.

Immediately following this, I received one of the highest honors of my life when I received the Chesley Award for Best Art Director. Was so not expecting it that I didn't even have an acceptance speech, and cannot begin to tell you what this means to me. That John Picacio had just won for Best Paperback for my anthology Fast Forward 2 (for which John and I really, really put in the collaborative work as artist and art director), made this an evening I'll never forget. And indeed, I didn't really realize until I got there, but I had three stories I edited on the Sidewise ballot, three covers I art directed on the Chesley ballot, and two stories I edited on the Hugo ballot, plus the Chesley win, the Best Editor-Long Form nomination, and the discovery (after the Loser's Party) that I missed making the Best Editor Short Form by only two votes. All of which ads up to making this a very special convention for me & Pyr.

But what really makes a convention special is the people! Spent a lot of time with my brothers John Picacio, Paolo Bacigalupi and Paul Cornell, whose company I can never get enough of. Some combination of us (and Monday night all four) were hanging out all week, a scaffolding of friendship upon which the convention hung.

On the new friends category: Really enjoyed hanging out with Lev Grossman (about which more later) and had a very quick meeting my last day with Stéphane Marsan, directeur éditorial of Bragelonne in Paris, France. Stephane is kindred spirit, and I hated to cut it short, because I felt I could have talked with him for much, much longer, but thoroughly enjoyed the conversation we had. (And thank you to consuling editor Tom Clegg for the introduction!) Really enjoyed meeting Dani Kollin, on half of The Unincorporated Man,and a very smart, nice guy I hope I get the opportunity to dialogue with further. Also got to talk to Alexandre O. Philippe, Writer/Director of the documentary film The People vs. George Lucas. Most of that conversation was held across opposite sides of a camera, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless (and worth the sea of hate mail I've probably set myself up for.) Meanwhile, fantastic to meet author Daniel Duguay and his lovely wife, who came all the way from Serbia (though they are Canadian), to be at the con. And though he wasn't a new friend, my old friend Graeme Burke, who didn't attend the con but traveled two hours each way on the train just to hang for two hours, a gesture that was deeply appreciated. Just prior, lunching and strolling with Liza Groen Trombi of Locus and her three-month old baby was a joy.

What else can I say? Exhausting, rewarding, over too soon. This con report from Time's aforementioned Lev Grossman (whose own book, The Magicians: A Novel,debuts any day now), sums up the convention nicely. "It's pretty overwhelming when you first walk in. At any con you always have a few people who you know you're going to see, but you -- or at any rate I -- also have the impression that every single other person there knows every single other person, and you're the only one who's wandering around friendlessly. That impression fades after a while. As at every con I've been to, the people are extraordinarily nice and welcoming." Lev's article has the added bonus of mentioning me, but I think I'd enjoy it regardless. He comes in a newcomer and seems to grok its essence pretty quickly and thoroughly. (Meeting and hanging with him was also a highlight of the con for me.)

Now contrast it with this report from Clarion grad Megan Kurashige. She characterizes it as, "My first time being surrounded by several thousand people who love a certain kind of story, or at least a certain range of flavors, enough to spend five days celebrating them and enjoying the related trimmings." So, two very similar perspectives from two different newbies, one just starting out as a writer, the other as a (fantasy) novelist. And yes, this one also has the added bonus of mentioning me. What can I say?

Coming home involved a five hour delay at the Montreal airport, while a dent in the plane got examined and signed off on by two different specialists, and then, once we did board, the day-long beautiful weather instantly transformed into a lightning and rain storm, which saw us sitting on the runway. However, that meant I spent the day in the airport with (at various times) John Picacio, Mike Resnick, Lee Modesitt Jr, Ellen Datlow, Paolo Bacigalupi, David H. Brummel, and Jeremy Lassen - making the airport an extention of the con and the conversation. I was very glad to get home to my family, but always loath to leave this special space that British fantasy author Graham Joyce so wisely termed a roving Brigadoon. And like any good Brigadoon, leaving it always sees a small bit of your soul left forever behind in that far away place.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Look, Up in the Sky! Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No, It's my Next Anthology!

Whew. Just right this second handed in With Great Power, an anthology of Superhero Prose Tales for Pocket books. And what an anthology! Coming in over 120,000 words, and featuring 15 stories by some truly amazing authors, 9 of them regular writers of actual comic books and graphic novels for DC and Marvel. No pastiche or parody this, but actual comics writers and SF&F authors who are themselves comic book fans writing sophisticated, modern narratives of superhero adventure, by and for today's sophisticated comic book reading public.

I don't have a release date yet, though there is some talk of having it out in time for next year's San Diego Comic Con. Regardless, look for this in 2010. Meanwhile, whet your appetites with this amazing TOC:

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

Not too shabby, no?

(And, it bears pointing out, my editor at Pocket, the amazing Jennifer Heddle, is herself the co-creator of the indie comic Cynical Girl. )