Friday, December 31, 2010

Fairwell to the 00's

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery2010 was a spectacular year. Pyr books, the science fiction and fantasy imprint for which I serve as Editorial Director, turned five years old in March, and we published our 100th title in October. We made a strong push into ebooks, and made our first significant forays into new-for-us subgenres, with several strong vampire, steampunk, and urban fantasy titles. We also acquired our first young adult titles (about which more later). We exhibited at DragonCon for the first time, to an overwhelming response, and our 2010 offerings are currently showing up on a multitude of Best of the Year lists. I was nominated for my fourth Hugo award for Best Editor Long Form as well as nominated for my third Chesley award for Best Art Director. I also edited two anthologies--Masked, a comic book themed anthology editor for Gallery Books and Swords & Dark Magic, a sword and sorcery anthology co-edited with Jonathan Strahan for Eos books (currently itself showing up on several Best of the Year lists). I even managed to get some personal writing in, completing both a 10,000 word novelette and, more significantly, writing my first ever novel. Previously, I've written a handful of screenplays and teleplays (several of them optioned), a half dozen stage plays (all of them performed in Chicago in the early 90s), and over 500 pieces of professional journalism and a Making of book, but this was my first ever fiction novel, so I'm damn proud. All in all, not a bad year. So long, 2010!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Swords & Dark Magic - Best Anthology of 2010

There's a review of Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery up at Sci-Fi-London today. It calls out stories by Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, KJ Parker, Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, and Joe Abercrombie, and says "go and buy the damned book, it's well worth it!" (I couldn't agree more). The review concludes, "...all in all an excellent anthology and one that is probably as well timed as it could possibly be given the recent upsurge in the genre. The writers here are amongst the best in the field and fans and newcomers alike will enjoy working their way through them, but it has to be said, there are a lot more writers out there that fit this mould and anthology number two should be just as exciting when it comes around. Lets hope it comes around soon."

Meanwhile, The Mad Hatters' Bookshelf & Book Review has posted their "Best Books of 2010 (That I Have Read) list and Swords & Dark Magic is their pick for Best Anthology of 2010. They describe the book as "a fairly complete view of where the genre of Swords &Sorcery has been and where it is going with a few truly exceptional stories, by many of my favorite authors."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Masked chosen as "Best Book of 2010" and gets Facebook Page.

The website Superhero Novels has picked Masked as the best super-themed fiction of 2010. They write, "Masked, a collection of straight-up superhero stories was the best book of 2010. So sayeth Each of the contributing authors fearlessly embraced the tropes of superhero fiction and successfully expanded the genre’s horizons. Hats off to the project’s editor and everyone involved. Hopefully we’ll see a second volume soon."

Meanwhile, I have created a dedicated Mask Facebook page, which you can conveniently "Like" in the box below. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swords & Dark Magic: the most important sword-and-sorcery event from this year!

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and SorceryOver on, John Klima opines that "2010 for Me Was Full of Swords and Sorcery." He goes through some of the players in the S&S field, and then says, "But for me, the most important sword-and-sorcery event from this year was Lou Anders and Jonahtan Strahan’s anthology Swords & Dark Magic. This anthology collected a phenomenal list of authors: Joe Abercrombie, C. J. Cherryh, Glen Cook, James Enge, Steven Erikson, Greg Keyes, Caitlin R Kiernan, Tim Lebbon, Tanith Lee, Scott Lynch, Michael Moorcock, Garth Nix, K. J. Parker, Michael Shea, Robert Silverberg, Bill Willingham, and Gene Wolfe....Honestly, there isn’t a bad story in this book. If you’re a fan of fantasy, you’ve probably already heard of it, but if not, you’ll be very happy to pick up a copy."

Monday, December 20, 2010

John Picacio's GRRM Calendar

George RR Martin has posted a (possibly not final) image of the cover of the 2011 and 2012 A Song of Ice and Fire Calendars. Ted Nasmith is the illustrator of 2011 and John Picacio of 2012. Both look amazing, but I'm particularly excited by the Picacio. George says, "This may not actually be the final cover, but it should give you a good taste of the spectacular work that John is doing. He tells me he's determined to make this calendar the best work he's ever done." Excited.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Thoughts on Google Books

Google entered the ebook market heavily yesterday with the debut of the Google eBookstore, a cloud based ebook experience that promises that you can "use just about any device with an Internet connection to read over 3 million books." Books are stored in a Cloud and accessed when you download them to your device (where they are still accessible if your device goes off its wireless connection). Smartly, Google Books can be read on Android, iPhone/iPod/iPad Touch, the Nook and the Sony eReader, as well as on a desktop or laptop. They can't be read on the Kindle but are "open to the possibility" should Amazon allow that. For Android and Apple, apps are available to allow reading on the mobile devices. For Nook and Sony, epub files are downloaded in the Adobe Digital Editions format, and can be manually transferred to these devices.

I downloaded the iPad app yesterday afternoon (after several failed attempts in the morning, due either to high demand or - as the app wasn't even coming up in a search of the app store - possible shenanigans.) I discovered that "My Google eBooks" page comes loaded with several free selections - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies). I played with the reader, and then downloaded a sample of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (the author, along with George RR Martin, that I most want to see in the store of my preferred ebook reading app, iBooks).

As an app, Google Books  is perfunctory and serviceable, but the least versatile of all the major readers (Stanza, iBooks, Nook for iPad, Kobo, Kindle for iPad). You can change the font, font size, invert the background to white on black, and (nicely) adjust the "line height" (the space between sentences, what we call the "leading" - something the Nook for iPad also does). But there is no dictionary feature, and there doesn't appear to be any way to link to a website from text. There is a neat feature that allows you to switch between "flowing text" and "scanned text", the latter being an actual reproduction of the scanned pages. I imagine this could be useful when reading public domain works in which the OCR created errors in the text due to mistakes in scanning, but not one I personally am likely to get much use out of.

Opening the sample of The Lies of Locke Lamora, I was disappointed to see that the two maps at the beginning were too small to be legible. Google Books allows you to place your finger over a section of the page to enlarge the text/image, but doing so produced an image so grainy as to be even more indecipherable. So based on this experience, and the lack of the dictionary and other features, I personally wouldn't use the Google app as a primary eBook reader.

Perhaps more interesting is that apart from a "very small" number of titles, once you purchase a book from the Google eBookstore you can download it in PDF and ePub format. Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is marked "No download files included" for instance, as is its sequel, though The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is not.

So first I got a free copy of Moby Dick from the Google eBookstore, then I downloaded it in ePub and added it manually to my iBooks' library in iTunes. The result - a book from Google successfully imported to my preferred reader, wherein I can use the dictionary and other features. Yay!

I then bought The Lies of Locke Lamora as a test. It does allow me to download the ePub file, but in Adobe Digital Editions format, which neither iBooks (as expected) nor Stanza (surprise!) could open. Sadly, I am now testing Google's customer service by seeing how easily I can request and receive a refund.

So my personal take: The Google eBookstore will be a great way to easily procure and read the "millions" of free titles already available from Google, but I personally will transfer such works to better readers, and I won't be purchasing any books from Google since their app fails to break my preferred app order of iBooks, Nook for iPad, Kindle for iPad, all of which are much sexier and versatile reading apps.

However, competition is always good. Already Amazon has announced that they will soon introduce Kindle for the web, enabling users to "to read full books in the browser" as well as allowing "any Website to become a bookstore offering Kindle books." It's extremely likely that the Google app will add features as it goes, and if it adds downloadable epub editions beyond the Adobe Digital Editions versions, I would use the bookstore for commercial purchases. As we all know, it's still very early days on ebooks, and their evolution is just accelerating.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Love for an Earlier Title

Infoquake (The Jump 225 Trilogy) (v. 1)Speculative Book Review writes:
Infoquake has been compared to the classic novel Dune and the movie Wallstreet. This is a very good comparison, but I think that Infoquake stands on its own merits and allows us to envision a future that could quite possibly occur with a nudge in the right direction. The pacing and style of the novel leaves you wanting more as the book moves at break-neck speed from the corporate boardrooms to the public launch of a product. You would think that a science fiction book that focuses on the backstabbing and the planning of a new computer program would leave you yawning and sleepy, but Edelman has found a way to keep you reading way into the wee hours of the morning drinking coffee like a computer programmer behind on his product launch. A fascinating piece of literary work that is bound to be considered a classic of science fiction. One, if not THE top read of the year. A must have for any reader of science fiction. Could not recommend higher.

Friday, November 19, 2010

ELFSORROW makes LJ Best Books 2010: Genre Fiction list

The Library Journal have just released their "LJ Best Books 2010: Genre Fiction" and James Barclay's Elfsorrow made the list. They write, "The mercenaries of the Raven journey to the heart of the elven continent of Calaius to save the land from dying in a superbly visualized fantasy adventure reminiscent of Glen Cook's classic Black Company tales."

He shared the list with Todd McCaffrey's Dragongirl, China  Miéville's Kraken, Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur, and Skyler White's And Falling, Fly. Congratulations to all the authors on this prestigious list! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Podcast: Comic Book Outsiders

MaskedI was a guest of the UK podcast Comic Book Outsiders this week. Hosts Scott and Steve got me talking about my lifelong love of comics and I shot off into many comic-related tangents while hopefully still talking about the superhero prose anthology Masked some as well. The podcast is available on iTunes as well as from the link above.

Scott and Steve, it was a very fun interview. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The NaNoWriMo Song

I love John Anealio's music. His NaNoWriMo Song is just priceless! It got me through NaNoWriMo last year in fact. You can download it, and the new "dance remix" in a pay what you want transaction, starting at free. But you should pay at least $.99 for it, shouldn't you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Always Knew Planets Didn’t Explode on Their Own

Superman: Earth OneAfter an incredibly long hiatus, I've posted my first piece at since March 2010. "We Always Knew Planets Didn’t Explode on Their Own" is my review of J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One, an original graphic novel that re-imagines the origin of Superman by taking a very different slant on the destruction of Krypton from anything we've seen before.

One thing I couldn't include in the review, but which I got a kick out of. The villain is named Tyrell, looks like Rutger Hauer, and paints his face not unlike Daryl Hannah in a certain film. Also, the nature and weapons of the villains seemed to me reminiscent of aspects of the last two Star Trek films. None of this is criticism. It's just fun to spot the seams and influences.

Monday, November 08, 2010

MASKED is the book for you!

"Masked intrigued me" writes Rob Will Review. "In lieu of an arc linking these stories together, what drove me to read Masked from beginning to end was the thematic build from story to story, for these are really all variations on a single theme.  In a way, it is the same tale told fifteen times. The creativity and ingenuity of each writer, however, distinguish these versions from one another, which underlines just why there continue to be so many comic books on the shelves, so many different twists on what is, at its heart, the same archetype reimagined over and over again."

His conclusion? "If you are a superhero fan, eager to find a slew of original spins on a well-worn topic, Masked is the book for you."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Is Fantasy Gendered?

Over at Salon Futura, Tim Pratt, Glenda Larke, and I discuss "whether some fantasy literature is deliberately targeted at readers of a particular gender." I probably spun the episode more in the direction of teen reading and the Young Adult genre than the topic suggested.

The episode is also available via iTunes.

io9's Environment Writing Contest for Science Journalists and SF Writers

From their release:

In November and December, is sponsoring an environmental writing contest for science journalists and science fiction writers. We are awarding $2000 each for the two best stories (one nonfiction, one science fiction) that deal with environmental disaster - its causes, consequences, and how to deal with both. We invite entries from people all over the world, whether they're seasoned investigative journalists or citizen scientists who have never been published

For full contest rules, please go here.

Here's more information:

We can't prevent environmental disasters without preparing for them. That's why io9 is going to pay $2000 each to two people who write the best stories about environmental disaster. It's io9's Environmental Writing Contest - for science fiction and non-fiction.

io9 is looking for stories that deal with environmental disaster, whether caused by random asteroid impacts or oil drilling accidents. We believe that the first step to solving planet-scale problems is to
assess, honestly and critically, what it would mean to experience such a disaster. We need mental models that can help policy-makers, researchers, and individuals prepare for the kinds of cataclysmic
events that have occurred regularly throughout Earth's history.

We're holding this contest to reward people for coming up with ideas that could help avert the next Deepwater spill and Pacific garbage gyre - or help people prepare better for the next Indian Ocean tsunami and Haiti earthquake. Storytelling is a powerful tool. We want you to use it well.

Our team of judges includes Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker's environment reporter), National Book Award nominee Paolo Bacigalupi (author of Ship Breaker and The Windup Girl), and Jonathan Strahan (editor of the acclaimed Eclipse anthologies).

Contest Guidelines:
Stories should be between 3,000-5,000 words. It must be an original story that has not been published elsewhere.

The contest has two categories: Science Fiction and Non-Fiction. We will pick a winner from each.

Guidelines for Science Fiction Entries:
Your story should deal meaningfully and plausibly with some aspect of environmental disaster. There are no limits on the kind of disaster you explore. It could be an exploding star, a plague, tachyon pollution, nanotech diseases, climate change, or something else. What's important is that your story deal with causes and consequences. How did the disaster happen, who will benefit from it, how will people
(or other creatures) respond to it? We don't want morality tales or after school specials here - just good stories that deal realistically with the subject matter.

Guidelines for Non-Fiction Entries:
Your story can be a piece of investigative journalism, a well-researched history, biographical/autobiographical narrative, or science/technology writing for a lay audience. You can write a profile of people or groups dealing with environmental disaster, analyze the science behind environmental problems, or cover the story of a disaster that has already happened. We prefer stories that involve reporting and research. Though the story must be original, you may base it on research you have already done for another project or piece of reporting.

Winning stories will be published on io9, and we will give $2000 each to the winners in each category.

Deadline for all stories is midnight PST, December 11.

George Takei gets medieval on this douchebag

Thursday, November 04, 2010

James Enge: Making a Virtue of Weirdness

The latest issue of Locus magazine has a long and enthusiastic review of James Enge's The Wolf Age by author and reviewer Tim Pratt. He calls The Wolf Age "inventive and delightful," and says, "Enge's plot is admirably twisty, and he keeps things moving with impressive set pieces, werewolf battles, bizarre magical airships, miraculous feats, and liberal doses of skewed humor. One of his great virtues as a writer is weirdness -- he's not afraid to do the unexpected, and his imagination is formidable. But there's an underlying emotional power here, too. The author excels at depicting the bonds of friendship, the pain of betrayal, and the tragedy of well-laid plans going awry, and that emotional payload is what makes this novel into more than just an entertaining adventure story about a guy with a magical sword who fights monsters. Enge is one of the most engaging of the new sword and sorcery authors, and I hope we get to follow Morlock's exploits for a long time to come."

Update 11/8/10: Locus Online has posted the full review to their site.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thought for Today

"Fiction about kings and queens is not necessarily royalist fiction any more than fiction about anarchists is likely to be libertarian fiction. As a writer I have produced a good many fantastic romances in which kings and queens, lords and ladies, figure largely -- yet I am an avowed anti-monarchist. Catch 22 never seemed to me to be in favour of militarism. And just because many of Heinlein's characters are soldiers or ex-soldiers I don't automatically assume he must therefore be in favour of war. It depends what use you make of such characters in a story and what, in the final analysis, you are saying." from "Starship Stormtroopers" by Michael Moorcock

Monday, October 25, 2010

The End

There is a book on my shelf I can throw away now. I bought it in 1999. I won't tell you its title or author, but you know what kind of book it is. It's the kind you read, start to throw across the room, and then say, "I can't believe this crap got published. I can write better than this." And then you think, "So why don't I?"

I've written for the stage, with several plays performed in Chicago in the early 90s. I have written several screenplays (a few of which were optioned by Hollywood production companies though none were ever produced). I had a standing invitation to pitch Star Trek: Voyager in the late 90s due to the quality of my Deep Space Nine spec scripts. I've written a nonfiction book (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact), and I've published well over 500 articles in magazines as diverse as The Believer, Publishers Weekly, free inquiry, Dreamwatch, and Babylon 5 Magazine, as well as various nonfiction anthologies. I've got a half dozen published short stories in various magazines and anthologies. I made a living off just my writing for five years in Los Angeles.

But I have never written a novel.

And mindful of how much easier it is to criticize than to do yourself, I've kept this godawful book on my shelf for 11 years, because while its mediocrity offended me greatly, and shelf space is at a premium, once I allowed it to set the challenge, I didn't feel like I could ethically throw it out until I'd responded.

And last night I wrote "The End" on a 96,000 word young adult urban fantasy.

I started it last year on November 1st (thank you NaNoWriMo), and I finished the first 50,000 words at 2am Friday night in my hotel room during an Editor Guest of Honor stint at Orycon 31. Then I set it aside for a few months. Then, sometime in the spring, I picked it back up. At first I started working on select weekends, taking a Saturday to sit in a coffeeshop and type. But there was too much downtime in between writing sessions. I found I was spending more time rereading what had come before than writing new material. Enter my incredible wife, who told me I should write after the kids were in bed, every weekday, Monday through Thursday (and sometimes Sunday), for two hours plus a night. And then made me do it.

I can't tell you the times she walked past me where I sat at the bar in the den, glanced over my shoulder to see me surfing the web or answering email, and said, "Stop that. You are supposed to be writing." Or how many nights I tried to beg off working to watch television or turn in early. I don't think there is anyway this book would exist at all if she hadn't chained me to the keyboard. (She is amazing.)

So last night around 10:15pm I wrote the words "The End" on the longest piece of fiction I've ever produced.

There is still a lot of work to do. I'm going to take a few weeks off, then start in on the first rewrite. It needs to be tightened, elements I discovered at the end need to be foreshadowed at the start, and it needs to be trimmed by about 10,000 words. Then it's going out to test readers, and then it gets another rewrite. So it won't be "done done" for many moons. But I've reached the end of something that was started a year ago. And now I can finally throw that book on my shelf, the piece of garbage I've had taking up space since 1999, away.

Only thing is, I may not want to anymore. It's become too important to me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rest in Peace, My Friend

The picture was taken off the coast of California, in the mid-90s. It captured my friend at his best, and is how I will remember him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Why I Love Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The other day a good friend and fellow anthologist asked me if I had a home or new of one for a good, literary heroic fantasy. From the description, the story in question sounded like exactly my cup of tea, but, alas, I'm not currently editing any short story anthologies. I recommended that the writer-in-question check out the online zine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

"Isn't that just a minor, second tier website?" my friend replied.

I quickly set him straight. Not only does Beneath Ceaseless Skies pay pro rates, and not only is it an SFWA-qualifying market, but work from it has been favorably reviewed in Locus magazine, and several of its authors have gone on to have novel sales (most recently Erin Hoffman to me and Saladin Ahmed to DAW).

I've been a fan of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for some time. Although my pleasure reading time is severely curtailed (anytime I read something that isn't a manuscript for Pyr I am essentially either taking my company's money to not work or taking time away from my family), I do make a point of reading BCS when I can. And I have yet to read a bad story there.

Now, I am an old school sword and sorcery fan. But I'm not interested in Conan pastiche, and I do have an appetite for elegant prose. Enter Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which offers "the best in literary adventure fantasy." Hey, look at those two adjectives: "literary" and "adventure." Not two words that are often strung together, and yet exactly what I'm looking for.

I'm also a great fan of the way that Scott H. Andrews runs the magazine, making every issue available not only on the site itself, but also as a free PDF, Mobi prc, and ePub file and a $.99 Kindle file. It's the ePub format that's particularly of use to me, since I can click the link and have it load directly into Stanza on my iPad. It's getting ridiculously easy to generate quality ePub files these days, with even more conversion options coming (Scrivener 2.0 and, I believe, the next generation of Microsoft Word will both do this). Some of the older, more established magazines could benefit by being up in ePub like this themselves, and I have used it as an example of what to do write in conversations with other new magazines.

They also have an e-only anthology out, The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Year One, which I bought in the iBook store the minute it was released. It's up in all these formats (and only costs $2.99):, in five ebook & computer formats
Amazon Kindle Store, in Kindle/Stanza format, in EPUB format
Apple's iBookstore, for iPad users

I highly recommend checking out the website, supporting them by buying the ebook anthology, and the downloading the latest issue. Plus, they are celebrating their 2nd Anniversary. BCS has published 45 podcasts and over a hundred stories in just two years.  This Thursday will see the release of their Anniversary Double-Issue, with stories from featuring Richard Parks and Tony Pi. I'll be there!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Masked Superteam Answers Your Questions

Nine authors & I in participate this morning in a Q&A on Joseph Mallozzi's blog, discussing our superhero prose anthology Masked. It's a mammoth post, with responses from Yours Truly, Matthew Sturges, James Maxey, Paul Cornell, Daryl Gregory, Gail Simone, Mark Chadbourn, Joe himself, and Marjorie M. Liu!

What's more, Joe labels us a Superteam and reveals which hero he feels we each correspond to. Surprisingly, I'm not Professor Xavier. Check out the post, "The Masked Superteam answers your questions."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Long Live Swords & Sorcery!

Literary Musings on my anthology, Swords & Dark Magic, co-edited with Jonathan Strahan:

"After digesting all of it thoroughly, I commend checking out this worthy collection for those of the kickass stories of the Sword & Sorcery, and a wonderful starting point to get into the subgenre. A few ruts of misplacement muddle its rather fine appearance, but where can you go wrong with these badass brawlers and fiesty heroines? Bar none, this is the brightest hope for the return of Swords & Sorcery, and the premiere anthology for an exceptional collection of the brightest authors in the field. Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan are an editing force to be reckoned with, and are paving the way for the modern evolution of the subbgenre. And the message  remains clear: Swords & Sorcery has not died yet. On the contrary, led by these two, the future of Swords and Sorcery definitely looks brighter indeed."

MASKED encourages playing hookey!

Son of Two Cubes says, "Lou Anders rocks. Lou has edited Masked, an anthology of Superhero short fiction. He was also co-editor of Swords & Dark Magic, which I raved about. Well, here we go again. This collection is also fantastic. How fantastic? Well, I wanted to call in sick and read it."