Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MileHiCon and Me!


Not that anybody's ever commented on this -- you guys are amazingly polite, and I thank you for that -- but I have a tendency to begin all announcements about public appearances with the words 'This weekend, I'll be..."

But I'm trying to be better!  So this is my announcement that this October 24th, 25th & 26th, I'm going to be one of three author guests at MileHiCon 46.  MileHiCon is Colorado’s Oldest and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and it's in Denver, so that's two good reasons to attend.  That's not even counting my fellow author guests of honor Tony Abraham  and Ty Franck.  Or artist guests of honor Phil and Kaja Folio.  Or toastmaster Jeanne Stein.

I'm thinking this ought to be whopping big heaps of fun.  You can find the MileHiCon website here.

And speaking of today . . .

On this date, but on separate days, in 1616, both Shakespeare and Cervantes died. At the time, Spain had already adopted the Gregorian calendar while England was still stuck in the old Julian calendar.  Had his nation been a little more up-to-date, Shakespeare would have died sometime in May.

The poor bastard couldn't catch a break.

Above:  Yes, I know this is MileHiCon's 2013 logo.  They haven't had time to acquire a new one yet.  These are the risks one runs when making such announcements early.


Monday, April 21, 2014

My Italian Interview


In conjunction with Dancing With Bears being published in Italy under the name of Gli Dei di Mosca (publisher's page here), I've been interviewed on the Cronache di un sole lontano blog. Cronache di un sole lontano was nominatd for the Italia prize in 2013 as the best fan SF blog.

Those fortunate enough to be literate in Italian can read the interview here.

For those who aren't, here's a one-question excerpt from the interview by Fabio Centamore:

What differences are there between the eighties and nowadays in literary mood? Where is SF headed?

I may be the wrong person to ask, because in the eighties I was young and writing in friendship and competition with the best new writers of the decade.  Every month I’d read the magazines to see if something like Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Black Air” or James Patrick Kelly’s “Mr. Boy” had come out – and if it had, I was driven back to the typewriter (this was before home computers) to try to write something as good but utterly different.  We were all unknowns, or almost so, and making names for ourselves, so there was a particular excitement to the times.   And of course we all romanticize our youth.

The Canadian critic John Clute has a theory that currently science fiction and fantasy are merging into a single genre, which he calls fantastika, a term borrowed from Russia and Scandinavia.  Maybe so.  Certainly, I see a lot more emphasis on pure story and less on ideas nowadays.  (Starting out, it was a commonplace to call SF “the literature of ideas,” but I haven’t heard that term used for a long time.)  But if so it’s a tendency I’m fighting all the way.  This probably sounds strange coming from someone whose science fiction often feels like fantasy and whose fantasy often feels like science fiction.  Nevertheless, Dancing with Bears takes place in the realm of the possible and The Dragons of Babel in the realm of the impossible.  That’s an important distinction and, I feel, a productive one.

Above: The banner for Cronache di un sole lontano.  Pretty nifty, eh?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gli Dei di Mosca


This is, I believe, the best version of Surplus to date.  Check out that expression!  His marks don't normally get to see this aspect of him.  And this is the first attempt to capture the likeness of Aubrey Darger I've ever seen.   Artist Manuel Preitano captures, I believe, the quintessential Britishness of him.

Gli Dei di Mosca (The Gods of Moscow), the Italian translation of Dancing With Bears, went on sale in e-book form today.  You can order it here or here.  And the paper version goes on sale in only a few weeks.  You can read about it at the publisher's website here.

You can argue about the physical appearances of Darger & Surplus if you wish, of course, and it would be a sign of affection if you did.  Because those fictional characters we most care about exist most convincingly inside our heads, where we do not so much see them as feel their rightness.  But is that a terrific portrayal of Anya Pepsicolova or what?  When Anya first appeared in my novel, she was a minor character, a way of getting Darger to a certain place in subterranean Moscow, and I had every intention of keeping her minor.  But Anya had other ideas and kept grabbing a bigger and bitter piece of the plot.

Writers really like characters like that.

Below is Preitano's original artwork, before it was defaced with things like the title and my name.  Just so you can admire it some more.  I like how deftly it avoids giving away too much of the plot.

This is actually Friday's blog, posted a day early.  Just to give Gli Dei di Mosca a tiny bit more exposure.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Make Your Darlings Suffer


It's too early to know exactly what influence George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire will have on the fantasy genre, though it's a safe bet that it will be significant.  But it's pretty obvious that the Red Wedding scene all by itself will have a significant impact -- and a good one, too.

One of the signature weaknesses of a new writer is a tendency to be too nice to one's characters.  Some weaknesses, such as a propensity to spend five to ten pages of a story "setting the scene" before finally getting around to  the plot, can be cured simply by clearly explaining why they're a bad idea and how they can be circumvented.  But when all of one's upbringing is devoted into turning one into a decent person, it can be hard to undo.  "Look, I'll say to my students, on those occasions when I teach.  "It would be a heinous act to throw a woman into the path of an oncoming train.  But we celebrate Tolstoy for doing so in Anna Karenina.  These are not real people we're dealing with here.  They're only words on paper.  Make those bastards suffer!"

They hear but, half in love with their own creations, they do not easily believe.

There's a lot to admire about the Red Wedding, including the fact that it took the readers and later viewers by surprise.  I'm sure there are many new writers out there at this very moment feverishly plotting out their own massacres in imitation.  And that's good, because while most of those bloodlettings are destined for the drawer, they're a positive step toward publication.  Many more writers are taking to heart George's exemplary willingness to kill off characters who've won the readers' affections.  That's also good.  But the chief lesson to be learned hers is to let your darlings suffer.

Why is this desirable?  Because there are things we must learn in life which can only be learned through suffering.  If that suffering is experienced only in our imaginations, so much the better.

Also, it can be wonderfully entertaining.

The opening of the Honest Trailers spoof of Game of Thrones begins "From fiction's most notorious serial killer..."  But let's be honest here.  It should be "From fiction's most beloved serial killer..."  I trust that any new writers reading this are taking the implicit moral to heart.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Radiant Doors . . . the Series?


It's too early to break out the champagne yet, but the cable network WGN America has given what's called "a script order against a series commitment" to a television series based on my story "Radiant Doors."

What this means is that if the network likes the script (now being written by Jeremy Doner), the series will be made.  Justin Lin, the director of Fast and Furious 6, will be the director and executive producer if and when Radiant Doors is made.

"Radiant Doors" is the single darkest story I've ever written -- and that's saying something.  The premise is that one day radiant doors open in the air everywhere in the world and through them pour millions of refugees.  They've all been terribly abused.  And they're from our future.

I don't know anything about Justin Lin's vision for the series, and that's probably just as well.  Neither he nor Doner needs me peering over their shoulders, second-guessing them.  But in addition to the obvious benefits to me if the series is ever made, I'd love to see just what they do with the premise.

You can read all about it here.

Above:  Justin Lin


Friday, April 11, 2014

Soundworms of the Galaxy


I'm in pod-print again!  "Passage of Earth," which very recently appeared in Clarkesworld, is now available free for the listening as a podcast.

This story was the first I ever sold to Clarkesworld, and what struck me about the process was how fast it all was.  From submission to acceptance was less than a week which, okay, is not entirely uncommon for me.  But from Acceptance to epublication was a matter of weeks.  And then, less than a week later (I would have blogged about this Wednesday, but felt obligated to do my small part toward notifying people about Heartbleed), the postcast is up as well.

Part of this, I'm sure, is that the electronic media are intrinsically faster than print media.  But most of the credit has to go to publisher/editor Neil Clarke.

You can listen to the podcast here.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lock Up the Chickens! Change the Passwords!


I'm taking a break from my regular topics for the following public service announcement:

Change all your on-line passwords.  Do it now.  Then do the whole thing again a week from now, just to be safe.

I'm not kidding.  A few weeks ago, a major security flaw -- dubbed Heartbleed -- was discovered which puts passwords, credit card numbers, pretty much any information stored on the Web at risk.  This was kept a secret while the major players were given the opportunity to apply patches.  A few hours ago, it went public.  Which means that every cheap gunsel and two-bit grifter on the Web will be trolling for data.

Here's the problem in CNN's words:

Heartbleed is a flaw in OpenSSL, an open-source encryption technology that is used by an estimated two-thirds of Web servers. It is behind many HTTPS sites that collect personal or financial information. These sites are typically indicated by a lock icon in the browser to let site visitors know the information they're sending online is hidden from prying eyes.

The rest of the article can be found here.

For the xkcd cartoon explaining what's going on in a more lucid manner than most news reports, click here.