Monday, July 29, 2013

Late, Brief, and I Fear Depressing

Indulge me, please.  This matters to me.

I have the usual things to post but I cannot bring myself to do so.  Late last night I arrived home from a pleasant weekend jaunt to find an email informing me that a college friend -- someone I'd only seen once in all the years between -- died and was cremated two weeks ago.

Dear God.

You wouldn't think this would hit me so hard.  But Tim was such a good man, made of such solid stuff, and had such a puckish sense of humor.  Always in the back of my mind was a sense that he was out there somewhere, and happy, and that the world was a better place for that.

Now Tim Tomlinson is gone and there's a hole in the world the exact shape and size he was.

Forty years have passed like the turning of a hand.  For the first time, I feel old.  I mourn this friend as I would have had he died back then.

I will not tell you stories, sum up his character, or try to tell you why you are the poorer for his passing.  Such tales are for those who knew him.  John Donne had it right:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed way by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thy own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

When first I read those words, I was moved by their majesty but too young to understand them well.  Now I know that death is part of the price of admission, that life is hard stuff, meant for heroes only, and that we are all made profound by our final destiny.

Turtle, as we all called him back when, will be missed.  All you who never knew him would mourn his passing, if only you could.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gregory Frost -- Geek of the Week!


My good friend Gregory Frost has received the highest honor that Geekadelphia has to bestow -- that of Geek of the Week!

Greg is probably best renowned for his Celtic fantasies Tain and Remscella, and for the novels Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, both set in what may be the most inventive fantasy milieu ever created . . . a world of shallow oceans and rare, scattered islands, connected by a web of bridges, each span of which contains its own society and culture.  So that, if you wish, you can walk from 1920s Manhattan to Imperial China and from there into the Raj.

I really love those books.  God grant that he writes more for us.

I'd write more about Greg's other books -- and his stories! you should all buy his collection Attack of the Jazz Giants immediately! -- but I've been running late this week and if I want to get this posted today, I'll simply have to do the man less than justice.

You can find the interview here.

And elsewhere . . . 

Janis Ian is Kickstarting the audio book of Catherine M. Wilson's When Women Were Warriors.  Or, rather, volume 1 of the series, The Warrior's Path.

Janis approached Wilson with the idea simply because she (Janis) loved the stuffings out of the book and has since it first came out.  Having a fan like that is always pleasant for a writer, and doubly so when the fan turns out to be a musical icon.  But having Janis Ian actively anxious to do your audiobook has got to have been a major moment for CMW.

I do a lot of traveling and listen to a lot of audiobooks and I've become painfully aware that not all audiobook readers are created equal. Janis is right at the top of the field.  Figuratively!  The audiobook she made of Society's Child, her autobiography, won an Emmy.

So if you're a fan of either artist . . . why not take a look and see if you're interested?

You can find the Kickstarter page explaining everything here.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tor Party! Tonight! And You're Invited!


I'll be in Manhattan tonight for a publishing party celebrating's fifth anniversary.  I presume you all know about, which functions as a combination fiction e-zine and high-end e-fanzine.  Which is to say, several first-rate stories every month (when you pay top rates, you get first pick), along with lots of columns and articles about matters stfictional.  As they used to say, long before my day.

This is the sort of publishing event that professional writers attend on a semi-regular basis.  Except that this particular one is not exclusive.  If you want to attend, you may -- and, indeed, should.  Because if this is the sort of event that seems to be cool to you, you're the kind of person that Tor is throwing the party for.

Here's what they have to say for themselves:

For the milestone of turning 5 Earth-years old, we’ll be offering up complimentary drinks, swag, free book giveaways, other special birthday goodies, but also, a show. At the start of the festivities we’ll be hosting Lev Grossman, Ellen Datlow, Genevieve Valentine, and Michael Swanwick in an exclusive SF trivia contest. Hosted by Ryan Britt, and featuring secret prizes and exciting stakes, this spectacle is not to be missed. Come place your bets on your contender
It will all go down at Housing Works Bookstore and CafĂ© in New York City on Wednesday July 24th, 6:30 PM. All the staff will be on hand to hang out, have a glass of complimentary wine/beer, and talk about the greatness of the last five years. Join us for this once-in-this-universe special birthday party! 
And if you  attend, be sure to say hi.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Edison Remembered


I was in New York for a family christening this weekend, so on the way home I stopped by Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ.  A place which, inexplicably, I had never visited before.

Alas, the park is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays, but I prowled around the outside anyway.  Through the chain link fence I saw a slab of the historic concrete from the first concrete highway:

Even cooler, I saw the reproduction of the first film studio ever built, a building quickly nicknamed the "Black Maria" because it looked like a police lockup van and because it was so hot and crowded inside that the actors said they'd rather be in the real thing:

The building was set on wheels because, when filming, part of the roof was hinged open and the building was turned to let in sunlight. 

Besides the brick laboratory building, there remains of the complex only one other major building:  A crumbling concrete monster where batteries were manufactured, which most likely survives because the environmental cleanup costs would be exorbitant.

I cannot tell you how moved I was.  My father was an engineer for General Electric (which is what Edison's company became), and I grew up around and sometimes in these kinds of buildings.  This is the Lyonesse of my youth and (a good case could be made) the garden from which much of the science fiction genre grew.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

And As Always . . .

I'm on the road again.

This means that tomorrow's (Monday's) post will be made later in the day than usual.

Meanwhile, have fun, play nice, and have a great day, hear?


Friday, July 19, 2013

Support Your Local Commie Bar


Editor superstar Ellen Datlow sent me a request to help publicize her Kickstarter fundraiser for the Fantastic Fiction at KGB (pictured above) reading series.  That was at the beginning of the week, and already they've raised their quite modest goal.  However, there are still seven days to go and I believe a number of cool incentives still available.

(My own story-in-a-bottle went for $250 pretty much immediately; so if you've been wondering how much such a thing is worth...)

The KGB Bar is a Communist-themed (really! check out the wall!) Manhattan bar , which has a strong connection with the literary arts.  And Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series which is a hoot and a half.  Admission is a pretty cheap donation and you get to drink while the readings are going on.

What will the series people do with the extra money?  As I understand it, they'll use it to fund the series for an extra year or three before they come begging for support again.  Elegant and simple.

You can find the Kickstarter page here.

And as long as we're talking fundraisers . . .

Bill Campbell has asked me to publicize the indiegogo fundraiser for his and Professor John Jennings's proposed anthology, Mothership:  Tales from Afrofuturism & Beyond.  Which is, as I read it, a gathering of stories by writers of African descent.

African-American writers today have a position in American literature analogous to that held by Jewish writers in my youth.  Which is to say that they're producing brilliant work all out of proportion (it seems; but I don't think anybody's ever crunched the demographics) to their numbers.  When something important is happening, writers appear to chronicle it.

Yet, until recently, there were only a handful of science fiction writers of color whom anybody could name.  So it's a pleasure to see their presence increasing and a mitzvah to make them welcome.

Supporting this book is one way of doing that.  Or maybe just buying a book by a writer of color you've heard good things about and seeing if you like it.

You can find the indiegogo page here.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Story Hour


Here's a semi-animated film of John Turturro reading "The False Grandmother" by the late, great Italo Calvino.



Monday, July 15, 2013

Three Tears for Writers (Plus A Free E-Book!)


It's been another thousand-mile week, but I'm home again and so I'm happy.  Readercon was pleasant for the company but unpleasant in that there was nowhere to sit and talk (the bar and the lobby had both been sheet-rocked shut while renovations were theoretically being made).  A friend asked a committee member why they didn't put some extra chairs in the open space in front of the main programming and was told that they'd put in a request to the hotel for that to be done.  But it wasn't.  And, after the fact, it occurred to me to wonder why the hotel didn't put a portable bar, like the one used for the Friday night party, in an unused programming space.

The book sellers were happy, though, because the only space to gather was in the huckster room, so they made a lot more sales than usual.

And speaking of GOOD deals . . .

If you're an ebook reader, you're going to like this one.  The good folks at are celebrating its fifth anniversary by giving away a free downloadable ebook containing all the fiction that they've published online in the last five years.  That's one big anthology.

Also a good one. is currently one of the top-paying markets for fantasy and SF short fiction in the world.  And -- here's an inside trade secret -- most of the very best writers in the field send their work to the highest-paying markets first. (Aspiring publishers, take note!)

You can find out all about it here.

And speaking of critics . . .

Over the weekend, I snapped photos of three of the major critics in our field holding their favorite tipple.  You guessed it . . .

 John Clute

Gary K. Wolfe

Brian Attebery


Friday, July 12, 2013

My Readercon Schedule


As always, I'm on the road again.  Today, it's off to Burlington, MA for Readercon.

Here's my schedule:

Friday July 12

9:00 PM    ME    Avram Davidson, 1923–1993. Eileen Gunn, Darrell Schweitzer, Michael Swanwick, Howard Waldrop, Henry Wessells (leader). Twenty years have passed since the death of Avram Davidson, and much of his writing has recently been brought back into print. This panel will assess the writer and his work.

Proposed by Henry Wessells.

Saturday July 13

2:00 PM    E    Autographs. Eileen Gunn, Michael Swanwick.

3:00 PM    RI    Special Short Stories. James Patrick Kelly (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Margo Lanagan, Ben Loory, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick. Some short stories hold a special place in the author's heart for one reason or another. Maybe it was an award-winner or gave birth to a series or earned a place in a particular anthology. The panelists will each discuss a single published short story. What was the genesis of the story? What particular challenges came up when writing it? How did it come to be published? Has it led to other opportunities, fan interactions, or new series? What makes it special?

Proposed by Toni L.P. Kelner.

Above:  Rather than inflict a photo of the Burlington Marriott on you, I thought I'd share artist M. Kornmesser's fanciful representation of HD 189733b, a newly discovered planet that orbits a star 63 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula.  According to astronomers, the planet's atmosphere is blue, probably from silicates in the atmosphere.  It's raining glass!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Rainy Day on the Road


This is what America looks like from the road.

As always, I've been on the road again.  Today I was passing through the Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania during a flood watch.  Oh, man, there was water everywhere!  Pouring down on either side of the road.  Roostertailing from every passing truck and car.  Crossing the road in impromptu streams.  Pouring down driveways deep enough to keep a trout alive.  Cascading down dirt roads like tangles of waterfalls.  It was pouring from the sky and rushing down the land.  Water was triumphant and not at all gracious about it.

I pulled into Ruffs Dale and there was a Water Company truck in the middle of the road with a very wet workman staring down at a manhole cover from which water was gushing furiously.  He had his hands on his hips and a "What do I do now?" expression on his face.  I could do nothing to help, so on I drove.

But now I'm home, and damnably grateful to be here.  Time to get out of these wet things and into a dry martini.

Above:  Ruffs Dale, Pennsylvania.  There's a business there that sells clocks and lamp posts and statues of liberty.  Is this a great country or what?  Photo by M. C. Porter.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Benchmarks Concluded


The industrious David Langford has just published the final collection of Algis Budrys's book reviews.  There are three volumes currently available:  Benchmarks Continued, Benchmarks Revisited, and Benchmarks Concluded.  I don't know if there were any prior volumes or if these are the complete set, but in any case, Budrys's criticism is well worth reading.

I remember that when I started out in science fiction,  my then agent Virginia Kidd told me never to review books.  "Every negative review will make you an enemy," she said, "and a fiction writer doesn't need that."  Budrys, however, was fearless.  If he didn't like a book, his review would blister paint and flay skin.

"Pray that you never receive a review like this," Gardner Dozois told me one day and showed me the job that Budrys had done on . . . well, never mind who.  He wouldn't thank me for bringing up such a painful memory.

Inevitably, of course, Budrys did give me a review like that.  Believe it or not, I forget what novel it was for and, believe it or not, I wasn't upset -- not because I don't have a thin skin, like every other writer I know, but because my book was just an excuse for an attack on something he disliked about New York publishing at the time.

As a critic Budrys was simply brilliant -- though, as I've implied, some of his take-downs were as unfair as they were unkind.  But, of course, that only made them all that much more entertaining to read.  Provided, of course, that they weren't of your work.

Late in his life, Budrys created his own science fiction magazine, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction.  I vividly remember stopping by his table in the huckster room of some Worldcon or other and having him slam down a freebie copy of the magazine in front of me with a scowl and then snarl, "Submit a story to me!" in a way that suggested that a lot of writers wouldn't.  So I guess Virginia's advice was right.

Nevertheless, I liked Budrys.  He was a brilliant writer.  (If you haven't read him, I recommend the collection Blood and Burning for a starter.)  And he was almost as good as a critic.  If you read criticism for insight, I can recommend these books with a clean conscience.  And if you read criticism for entertainment, the same thing goes.

You can find the Ansible Editions lineup here.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Octavia Butler Park


In Seattle, officials are considering naming a park after Octavia Butler.  This is a fabulous idea.  Octavia was not only an important science fiction writer and an important writer of color (it was a shock to me the first time somebody said that she made it all right for them to like what they'd previously seen as a "whites only" form; but I've heard it often enough to know it eas a real phenomenon), but an ordinary person who took upon herself the responsibility of making our world a better place.

When Octavia started out, she was a good science fiction writer.  But then she made herself an important one.  She was a great walker-of-cities and wherever she went, she took a notebook.  She looked for problems, places where people rubbed up against each other in a bad way, and then she looked for solutions to those problems.  This is one reason why (new writers should take note) her novels gained such a passionate following.  And also a reason why a park, a place that makes cities more livable, would be a particularly appropriate honor for her.

Also, apparently, the park is on the same street that her friend and fellow science fiction writer Eileen Gunn lives on.  So naming the park after her would be a present for a living writer as well.

You can read io9's brief account here.  Click through to the poll, if you'd like to offer support for the effort.

Keep in mind that this is an advisory poll, not an election.  The people who decide will probably use it to winnow the number of possible titles to a handful and then talk it out among themselves.  Which means that ginning up big numbers, while potentially helpful, guarantees nothing.

But it's a lovely thought, and very good of the civic people in Seattle to come up with it.  I'm grateful for that alone.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In Which I Am Immortalized for a Year


That's me up above in Philadelphia International Airport, with Philadelphia's head honcho, Mayor Michael Nutter.  I was there for the opening of "Philadelphia's Literary Legacy," a display of head shots, book covers, and biographies of 50 writers, playwrights and poets from Philadelphia's past and present.

To spare you the suspense, I made the grade.  As did Gardner Dozois and Tom Purdom.  We were up there with the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Louisa May Alcott, W. E. B. Dubois, Pearl S. Buck, and Thomas Paine.  Very rich company.  As were the contemporary writers, though I'm reluctant to name names because writers are writers and anyone who wasn't mentioned -- or, worse, wasn't the first mentioned -- would have their feelings hurt.

But I met some good people and made a couple of new friends (hi, Karen!), so I am happy.

You can read the Philadelphia Inquirer account of the event here.   And if you click on the Gallery link, the very first photo that comes up shows the back of Marianne's head as she snapped the above photo.

The display will be up at the airport for a full year.  Because it's  behind security, you'll have to travel out of the country to see my picture.  But I like to think that I'm worth it.

And if you doubted that we live in the future . . .

There was a celebratory party at Warmdaddy's in the evening.  Much mingling and schmoozing and warm feeling.  Quite lovely.  And after all the introductions and short speeches and such, a blues band got up on stage to play.

Nothing remarkable about that, of course.  But I couldn't help noticing that the band was made up of white men and that the (very literary) audience was, in the majority, black and female.

I couldn't help wishing that people from a hundred years ago could have seen that.  It would have given solace to those who needed it and dismay to those who deserved nothing better.

Above:  Photo by Marianne C. Porter.  My official photo was by Beth Gwinn.  Tom's and Gardner's were both by Kyle Cassidy.  I notice these things.


Monday, July 1, 2013

There Is No Escaping . . . Legions in Time!


I'm in print again!  That always makes me happy.  This time it's "Legions in Time," which has been reprinted.  It appears in The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF

I wrote "Legions in Time" because I'd been feeling grumpy about how slow-spaced too many stories are nowadays.  Slow-paced for no reason, I mean.  So I thought back to A. E. Van Vogt's classic, "Recruiting Station," which just speeds along like racehorse afire, and thought I'd try to write something similar.  I stole the basic premise, in fact, and the dreary future that my protagonist, Eleanor Voigt found herself in.  The story I wrote turned out to be very different from Van Vogt's, but I threw in a couple of details lifted from his story just so it would be obvious that I wasn't trying to hide the story's origin.

I started out the story slow, then sped it up and sped it up some more and sped it up some more -- with the exception of a calm conversation just before the climax -- all the way to the end.  It was a hoot to write, and I hoped it would be a hoot to read.

Then it (cough!) won the Hugo Award for best short story.

This prompted some of Van Vogt's fans to rather angrily demand to know just what I meant by the story.  And I rather shamefacedly had to admit that I hadn't really meant much of anything.  I was just having fun.  Because, let's be honest, it's terrific fun to write something like "Time criminals of the Dawn Era -- Listen and obey."

Anyway, the book looks to be a terrific anthology, as anthologies edited by Mike Ashley tend to be. 

Here's the table of contents:

Caveat Time Traveler by Gregory Benford
Century to Starboard by Liz Williams
Walk to the Full Moon by Sean McMullen
The Truth About Weena by David J. Lake
The Wind Over the World by Steven Utley
Scream Quietly by Sheila Crosby
Darwin's Suitcase by Elisabeth Malartre
Try and Change the Past by Fritz Leiber
Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg
Dear Tomorrow by Simon Clark
Time Gypsy by Ellen Klages
The Catch by Kage Baker
Real Time by Lawrence Watt Evans
The Chronological Protection Case by Paul Levinson
Women on the Brink of a Cataclysm by Molly Brown
Legions in Time by Your Humble Servant
Coming Back by Damien Broderick
The Very Slow Time Machine by Ian Watson
After-Images by Malcolm Edwards
"In the Beginning, Nothing Lasts . . ." by Mike Strahan
Traveller's Rest by David I. Masson
Twember by Steve Rasnic Tem
The Pusher by John Varley
Palely Loitering by Christopher Priest
Red Letter Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Really good company to be among, innit?