Thursday, June 20, 2024

Happy Birthday, Karen E. Quinones Miller!


Once upon a time, there was a young woman from Harlem and the Bronx who, because she was intellectually gifted, was offered a place in an overwhelmingly white school. She didn't want to go. A family friend, Mr. Johnson, a nice man who loved children, asked her why not. Eventually, she admitted it was because she wore hand-me-down clothes and didn't want the white children laughing at her.

Seriously, solemnly, he explained to her the importance of education and why she should make the best of herself that she possibly could. What he said made sense and she agreed to go. Shortly after, he gave her parents enough money to buy outfits for her new school

It was only years later, at his funeral, that she would realize that this kindly man was Bumpy Johnson, the "Harlem Godfather."

Karen E. Quinones Miller went on to join the Navy, get a degree in journalism, and work as a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her first novel, Satin Doll, got multiple rejections, so she published it herself to such success that Simon-Schuster won reprint rights in an auction. She went on to publish another seven novels and become an acknowledged authority on Harlem history.

Oh, and she became friends with Mayme H. Johnson, Bumpy's widow and co-wrote with her Harlem Godfather; the Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the first ever biography of that complex man. Because Ms. Miller is the sort of person who always repays a kindness.

I was present when Karen was one of fifty writers picked by the city of Philadelphia to be recognized in the Philadelphia Literary Legacy project. The mayor of Philadelphia was introduced to her and he was clearly impressed.

All of which is buildup to this:

Today is Karen's birthday! If you like her, or women like her, please share so that others can look up her books and be made happy by them.


Wednesday, June 19, 2024

One-Day E-Book Sales! Three Days Only!



As happens from time to time, I've been notified by Open Road Media, who publish several of my e-books, that they're putting one of my books up for sale, one day only. Sometimes I learn of more than one sale in the space of a couple of days.

So I'm pleased to let you know that there will be three one-day sales this month. 

The first is for Jack Faust, which will be available for $1.99 ( US only) on this Friday, June 21st.

The second is for (again) Jack Faust, which will be available for $1.99 ( US only) on the following Friday, June 28th.

The third is for The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which will be available for $1.99 (in Canada and the US only) on Sunday, June 30th. 

So if you enjoy e-books and like getting them cheap... And if you're curious about two of my best novels... Well, here's your chance to consider buying one or two.

There. You won't get a softer sales pitch than that.


Above: I grabbed two of the books with the covers I like best and photographed them atop my desk. Marianne Porter, my wife, says that you have only so much organization in your life. No matter how much effort you invest in trying, you can't increase that amount--you can only decide where it goes. A great deal of organization goes into my work. Not so much into my workspace.

A Taste of The War With the Zylv



This Saturday at noon, Marianne Porter puts Dragonstairs Press's latest chapbook, The War With the Zylv on sale. That's at noon, East Coast Time. The chapbook is signed, numbered, lovingly stitched, and available for $11 within the US and $13 elsewhere, postage included. 

The story was inspired by Ariel Cinii's artwork reproduced above and used by permission of the artist's estate.

And just so you can have an idea of what the story is like, here's the first of six chapters:

First Contact


They came in peace.


The Zylv ship—sprawling, sinister, and elegant—entered the Solar System on a tight, sun-grazing vector, exiting and re-entering repeatedly over the next twenty years, dumping velocity with every passage. All the while radiating attempts across the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate with whomever might be living here: One plus one equals two. Two times two is four. The square of the hypotenuse. Pi. The Fibonacci sequence. Quadratic equations. Chaos theory. A form of combinatorics no one could make any sense of.


Earth responded as best we could. Once the conversation moved beyond mathematics, it became obvious how different the Zylv were from Terran lifeforms. Slowly, painfully, a common pidgin was created. Neither species learned much about the other. But by the time the Zylv ship—dark, gothic, and miles-long—had settled into a parking orbit around the Moon, it was hoped that with physical contact, it would be possible to move beyond COME VISIT. ALL LEARN.


I was a junior assistant nobody on the first embassy mission to the Zylv ship. The interior was humid and murkily lit, which made sense because we knew already that the Zylv came from a planet orbiting a red sun. The air smelled like a cross between turpentine and the reptile house in the zoo. At the far end of an improbably large space were creatures—the Zylv, we assumed, though our token biologists thought they were six different species—that moved listlessly, like so many barnyard animals, and did not approach us.


There was also a large screen. On it, a word: WELCOME. Our spokesperson began a carefully composed speech in pidgin.


The first word was replaced by a second: BREATHE. As if we had a choice.


Then two more: NOW LEAVE.


The screen went dead. A partition rose to separate us from the beings that might or might not be our hosts. Though we stayed far longer than made any sense, there was no further attempt to communicate on the part of the Zylv.


Eventually, because there was no alternative, we went back home to Earth.


Quarantine was supposed to be a formality. But then one of us came down sick. Followed quickly by the rest. A virus, moon-suited biologists told us. Of alien origin.


BREATHE the Zylv had commanded.


And, like fools, we’d obeyed.



Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ariel Cinii's Chapbook


The War with the Zylv, Marianne Porter's latest Dragonstairs Press chapbook, goes on sale this Saturday at noon, Philadelphia time, and since it is printed in an edition of 100 (numbered, signed, and hand-stitched) chapbooks, could take hours to sell out.

The story itself is a science fiction tale of first contact, invasion, and war with an alien species. It was inspired by a piece of artwork by Ariel Cinii, which is reproduced on its cover.

But who was Ariel Cinii?

Good question. Ms. Cinii, who also used the names Abra Cinii, Sodyera, and Winterbrucke, but was known to her friends as Abby, was an active member of science fiction fandom as a filk singer-songwriter, artist, and all-around fan. She was also the first openly trans individual in fandom.

If I ever met her, it was one of those myriad acquaintances where you chat amiably on occasion and after a couple of years realize that it's too late to politely ask for a name without giving offense. But at Boskone, a month short of three years after her death, her friends had a table at which they were cheerily giving away her art to whoever wanted it. How could they possibly bring themselves to do this? Well... it turns out that she left behind some 1,300 works of art. Giving it to the community she loved seemed to them the best way they could keep her memory alive.

These are, yes, fan art in their themes—spaceships, aliens, futuristic cars, fantastic cities, and the like. But the skill and care that went into the art and its preservation indicate a high seriousness on Ms. Cinii's part. Which combined with elaborate symbols with which she labeled her pictures in her invented language Sartine, puts her in a nebulous space somewhere between “fan art” and “high art.” Let's just call it art.

I picked up three 17” x 14” images and over the following months would look at them and think about what stories they might tell. When one came to me that I felt would make a good story, I pitched it to Marianne. She agreed that it would be an appropriate way to pay back Ms. Cinii (and her friends) for the artwork.

And, you may ask, did we . . . ?

Yes, of course. Marianne and I paid Ariel Cinii's estate for the use of her artwork.

This is a motto and a matter of honor in our household: The Artist Always Get Paid. I've known artists to break out in laughter when I say that. But we're sticking to it. Because it's how one shows respect for the artist.

This was the other way we paid back Ms. Cinii for her work.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

On Strike Against God--And In Print Again!



Look what came in the mail! Joanna Russ's brilliant On Strike Against God is back in print again. This is reason to rejoice. 

Most of Joanna's fans aren't aware of this book because it's not science fiction. It's a highly figurative mainstream feminist lesbian novel which was written immediately after The Female Man and because it's a highly figurative feminist lesbian novel, none of the major publishers would touch it. Despite the fact that Samuel R. Delany thinks that it's Joanna's best novel

Why? Well, I could gush about the prose, the writing, the brilliance, but instead I'll just quote a brief but typical passage. Esther, the protagonist is enduring a difficult but typical date when the man in question leans forward and says:

"You're strange creatures, you women intellectuals. Tell me: What's it like to be a woman?"

I took my rifle from behind my chair and shot him. "It's like that," I said. No, of course I didn't.

Now either you find that simultaneously horrific and laugh-out-loud funny or you don't. If you don't, well... Horseman, pass by. But if you do, I can assure you that On Strike Against God is a joy and a delight. 

You can pre-order it from The Feminist Press here. This volume includes several essays about the book, correspondence with Marilyn Hacker, an interview with Samuel R. Delany, and two essays on related matters by Joana herself. Joanna was a brilliant essayist. Her non-fiction crackled with ideas. If you doubt me, go to Interlibrary Loan and request a copy of How to Suppress Women's Writing. You won't regret it.