So we’re joining forces with the World SF Blog . . . and already have some forthcoming content up our sleeves.
So we’re joining forces with the World SF Blog . . . and already have some forthcoming content up our sleeves.
Just in time for our first birthday, we have some big news and big changes coming, along with a variety of translated content that is still on the workbench.
Arrangements are made, but we can’t say anything definite yet n public (although we’re very excited).
Thank you for bearing with us. More in early November 2011.
In “Staying Behind,” by Ken Liu, the majority of the Earth’s population has uploaded their minds to a higher digital plane, leaving a bloody, battered body. The Uploaded, the dead, keep trying to steal the children of those who chose to stay behind. Continue reading
This collection by Maureen F. McHugh tours the world, with stops in a variety of settings that have been subjected to or are in the middle of some of cataclysmic event of a supernatural, natural, or manmade kind. Six of the nine stories are reprints, the remaining three make their first appearance in this compendium published by Small Beer Press. Continue reading
Tor’s offerings for August include three pieces, one long and two short, which lean more towards science fiction rather than fantasy. The fourth, excerpted from a collection, is purely fantastic. Continue reading
From welcoming gardens, to famous musicians, to wolf men and crow men and exotic maids, the nine stories in this issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet are tied together by unreliable narrators and things that are not as they seem.
In “Trois morceaux en forme de mechanika,” by Gord Sellar, the end began when the first mechanika butchered its maker. Within a few generations humanity’s accomplishments became little more than relics in museums. Continue reading
This issue of Asimov’s features a wide range of stories, from post-apocalyptic settings, to deep space, to plague-ridden colony worlds. Several of the stories cover grim material and feature disturbing characters.
July’s selection of short stories from Tor include one fantasy, and two other tales which both seem to be children’s literature. Yet seeming can be deceiving, and although probably one might read these to their children with no harm done, this is adult fare.
In “Dala Horse”, Michael Swanwick offers us a fairly short story of a far future, told from the viewpoint of a little girl in Sweden who is told by her parents to run to her grandmother’s house in a nearby town to escape some calamity. Five-year-olds might not understand all that much of what’s happening around them, or how strange and wonderful to the readers are the things they might take for granted, yet which may hold surprising secrets for them. We see some classic Swanwickian elements in this piece, such as extremely advanced technology unobtrusively embedded in seemingly everyday artifacts, in more than a slight return to the universes of Vacuum Flowers and Stations of the Tide.
The story is written with the simplicity and attention to process and detail that are required in a good children’s story. Things start at the beginning and move right along in a way a child could follow, in a linear way with little use of such techniques as foreshadowing or flashback, other than in the conversations of the adults. For adults who have read Stations of the Tide, this story might fill in the blanks on some aspects of that tale, but this piece is good as a standalone. In this future, technology is so advanced that it might seem magical to us although to the little girl it is unremarkable. Apparel and utensils, and even toys, provide information and most of them obey orders. Yet this isn’t a perfect world. As smart as are the tools and toys, there are far smarter and more powerful things, and our little girl discovers that some of them can be very dangerous, far more so than even the worst of human beings, one of which she too closely encounters. It’s a fine bedtime story for the inner child in even the most jaded adult technophiles. Best of all, it has something which quite resembles a happy ending.
Michael Bishop offers us a piece called “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes”, written for David G Hartwell on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Despite Bishop’s impeccable literary talent, which he brandishes throughout the piece, this is one of those works that forcefully reminds me why I’d usually rather read a collection of stories that won or were in contention for the Hugo, as opposed to those which are admired by other artists for the artistry. This is a “symmetrina”, a work made up of thematically linked shorter narratives, in a rather demanding framework of rules regarding length and person. One of the central narratives appears to be a rather lengthy set-up for a shaggy-dog story, and halfway through it, I was expecting that at any moment I’d see a punchline with some pun so atrocious that I’d have to stomp my laptop to death. Fortunately that punchline failed to materialize. Don’t be dismayed, and fail to read it, though this is far less a work for the reader and far more for the other authors, and even discusses to some degree which audience should be intended to be more impressed. This was written in honor of one of the most influential editors of our time, and might be seen more as a carefully crafted gift than as entertainment for folks who are less concerned about style and more interested in plot. If literary technical mastery interests you, this would be a good piece to study.
At the other end of the spectrum of my preferences in literary SF&F, we have “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While”, by Catherynne M Valente. Set deep in Fairyland, the plot is a bit slow to appear in this rather long piece. Yet don’t be in such a hurry to get to the plot. This is the sort of piece you savor like a fine tea served piping hot in the manner of old-school teatime, when it was far less about the tea and far more about the ambience of an hour well-spent in the company of good friends in the garden at its peak on a peaceful old estate.There’s a great deal of fine scene-setting to be done in this story before it can be moved forward, and Valente takes her time to set the stage, lovingly and with great skill.
In this masterful piece, eventually the tea is served and the story is developed apace, about a reclusive young lady who wants nothing more than to study her books and learn her magic in a pleasant isolation. Yet when all of Fairyland is summoned by the King to gather for the World’s Foul and the Tithe, as with all else, she too must attend. During her journey she meets and falls in with some fascinating Folk and even demi-gods and their leonine steeds, all gathering at the world’s fair of Fairyland, the World’s Foul. It’s all the more troubling to her that nobody seems to know, or to be willing to tell her, what exactly is this Tithe. The general consensus seems to be that it will be something horrid but it turns out to be actually worse. How can all of this be resolved?
This is, in many ways, the sort of tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, though set down with far greater detail to literary merits. Valente’s wordsmithery here is exquisite as is her deep and broad knowledge of the Fairy Folk of all sorts. I found it to be slow reading, mostly because I insisted on lingering over every finely turned phrase and well-constructed allegorical element, savoring the magic down to the last drop.
Lavie Tidhar is an award-winning genre writer of Israeli origin. I asked him about his short fiction, one of his most recent novel-length works, Osama, the World Fantasy Award-nominated World SF blog, and his role with the World SF Travel Fund.
You visited the UAE recently, what did you think of sci-fi fans from this region as compared other parts of the world that you frequent?
The difficult availability of Arabic translations of major science fiction and fantasy novels has always made it problematic for Arabic speakers to read the most important works in the genre. I have written many books in the Dune universe with the son of the original author Frank Herbert; Dune is the single best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and has been made into two films… and yet I don’t believe it has been translated into Arabic. When I visited the UAE, I was surprised to find that many of the science fiction fans I spoke with were not familiar with it.
However, many English books are available for import, and those are widely read. I was very surprised and thrilled to have long and involved conversations with other fans who are so completely dedicated to the genre. We were glad to introduce some of my works to new readers, and most importantly to exchange ideas with people from a different culture, which sparked a lot of story possibilities!
The Dune series of books takes a lot of elements from what seems like the Arabic language and culture – the most famous I imagine would be (Paul) Muad’Dib. Do you research Middle Eastern/Arabic references when creating new names, places etc.?
Frank Herbert originally created Dune, and I know he studied Arabic language, culture, and religions extensively (although I don’t believe he traveled in the Middle East). He was very astute in extrapolating the culture and influence into the far future. For the further Dune books I’ve written with Brian Herbert, I’ve tried to do my research to pick up on the details and way of life; in addition to the UAE, I’ve been to Qatar, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt. Now, remember, these stories take place tens of thousands of years in the future, across many planets, so the details can’t be exactly the same are they are in everyday modern life, but the flavor should be correct.
If you could give just one piece of advice to budding fiction writers in the region what would it be?
You have more opportunities now than ever before in the history of the genre. Thanks to the wide dissemination of fiction as ebooks, as serialized stories on websites, a writer’s location is no longer any sort of hindrance. Get involved with other writers worldwide on social networking sites, on discussion groups, and submit stories to publications, whether they are based in the US, the UK, or anywhere else. I think fantasy and SF readers are very interested in stories with Muslim/Arabic/Middle-Eastern influences.
What got you started and at what point did you think you could make a career from writing sci-fi and fantasy?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a child. I started writing stories when I was eight years old, and just kept writing them. Many people were practical and discouraged me, pointing out that it was extremely unlikely I could ever make a living as a writer. Our cliche is of unemployed, nearly starving writers struggling to get their novel published. But I never gave up. I took a full-time job as a writer of brochures, papers, posters, and articles for a research laboratory, which paid the bills, and I wrote stories and novels in my spare time. Eventually, I did get them published, and they began to earn me money, and within years I became a Real Writer.
What’s the most challenging part of the creative process?
This might sound strange, but the hardest part is finding the blocks of time. I write very large, epic novels with many storylines and countless details of alien or fantasy worlds. But when I’m trying to write, I have so many other obligations, interviews, appearances, phone calls, and the like that it’s nearly impossible to carve out the time and find hours just to concentrate on my big stories. Sometimes, that gets frustrating!
With fantasy in particular it must be difficult to create original characters and story lines-how do you do it and is it important to be ‘original’-i.e. who cares so long as it’s a good story!?
Millions of stories and novels have been published since the beginning of the science fiction genre. I don’t think you can find anything that hasn’t been done in some fashion before. But when I write a story or a novel, I do it in my own personal way, adding my touch to it. I think the most important thing is to tell a compelling story, with plot twists, engaging characters, interesting settings, and maybe something meaningful thematically. If the readers enjoy it, then I have succeeded.
Sci-fi and fantasy continues to grow as a percentage of book sales-what do you think the appeal is to fans?
I think we all like good stories with imaginative settings. When I was a kid, very few mainstream people ever admitted to reading sci-fi and fantasy, but then came the popularity of Lord of the Rings, and Dune, and Star Wars, and suddenly everybody enjoyed it. We love to be entertained by something different than our daily lives-and SF delivers the right stuff.
With the launch of Game of Thrones on HBO and a number of other fantasy series rumoured to be in production, do you expect a boost in new authors/titles?
I certainly hope so. Game of Thrones is about the best I can imagine for a long-standing fantasy series, and it opens many doors, proving that we can create an epic-length story with sustained quality, something much more than a single movie and not designed to be episodic ‘adventure of the week.’ (I only hope someone gets interested in my Saga of Seven Suns!)
So, we know the inspiration for these awards has been covered elsewhere, for example on New Zealand author Helen Lowe’s blog, but I am curious how the board and the first year’s jurors came together. Also, it sounds from the FAQ on the website like you are going to have different jurors every year?
It was a process of recommendation, I guess. Gary Wolfe and I were on board from the start, and Gary recommended the folks at UC Riverside as he knew they had an interest in translations. I recommended Kevin Standlee as someone who could help us navigate the processes of setting up a non-profit organization, filing taxes and so on. And then the various Board members recommended people who they thought would make good jurors. Continue reading
I’ll be covering highlights of the January through April issues, and a more in-depth review of the May and June issues. Continue reading
“Appearance is very different from reality; or is it another form of reality?
It often seems that science fiction that doesn’t focus on the ‘harder’ aspect (the more technological and focused on the machine) loses some of its essence by concentrating on history and forgetting about the sciences, but also gains in thematic depth and sensitivity. The same sense of loss, of alienation from mainstream science fiction, occurs when the text is written in a Latin American environment, far from sf written in English. Yet Argentinean author Adolfo Bioy Casares’s The Invention of Morel has more metaphysical overtones that go beyond both the simple science fiction story and the latinoamerican one.
In the novel, a scientist named Morel creates a prodigious machine on a deserted island which replicates not only the shape and sound of objects, but volume, touch, and smell. With this machine the creator records a delightful week with his friends enjoying the paradisaical island. These images, with volume and form, are then repeated in an endless cycle and the island is filled by ghostly holograms. Continue reading
A year ago, I wrote an essay  about the fact that writers feel free to use Hellenic
contexts (myths, history, location), blithely assuming they know my culture well enough to do so convincingly. I mentioned that contemporary Hellenic literature is virtually unknown in the Anglophone world beyond Elytis, Seféris, Kaváfis and Kazantzákis – all of whom belong to the thirties. In effect, it is fashionable to pronounce Hellenic paradigms passé along with all other ‘Eurocentric’ sources, without ever having read Hellenic literature of any era. Lest you think I’m indulging in special pleading, this lacuna has been noticed and discussed by many non-Hellenes including Roderick Beaton, a formidable literary presence with a truly deep knowledge of my history and culture . Continue reading
Recently we told you about the appearance of an Ukrainian science fiction that tended to have its own characteristics and was beginning to aquire its own identity in relationship to its Russian sister, a difficult thing when a lot of Ukrainian authors write and are published in Russian. Continue reading
To make a complete survey of Russian genre literature, we must of course discuss magazines. This is why we will begin with Mir Fantastiki, the Russian equivalent of SF Mag or Khimaira. Continue reading
This double issue contains a mix of stories ranging in quality from Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s excellent novella to a one-joke piece of flash fiction. As usual for Analog, many of the stories feature space explorers, scientists and engineers.
In a strong issue, the protagonists of these three stories find a reality that doesn’t match their expectations or hopes. Jeremy R. Butler tells of a worker in the asteroid belt who dreamed of adventure in space, but instead finds he has to cope with boredom. The boyfriend of the narrator in Annalee Newitz’s story disappears, quite literally; getting him back is not everything the protagonist imagines. Will Ludwigsen depicts a cop getting all his questions answered, even the ones he perhaps wished were left open. Continue reading
This issue contains two original stories and two reprints. Michael J. Deluca tells a tale from the early days of language, and considers the relative merits of life with or without words. Eugie Foster writes of a girl dealing with difficult circumstances, who may have to put herself first whatever the cost to herself or others. Mike Allen‘s story features a storekeeper with an unusual collection of buttons, and the man searching for him, who has a secret of his own. Jennifer Pelland tells of a ghost haunting the site of the World Trade Center, who needs to find a way to make sense of her continued existence. Continue reading
I’ve got some interviews with publishers in Québec coming your way in the coming months, as well as translations of articles about Russian sf originally published in French by the magazine Russkaya Fantastika, and some more interactive fiction reviews. The first few weeks of July were quiet as I was on a trip to Hungary, Finland, and Norway which may very well result in an an additional article or three . . .
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Val Grimm, Editor-in-Chief
C.E.J. Pacian’s “Rogue of the Multiverse“, a delightful blend of comedy and science-fiction, demonstrates how good writing, endearing characters, and the incorporation of various game genres can help a title overcome what the IF community might normally consider flaws in implementation. Despite fairly linear gameplay and some outright bugs, “Rogue of the Multiverse” took third place in the 2010 Interactive Fiction Competition, and was subsequently nominated for several XYZZY Awards, including Best Game, Best NPCs, Best Use of Innovation, and Best Individual NPC, the last of which the game won. Continue reading
In “Pataki,” by Nisi Shawl, published in two parts on 4 and 11 April 2011, Rianne is starting over in a new place, but still hasn’t recovered from the disproved allegations that caused her to flee Ann Arbor, Michigan for Oakland, California. And it’s affecting her magic. She meditates in front of her altars, but it isn’t until she dreams of a king with whom she has a shared experience that the mojo begins to flow. Continue reading
This issue features four female authors, three of whom are Indian, and one who is from the Philippines. Though there are only four stories, they cover such varied topics as transdimensional portals, mermaids, the Indian goddess of destruction, and space travel. The offerings of Filipina Eliza Victoria and Keyan Bowes are flavored with tragedy, Neesha Meminger’s “Daughters of Kali” reads like a modern folktale, and Devyani Borade ends the issue on a light-hearted note that celebrates imagination.
The story “God in the Sky”, by An Owomoyela, is especially interesting coming as it does on the heels of the Rapture hype in the news in May. In this story, a light appears in the sky. Scientists study it, others claim it is evidence of God, everyone panics. Owomoyela uses the light in the sky as the motivating force for a study of family dynamics in this character-based piece. The secondary theme involves the relationship of people to their religion, or lack of one. In the face of ill-defined potential doom, people turn to and from their families, to and from their religions. As in real life, and unlike many stories, none of these tensions are resolved. Continue reading
The Fifth Law of Robotics” ()
Nikola Kesarovski ()
in the story collection The Fifth Law, Sofia, Otechestvo Publishing House, 1983
(1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
(2) A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
(4.1) A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases. (, Icarus’s Way, by Lyuben Dilov, 1974)
(4.2) A robot must reproduce as long as such reproduction does not interfere with the First or Second or Third Law. (The Fourth Law of Robotics, by Harry Harrison, 1986)
(5) A robot must know it is a robot. (The Fifth Law of Robotics, by Nikola Kesarovski, 1983)
. . .
(101). Everyone who confuses the simpleminded robots inventing new laws of robotics must be executed immediately . . . ( “The Hundred and First Law or Robotics”, by Lyubomir Nikolov).
Nikola Kesarovski has a background in the hard sciences–he got an M.S. in Mathematics before switching to journalism, science popularization, and fiction. Continue reading
The stories in Analog’s June issue seem squarely aimed at readers who enjoy tales of clever engineers and scientists bravely solving engineering problems while complaining about the difficulty of doing things for public relations purposes.
1) What big-picture themes are you most interested in right now? History, climate change, borders—this last one being the theme of the Utopiales this year?
No, not the one of the Utopiales, sorry! Two themes do interest me these days, and they’re actually quite close to each other: the first is how art can be used as a weapon in the future, or as a way to seduce someone (or at least to communicate), and the second is the connection between death and memory. Continue reading
Review by Patrik Centerwall
Eskapix is a hardcover horror/pulp magazine published at least twice a year. The contents are mixed: short stories, feature articles, sometimes comics. The feature articles are usually about horror, rock music, and spectacular crimes. Several of the short story authors are regulars and with a couple exceptions they have to my knowledge not been published elsewhere. The quality of the fiction of this horror/pulp magazine is usually high and the present issue is no exception. The reader is treated to several well written and interesting pieces of short fiction. Since John Ajvide Lindqvist hit the bestseller lists with Let the right one in in 2004, there has been an increased demand for horror fiction in Sweden. More horror authors have been published and as this makes a magazine like Eskapix less of an odd man out among Swedish magazines, it is certainly to be hoped that Eskapix sooner or later will be able to reach a larger audience on the Swedish-speaking market. Continue reading
The diverse history of Malaysia has given rise to a unique folklore that stems from multiple sources such as animism, tribal beliefs, shamanism and various religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Serious studies of the occult exist, if heavily biased by colonial views at the time of writing, such as Malay Magic: An Introduction to the Folklore and Popular Religion of the Malay Peninsular by Walter William Skeat (Frank and Cass Co.Limited 1900, reprinted 1965). To date, the best-known study is An Analysis of Malay Magic by Kirk Michael Endicott (Oxford Claredon, 1970). Widespread interest in the subject of occultism and popular national consumption of Western supernatural fiction has created a brand of distinctly Malaysian horror written in English. Continue reading
The stories in this season’s issue are extremely well-written and an absolute pleasure to read. The stories themselves, for the most part serious or even melancholy, are built on fresh ideas or at least interesting twists on established ones. Their fantastical elements range from the overt—mermaids and magic portals—to the mere shimmer of possibility hovering just beneath their surfaces. Though the quality of writing in Shimmer is of a consistently high quality, a few of the stories sacrifice substance in the interest of style, and the result is that the reader is drawn in by the writing but then left confused or dissatisfied, unsure what, precisely, just happened.
We’ve got more articles coming down the pipeline, including an interview with Jean-Claude Dunyach, an overview of Malaysian horror, coverage of Congrès Boréal 2011, and a review of Swedish magazine Eskapix.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Val Grimm, Editor-in-Chief
Elizabeth A. Allen, Editor
All of the six stories are reasonably well written, but overall the May issue failed to invoke much of a sense of wonder for me. Some of the stories feel dated in style and content compared to fiction being published in other genre markets.
This review is an overview of the February and March issues, picking out my favourite stories from the two. In the pieces on which I’ll be focusing here, Cat Rambo tells of siblings with an uneasy relationship, which might or might not involve supernatural forces; Nalo Hopkinson introduces to a girl with a rather extreme love of plants; and Darin Bradley puts a fantastic twist on the lives of US farming families during the Great Depression.
Writers of science fiction and fantasy in Israel are faced with considerable challenges. For one thing, in such a small country, the prospective local readership is relatively small. This leaves very little room for dreams of fame and riches—at least as long as one relies exclusively on the local audience. For another thing, writers must find a way to ‘localize’ their stories, instead of imitating fiction from the USA or from the UK, with their characteristic motifs and cultural background. Israel is a small and relatively young country. It has its own nature and rhythm, and its citizens have their own traditions and mentality. This means that stories which fit perfectly on the streets of Manhattan or London seem out of place in Tel Aviv or Haifa; and behavioral traits which are natural for the British or for North Americans come off as artificial and unconvincing when attributed to Israeli characters. Therefore, until recently, as the anthology’s editor, Ehud Maimon, states in his introduction, it seemed impossible to write science fiction and fantasy in Israel, or at least have them set in Israel.
“Widows in the World” by Gavin J. Grant embodies the word strange in the ezine’s title. Told in two parts, published 7 February and 14 February 2011, this surreal rambling, which invokes Roald Dahl, is unintelligible. Continue reading
The thirteen stories collected here visit the past and both near and far futures, encompassing science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Climate change, music, New Orleans, and genetics all figure prominently.
Edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, this anthology of fantasy stories has a fun concept that acts as a connective thread: all the stories take place, at least partly, in a bar. The same bar. And not just any bar—the Ur-Bar, run by Gilgamesh himself, historical king of Uruk and hero of Mesopotamian mythology. The stories begin in ancient history, when Gilgamesh takes over management of the bar, and move through time. They’re all set on Earth, though the introduction admits it could be an “alternate Earth,” but due to the bar’s magical, time-traveling nature, the anthology becomes a trip through the world’s civilizations and mythologies.