When I was a kid, my parents had a few couples of friends with whom they used to play cards on Saturday evenings. Whether it was bridge night or canasta night, we almost always had someone over for dinner on Saturday. This led me to believe that having guests was somewhat a fatality for my poor parents. At about the age my daughter Stefana has now, one of these visiting couples made the mistake to ask me what I wanted to become when I’ll grow up. I answered without hesitation: “I wanna be a guest!”. They laughed politely and my mom, knowing me, tried to move on with the conversation, but the lady who had asked me in the first place wanted to know more: “Why a guest?” And the answer silenced her (and sent my dad to the bathroom, where from we almost instantly heard him laughing histerically): “Yes, a guest, because guests always come when the house is cleaned, the food is ready and there’s only fun left to be had”.
I remembered this anecdote (one that my dad used to bring up whenever there were not so welcomed guests around) today, thinking that I have finally achieved my childhood dream. I am a guest, and a guest-blogger at that: the blog is here, the audience ready-built and eager for my words. In consequence, it’s time to have fun!
No, no more letters from my lawyer this time. Fun has become a peculiar notion for me, the almost forty-year-old publisher and reviewer (I do the occasional book reviews on my blog or for Nautilus, a webzine hosted by my fiercest rival in Romanian publishing but edited by my friend, writer Michael HaulicÄƒ) who spends most of his time reading and writing about books. Fun is NOT reading books for review or publishing consideration purposes. Fun is spending time with my girls and doing carpentry work at the country house I bought this spring. And fun is also reading books for my own pleasure. I might end up reviewing them or even publishing them, but the initial impulse is, ALWAYS, aimed at having fun. I buy them from Amazon.com or B&N (they finally lifted the ban from Romanian ordering) or in the local bookstores or at bookfairs. Sometimes friends send them, sometimes I find them (on this blog, sometimes). I read them in days or merely hours. And these are the books I always end up recommending to others, even if I’m not their publisher, even if my best interest would be to push my own books. These are the ones that get pictured in my now regular bookporn blog posts, with their covers displayed to be seen by all, with sometimes even their first page being offered, scribbled with an autograph, to the salacious eyes of voyeur readers.
And, since being a guest is about having fun, I thought I’d show you some of the books I’ve had fun with this year, so far.
I spent the New Year in Vienna, and between heavy portions of Sacher-Torte and smoked salmon and caviar and seafood soup and champagne and bananas dipped in chocolate (this being the special menu prepared by my sister-in-law and her husband), I managed to finish Dan Simmons’ Terror, one of the most chilling, and full of life, and simply excellent in every possible way novel I had read in ages. Then came another of my fave writers, Nicola Griffith, whose third Aud Torvingen novel, Always (after The Blue Place and Stay), takes its heart- (and neck-) breaking heroine further on a path to self-discovery. And, in the process, the book took me on a wonderful trip. I love Nicola. And I am proud to have published her Slow River as the first-ever Millennium Press translation.
Early this year, the good folks at Tachyon sent me a big box full of goodies to pick from. The quite intriguing Kessel & Kelly Slipstream and Post-Cyberpunk anthologies were there, and the Tiptree Award collections. A wealth of short fiction, all too good soothing for my reader’s soul who was yearning for that, after months of reading 500 pages plus novels.
These only managed to wet my appetite, so I went on, buying Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year collections from Night Shade, and J G Ballard’s Complete Stories from Vintage, and the heavy bricks in which David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer have assembled the best of horror (Dark Descent), space opera (The Space Opera Renaissance) and hard SF (The Hard SF Renaissance). John Joseph Adams was kind enough to indulge my pleas and e-mailed electronic copies of Wastelands (the best reprint themed anthology I have read this last couple years!) and of his then-forthcoming, now freshly trailered Seeds of Change, where at least half of the stories will (or deserve to) show up in next year’s awards final ballots. This book reminded me why I started to love science fiction in the first place, with the stories’ focus on the paradigms of change and an almost militant engagement that stands out in a sea of simple entertainment.
Two big all-career-encompassing collections came my way since January: Harlan Ellison’s 50-Year Essential, and George R. R. Martin’s Dreamsongs. I have them on my desk and, almost every day, I like to pick a story at random and read it, to get the strength to carry on with what I am doing).
Addicted now to the joys of short fiction reading, I promptly took advantage of the special offer of subscription for bloggers made by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, being now the proud recipient of my first two issues of my favourite magazine, with my regular fix scheduled to arrive in time for another ten months.
But wait, there’s more! Another addiction developed this year is for discoveries. I have (thanks to Jeff’s blog and Fabio’s blog, and to Jen the Mostly Harmless’ new bookblog, and to the Agony Column, and to the Dark Wolf, and Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, and John Scalzi’s Whatever and to a lot of other review sites or blogs I’m visiting daily), discovered more new authors than in any other time in my life. I’ve read reviews that prompted me to get in touch with these authors, and discovered great guys and wonderful books. I won’t bore you with a list, nor write academic-level reviews, I’ll only mention a few of them. Remember, these are books I have read and had fun, not those I’ve read only because there’s money to be made by translating them.
First there was J. M. McDermott‘s Last Dragon, a book as finely crafted as a chinese ornament, in which the author’s other passion, for poetry, comes to light without impending on a very captivating post-modern fantasy. Then I was swept away in the whirlwind of Dave J. Williams‘ Mirrored Heavens, an exhilarating ride which reminded me of my first reading of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (that was in 1988, while I was in the army, serving my country on long and cold sentinel night shifts, at minus thirty degrees Celsius, on the border of a dark forest and only with a small pocket lamp as reading light). And, since I mentioned cold and winter, in the same vein, mixing cutting edge science with post-apocalyptic scenes and a cruelty to his characters that would make George R. R. Martin pale with envy, I have recently had the joy of reading Jeff Carlson‘s Plague Year and Plague War (the latter has just been released a couple weeks ago), the first two segments of a great trilogy.
It has been a great year so far, for the fun loving reader in me. And there’s more coming, as, at this moment, I have no less than three hefty online orders on their way to my post office. Can’t wait to sample those too!