What’s your geekiest moment?

A few years ago I had breakfast with my friend Nir. I was trying to get the attention of the waiter, who ignored me completely, and so I turned to Nir - quite a large gentleman, with a shaved head – and asked for his help.

Nir raised one very large hand and in a bellowing voice shouted: “Waiter! Here! Now!”

And as if by magic, the waiter, looking rather nervous, materialised by our table. Nir turned to me and barked: “Order!”

And so it was that, after I ordered, and the frightened waiter skulked away back to the kitchen, that I turned to Nir and said, without thinking: “You know, in Kzinti your name would be Speaker-to-Waiters”.

There was a moment of silence. And then Nir burst out laughing.

It’s the kind of moment you sense your inner geek bursting forth and refuses to be any longer detained. I don’t think Nir ever let me forget that – but what about you? What was your Geek Moment?

Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas An Occupation of Angels (2005), Cloud Permutations (2009) and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, of The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He’s lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in South East Asia. His first novel, The Bookman, will be published by HarperCollins’ new Angry Robot imprint in 2010, and will be followed by two more.

Sculpture Fest: A Surreal, Fascinating Experience

Our friend Eric Schaller took Ann and me to the remains of Sculpture Fest outside of Woodstock, Vermont, over the weekend. Some of it had already been dismantled, but the stuff still there was fascinating. Enjoy the slideshow, which you can make full-screen.

Review: Soulless, book one of the Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger (Orbit, 2009)

When I first laid hands on Gail Carriger’s Soulless (Orbit, 2009), I began to wonder if the book had been written specifically to irritate me.

1. To start out, the novel is urban fantasy. Already we’re on bad terms.

2. Also, there are vampires.

3. Too, werewolves.

4. And romance!

5. In case that’s not enough, Carriger mixes in a Victorian setting and a hint of steampunk. Neither of these inherently annoy me, but combined with items 1-4:

6. The novel is heavily weighted down by trendy genre elements.* In my experience, this usually leads to books that are poorly constructed, badly integrated, and the literary equivalent of a chess club stereotype wearing star-shaped sunglasses – trying much too hard to be cool.**

Soulless should be like combining salmon and chocolate while I, in this metaphor, am an ichthyophobe with no sweet tooth. However, it appears that skilled chefs can pair salmon and chocolate. And sometimes a novel that’s full of everything wrong can go terribly, tragically right.
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National NPR on the Reality of Fantasy: The VanderMeers Dish

National NPR’s feature on, erm, Ann and me ran on Weekend Edition today, with bits by Jacob Weisman, too! Theoretically there will also be photos on the site. But for now, here’s one that puts things in perspective. Eeek!

But go comment–the more people who visit, the more likely they are to do more features of this type.

Thanksgiving Weekend Book Review: House of Cards by David Ellis Dickerson

Thanksgiving is a greeting card holiday, right? (Front: Picture of sad turkey. Inside: “Hope your Thanksgiving isn’t a turkey!” General guffaws.) So it must be an appropriate time for a greeting-card-themed book review.


When Hallmark lured David Ellis Dickerson to a Kansas City interview, they offered him a potential starting salary of $27,000. After interviewing him in person, they upped their offer to $32,000. “To this day,” writes Dickerson, “I am convinced that in person, I am $5,000 more charming than I am on paper.” (p 49)

I suspect this motivates the choice to promote Dickerson’s new book, House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions (Riverhead Books, 2009), with a series of videos called Greeting Card Emergency. Dickerson’s audience provides him with a decidedly un-Hallmark-like greeting card scenario, such as breaking a friend’s toilet or letting your snake eat someone else’s hamster. Dickerson then documents the process of creating a suitable card.

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Finch Reading in Boston, Wall Street Journal Holiday Reading

Gosh–I just will not go away. Check out the Wall Street Journal’s exceedingly quirky and delightful approach to holiday reading recommendations, which includes Finch under the “young artist who enjoys SF and highbrow fantasy” tab. Below, via the Crotchety Old Fan, find my Boston reading. He has more video on his site.

Also note Victor LaValle’s awesome review of Finch in the Washington Post.

Steampunk Reloaded: Volume 2 Open to Reprint Submissions December 15

STEAMPUNK RELOADED, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and to be published in fall 2010 by Tachyon Publications, announces an open reading period.

The sequel to the World Fantasy Award finalist anthology Steampunk will read submissions between December 15, 2009, and February 15, 2010. Any English-language story previously published in the past decade on a website or print publication is eligible for consideration. Our definition of Steampunk is fairly broad, so if in doubt, send it. Keep in mind that Steampunk has become much more diverse over the past few years, and we are very interested in non-traditional and multi-cultural points of view.

Submissions between 1,500 and 10,000 words should be sent in a Word or RTF document to steampunkII at hotmail.com. We don’t care about margins or format, but please cut-and-paste the first three paragraphs into the body of your email, include prior publication information, but do not include any biographical information about yourself. Alternatively, use snail mail by sending your work to POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315. Snail mail submissions should be marked on the outside of the envelope as for Steampunk Reloaded consideration. No SASE is required if you prefer email response. You can send your email submissions before December 15, but we won’t begin reading them until December 15. All submissions will be responded to no later than February 28; please do not query about a submission prior to that date.

Payment will be on publication, at standard reprint rates of one to two cents per word, against a share of any royalties from the North American or foreign editions, as well as one contributor copy.

How Did You Find It?

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and game designer. He also blogs at Gameplaywright and The Gist. Look for him at Jeff VanderMeer’s reading in Atlanta at 8pm on December 11th at Manuel’s Tavern.

How did you find the book you’re reading now?

I first found Jeff VanderMeer’s books through this very instrument: the blog. First I discovered the writer, then I discovered his works. So I was a fan of Jeff’s before I was a fan of Ambergris. I read him, once, as the future king of Booklife, in a sense—as a writer talking about the writing life—and then, later, as a fantasist. So I don’t much remember Jeff’s work as a text alone, as stories from some mysterious stranger. I’ve always known it as Jeff’s writing.

How you discover a writer effects how you read the work, doesn’t it? Everything comes with this layer of context, and while we can relax our eyes and let it fall out of focus, so we see just the story on the page, it’s still there to be seen.

Thinking about it lately, as a I try to fathom how we find readers and how readers find us, I’ve realized that I find a lot of books by finding the writer first. It’s not usually blogs, for me, as much as it is hearing this or that story about this or that writer; catching a glimpse of an oeuvre before I go grasping for a bit of it. I read Michael Chabon’s novels because I’d read his essays here and there and thought, “I wonder how this guy builds his stories?” I read John Hodgman and David Rakoff after I heard them on This American Life.

I don’t do a lot of blind buying. I don’t gamble much with what I read. I’m not proud of that, necessarily, but there it is.

So I’m left wondering how you found what you’re reading now. How did you find your newest favorite book? And if that book is Finch, then tell me how you found VanderMeer.

Five months later, I’m still thinking of Clarion West

Some family issues have kept me offline, so I’m guestblogging a little later than I originally intended to. In the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking of something smart and witty to say, but it looks like smart and witty are intent on evading me, so I suppose I’ll just have to keep to how things are.

Arrived in the mail today: a letter telling me that Clarion West is now open for applications. Details for application can be found here

Looking at that website reminds me of last year and my battle between desire and duty. Leaving behind my kids was probably one of the toughest decisions I had to make and there were people who didn’t understand why I would leave my husband and children behind because I wanted to write.

“Are you writing a book?”

“Are you going to be famous now?”

I don’t know whether it’s got something to do with Harry Potter or Twilight, but somehow people seem to expect that if you are a writer of science fiction and fantasy it means you’ve got some blockbuster book up your sleeve that will be turned into a movie any day now.

It’s true that the Clarion workshops are meant for writers who are interested in pursuing a professional career as a writer. There will be shop talk, lecturers will give you advice on where to send your work and how to deal with certain things, but a lot of what gets done depends on the writer and how much a writer achieves all boils down to the writer, the writer’s vision, and the writer’s determination.

Clarion West is not some magical workshop that guarantees instant publication or a breakthrough in your writing. Breakthroughs do happen, and I did make a good number of discoveries about my own work and about myself as a writer. Perhaps the most important thing I was gaining a deeper insight into what I truly wanted to do with my writing.

This year, I know eighteen students will be in for a grand adventure. I wish with all my heart that there will be more writers of color coming to the workshop. I wish there were more Filipinos who would try to get in.

Beyond knowledge, Clarion West gifted me with comrades. I met people who cared passionately about their writing and about their craft. It is impossible to remain unmoved in such a place, with such people. It’s not easy getting from here to there, but it gives me a warm feeling to think that someday I’ll see someone’s book on a shelf and say: Oh hey, that was my classmate.

An online friend told me that going to Clarion would be a life-changing experience. Five months after,  I am still thinking of what I’ve learned, and I can’t help but agree with her statement.

Perhaps one of the gifts that the Clarion experience bequeaths on those who attend is the ability to understand the role of mentors and comrades better. In those six weeks, my classmates and I were comrades and mentors to each other.

When I look back, I see how the exercise of scrutinizing our work and each other’s works, the act of giving words of encouragement and words of criticism, these were acts and exercises that served to strengthen our camaraderie.  Through the giving and receiving of  healthy criticism, we were able to help each other to move forward beyond the wall that kept our stories from achieving their full potential. This community we belong to is not a very large one, but it’s filled with warm and wonderful people who share generously of their knowledge and their experience.

If you go to the workshop expecting a magic key or a secret word, you won’t find it. Some things that you learn there will take time. In fact, five months after, I’m still thinking about everything I learned while I was there. On some days, I think that everything I write is crap. On some days, I think it’s getting better.

If you go to the workshop with a heart open to learn anything and everything, with a spirit that is willing to embrace and accept criticism and grow towards being your best. If you go there wanting to share of yourself, and wishing to be your true self, then you will certainly benefit from it.

bio: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a Filipina writer who lives in The Netherlands with her husband and two sons. The recipient of the 2009 Octavia Butler Scholarship, Rochita is a graduate of the 2009 Clarion West Writer’s Workshop and a member of the expatworkshop based in Europe. Her work has appeared or will appear in Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Digest, Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 4, and in the upcoming Ruins and Resolve anthology. She maintains a blog at: http://rcloenen-ruiz.livejournal.com

All the news that’s fit to laugh at

Guest blogger Jason Sanford often rants on his website at www.jasonsanford.com. His fiction has been published in Interzone, Year’s Best SF 14, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pindeldyboz, and other places, and has won the 2008 Interzone Readers’ Poll and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.

Yesterday my interview with SF writer Larry Eisenberg was published at SF Signal. One thing I like about Larry’s fiction is even when he’s writing about serious subjects, he’s not afraid to make the reader laugh. Yes, Larry’s aware there are plenty of problems in the world, as anyone who reads or watches the news also knows. But sometimes laughing at the news is the best way to understand the news, as Jon Stewart has proved with the Daily Show.

I believe Larry Eisenberg also understands this. For the last year, his witty limericks have been gracing the comment sections of The New York Times website, gaining him a cult following among that paper’s readers. Larry has given me permission to reprint a few of his limericks.

Enjoy, and let the humor of the news wash over you.

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