Recommending SFF Books – A Movement

The plan is simply this: to bring new readers into the SFF genre.

We’re at a tipping point. Genre is invading the mainstream – or so many articles in newspapers and on television would have you believe, yet the book industry is always anxious at sales performances. It’s a tough environment out there, at the front line. It seems that each year there are scare stories about people reading fewer books.

So I think we can certainly bring significantly more readers into the genre, and while we’re at it, tip genre more into mainstream culture. How? Well, Jeff’s site is pretty well connected as one of the top book blogs. All the right people read it – hell, you’re reading it, right?

What if all these interconnected people settled on one day a year to recommend a Science Fiction or Fantasy novel to a friend or colleague?

Anyone you know who looks down on the genre, or hasn’t even read a genre book, give them a copy of your favourite SFF novel, and tell them: “This is what you’re missing out on. You’ve not given the genre a chance before. Read this and you’ll change your mind.” It would be a conscious effort on your part.

If a small percentage of those who accept the challenge are converted, they might end up buying more SF and Fantasy novels in the long run. That’s good for the industry, and such a movement might drive genre books into mainstream literary culture. It will depend upon everyone rolling their sleeves up, though.

A mad experiment? Naivety? Maybe.

I think it will be the true test of the power of the internet on publishing.

Mark Charan Newton was born in 1981, and has worked as an editor for imprints covering film and media tie-in fiction, and later SF and Fantasy. His first novel, Nights of Villjamur, is published by Pan Macmillan (Tor UK), and will be released in June 2010 from Random House (Bantam Spectra).

Branded: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Guest blogger Kameron Hurley does most of her ranting at her blog, Brutal Women. You can find  some of her recent fiction in Year’s Best SF 12, Strange Horizons, and EscapePod. She currently makes a living as a marketing and sales copywriter in Ohio, and has sold or nearly sold or sort of sold or is still in the process of selling a book called God’s War, which may or may not actually be published at some unspecified period from an as yet unspecified publisher. Stay tuned.

Jay Lake recently made an observation about how copywriting differs from fiction writing. Copy doesn’t just convey information. It’s about creating, building, and reinforcing a brand image. This generally means that once you’ve got the brand “voice” down, you spend a good deal of time rehashing and repurposing old copy. You repeat yourself. The key to writing copy for any big brand is consistency.  “Repurposing” isn’t considered a bad thing. Ideally, everything you write should be immediately identifiable as the voice of that brand, even if you take out the company name and pretty graphics.

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Boston: MIT and Borders

Omnivoracious just ran two video interview pieces with me, one of which is reproduced above.

Tomorrow I’m at MIT in the late afternoon giving a lecture, and then Friday night I’m at Borders in Boston reading with David Anthony Durham and Paul Tremblay….and I shall not sully great guest blogging with more of my nonsense for awhile.

How did you come to the SF genres?

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.

What first brought you to the speculative fiction genres?

A few years ago I was talking with Mike Resnick at the Context convention. Upon learning I was from Alabama, he said it was his experience that most SF fans down South didn’t come to the genre through the traditional routes, i.e., by reading genre fiction. Instead, they came to the genre by way of SF films, comics and video games.

I find the essence of what Resnick said to be true. Today most fans of written science fiction, fantasy and horror first come to the genres through the visual mediums. Witness the success of Dragon Con, and compare their unbelievable attendance to that of the biggest traditional SF convention.

I believe one reason Resnick made this remark is because until recently, the American South and most other non-coastal areas of the United States had fewer opportunities to engage with written SF. Before the rise of the mega-sized bookstores and Amazon.com, it was difficult to stumble across SF in smaller cities and rural areas. Yes, you could order books through the mail, but that is different from finding a book by chance or through a friend and falling in love with the SF genres. I remember going to the bookstores of Montgomery, Alabama, in the 1980s and early 90s, and finding only a few speculative fiction titles. If you didn’t live in a New York City or Los Angeles prior to the last 15 years, good luck being introduced to written SF.

But visual SF? It was everywhere. And even today, it’s much easier to discover SF through the visual mediums.

I was lucky because my grandfather spent decades collecting science fiction and fantasy books by mail, so I was exposed to written SF from an early age. But I was also exposed to genre tropes through the highly successful SF films, comics and video games of the last 30 years. So I can easily see how many people today are coming to the genre by a different route than people who were raised on SF literature before 1970.

So my question for people is, what brought you to written speculative fiction? What keeps you here? Do many people make the jump from the visual SF mediums to written literature? Does it make a difference if there’s a generational difference in how people come to our genres?

Interstitial Art Based On Interstitial Fiction

Hey everyone, I’m not officially guest blogging right now but Jeff gave me permission to pop on the blog for one post and pimp a project in your direction.

I’ve been involved with the Interstitial Arts Foundation for the past several years, making myself useful and coming up with ideas for events and projects. One of the projects I’m currently running is an auction of art based on stories from the IAF’s two fiction anthologies, Interfictions and Interfictions 2.

There are so many cool things about this auction it’s hard to know where to begin. First, all of the art is amazing and beautiful. It’s really cool to see the different interpretations of the texts and what bits and stories inspired the artists. Some stories inspired more than one piece of art. The pieces are so different, yet so perfectly illustrative of the story.

The funds raised by the auction will go to support further interstitial art projects, like more anthologies and other ideas the membership comes up with. The IAF is dedicated to supporting and inspiring artists who cross or fall between or break apart borders, which the art in this auction does. Neat, right?

To tempt you to head over to IAFAuctions.com, I’ve picked three of my favorite pieces. These are not all of my favorites, of course. I have something like 10. Click the images for bigger versions.

Berry Moon: Laments of a Muse (Dances with Anita #3)

This is a hat. A fancy, fancy hat that on one side has words sewn into it. Did I mention: fancy hat? Bidding begins November 23rd.

Untitled

Even more striking in person, I love the interplay between glowing light and darkness here. Plus, you know, giant brain in the sky, people. That is some awesome right there. Goes up on November 21st.

The Child Empress Of Mars

This piece never fails to elicit a strong reaction from people. I suggest you click the image and see the full gallery because it looks weirder and weirder from every angle. It’s up for auction right now but ends on November 19th. As I continue to say, this is one of the most striking and evocative pieces in the auction, but there is usually some debate about whether it’s gorgeous or scary or both at once. Thoughts?

There are 31 pieces being auctioned, and though many beautiful pieces have already been scooped up there are plenty more to be had. Click here for a gallery of everything or click here to see the latest pieces. And bid! Support the arts by buying awesome art. What better way to spend that holiday money, right?

Booklife, The Tour, and Brookdale Community College

Here’s a video interview Omnivoracious did with me recently, with a second one forthcoming. Also remember to check out the Booklife site for new content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Booklife has gone back to a second printing.

I’ve also found out that Finch will come out in the UK from Grove Atlantic in August of 2010. It will be marketed as general fiction. Yay!

I’m now in New York and headed down to Brookdale Community College tomorrow–Jeffrey Ford teaches there–to do an event. Jeff has all of the correct details here. I think I screwed up the time in my listing.

I’d say more but am now actually a little tired. You can keep up with me on facebook, however.

Unleash the Grossbarts

S.J. Chambers is an articles editor for Strange Horizons.  Not only has her work appeared in that fine forum, but also Tor.com, Fantasy, Bookslut, and The Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog.  She is also currently working with Jeff as his Master Archivist for The Steampunk Bible. You can find out more about S.J. at www.sjchambers.org.

Mark this day, kind Ecstatic Days readers, for it is no longer merely November 16, but Grossbarts’ day.

Chambers_Cover

I had planned to mark this occassion with a video outtake from my interview with Jesse at World Fantasy, which is up over at Strange Horizons. Alas, my technological prowess and budget would not allow me to edit the monster stream, so I offer up instead choice and celebratory links.

First, interested parties can procure a copy here.  Then there is, of course, the home of Grandpa Grossbart himself, which carries links of its own to all the reviews and interviews, his blog, and a gallery of Grossbart related art.   The Grossbarts’ fine home can be found at Orbit, where Jesse has been posting a nice series of Grossbart scholarship articles. Then there is a funny video interview with Jesse by the very technologicaly savvy Molly Tanzer over at Fantasy magazine. Last, but not least, Jesse waxes poetic about why it is he gives birth to such horrible, horrible men and creatures at Powell’s. And last, but not least, just got linkage (this is p.m., as opposed to the a.m. of when this was orginally written) to the funny book trailer: Grossbarts on YouTube.

Well, I know that isn’t 5 glorious minutes of hearing Jesse discuss parallels between Bush’s War on Terror and the Grossbarts, a part of my interview that was excised from the final text-cut at Strange Horizons, and will be, until I figure out how to edit for free, locked up in the vault for another 50 years.

Here’s to….

S.J. Chambers is an articles editor for Strange Horizons.  Not only has her work appeared in that fine forum, but also Tor.com, Fantasy, Bookslut, and The Baltimore Sun’s Read Street Blog.  She is also currently working with Jeff as his Master Archivist for The Steampunk Bible. You can find out more about S.J. at www.sjchambers.org.

What I’ve Been Reading (or Watching): Pre-Holiday Edition

It’s always hard to keep up with everything that’s out there, especially in today’s digital world. I’d like to think that I do a fairly decent job of managing to keep myself informed of what’s going on in the print and digital marketplaces but, of course, thinking that I do a decent job of keeping up and actually keeping up are two very, very different things. To misquote a cliché, the more I read, the more I realize that – in actuality – I don’t know jack.

So I’m turning to you, Dear Internet, for guidance. I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading (and watching) and hopefully you’ll share with me what you’ve been following and/or what you think I should add to my list. Television commercials have started telling me that the Season of Giving (or, as I like to think of it, the Season of Going-into-Debt-for-No-Good-Reason) is upon us – and I am not one to argue with the Failing Commercial Gods. So as you read this, picture me as that guy standing outside the mall in a big red suit, incessantly ringing that accursed bell, and making you feel guilty for not carrying cash anymore. So guilty, in fact, that you’ll probably go buy a crappy food court snack just so you can ask for cashback on your order. And then when you go back outside to vindicate yourself and say, “Hey, Guy-in-Red-Suit, I CARE. I just wasn’t carrying cash earlier. That’s why I averted my eyes. But everything’s different now because I have $2.36 in change,” you realize that there was a Guy-in-Red-Suit shift change while you were at the food court, and now a Different-Guy-in-Red-Suit is manning the Holiday Guilt Bell. And you try to tell Different Guy that you NEED him to tell the Original Guy-in-Red-Suit that you CARE ABOUT HUMANITY. But Different-Guy-in-Red-Suit just looks at you funny and asks you to step away because you’re scaring the children.

Yeah. Think of me as that guy.

So here’s what I’ve been following/reading/watching lately *DINGDINGDINGDING*:

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Sunday Reading: Novella “Sublimation Angels” by Jason Sanford

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.

When Jeff selected a group of guest bloggers to keep this site going while he was on his book tour, he told us “I don’t mind at all if you plug your projects, just vary the content if you do so.” I’m going to take him up on this with a blatant plug for my novella “Sublimation Angels.”

The novella was published in the Sept./Oct. 2009 issue of Interzone, a wonderful British SF magazine which I provided a sampler for last week. Anyway, my novella is now available as a PDF download and includes the great art Paul Drummond created for its initial Interzone publication. “Sublimation Angels” is a hard SF story with an old school twist, which SF Signal called “A captivating story about freedom, rebellion, and seeking the truth”  and Suite101 called “One of the best novellas of the year.”

Download the story here. I hope people enjoy it.

And in other news, the Nebula Awards nomination period is now open. I’ve posted information about the process and my nominations on my website. And no, this isn’t an attempt to bring “Sublimation Angels” some nominations. The novella isn’t eligible since it was published in Interzone, although why overseas print magazines aren’t eligible but overseas online magazines are is hard to understand.