What’s In A Reading?

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and game designer. He also blogs at Gameplaywright and The Gist.

I admit it, I’m a little nervous.

Manuel's Tavern Event Poster

This coming Friday, at Jeff’s reading-and-signing event here at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta,  I’m reading, too, alongside Jeff and J.M. McDermott. Now, I have hundreds of thousands of words in print in game books, but these guys are novelists. They’ve written, you know, real books. I’m just starting out on that path. Readings aren’t something people expect from game writers, so it’s not often that I get to flex this particular muscle.

It’s not quite the public-speaking thing that’s got me rattled, though. I’ve been on stage, I’ve been on the radio, I can be comfortable talking to strangers. The rub is this: What to read?

I decided early on that I’ll be reading an excerpt from my in-progress novel. I can think of lots of ways in which this is a bad idea. Talking about a work in progress can puncture it, deflate it, make it feel like it’s finished before it is. For me, at least, hearing that a story sounds good, or reads well in the first draft, takes some of the wind out of it — it’s validation or rejection without all that trouble of finishing the actual storytelling. Risky.

Reading from an unfinished work is tricky, too, because some of the material that might be great for a reading doesn’t actually exist yet. I spent some time last week rushing ahead in my manuscript to write one scene in time for the reading, because I think it might play well on its own. That’s probably what I’ll read.

In preparation, I’ve gone back and rewatched Jeff’s Boston reading a couple of times. I like how he puts different parts of Finch together to create a rich reading experience and a strong picture of Wyte.

But I want to ask you: What makes a great reading? What are some great readings you’ve been to, and what made them stand out?

Was it action? Was it dialog? Was it the rhythm of the prose or was it in the reader’s voice?

What do you hope for when you go to a reading? What do you dread?

Review of Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight by Cat Rambo (Paper Golem Press, 2009)

In my blurb for Cat Rambo’s new collection, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight (Paper Golem Press, 2009), I wrote that reading her stories is like “reading the literature from worlds that don’t exist. She writes as that world’s Dickens, its Calvino, its Fredrick Douglass, its E. B. White. Rather than merely relaying the events of other realities, as some fantasy and science fiction writers might, at her best Cat Rambo acts as a literary interpreter. Within these imagined fictions — sometimes disjunctive and metaphysical, sometimes lucid and deceptively simple — there are embedded many new ways for looking at the history and social realities of our own world. Dying little girls may not be carried away by winged pigs, but what does it mean that we want so badly to believe that they might be? Cat Rambo’s fiction invites these questions, but the ultimate interpretation is left for the reader to ponder, and to answer if she can.”

I attended Clarion West with Cat Rambo in 2005 and have been a devoted fan of her work ever since. I’ve published her work on PodCastle – Magnificent Pigs; Dead Girl’s Wedding March; “I’ll Gnaw Your Bones,” the Manticore Said; Foam on the Water; In Order to Conserve; and the upcoming Narrative of a Beast’s Life, scheduled for January 19th. Paper Golem Press sent me an ARC of this book so that I could review its contents for possible publication in PodCastle, and so that I could blurb it, both of which I was more than happy to do.

Our host, the esteemed Mr. VanderMeer, lists Cat as one of his favorite fantasists. Cat’s stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld Magazine, and… everywhere. Once she burst onto the scene as a professional writer after Clarion West, she seemed to appear simultaneously in all magazines at once, as if she were at the center of some sort of physics-defying quantum phenomenon from a Star Trek movie.

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While my little one sleeps (or shameless self-promotion)

Rochita here, doing a bit of self-promotion. My short story, 59 Beads is now up at Apex Books. I loved writing 59 Beads, and I am glad it’s found a good home. To me, 59 Beads has a particular resonance as the story finds its inspiration from what takes place in the lives of some of our migrant workers. I hope you’ll enjoy the read.

My youngest son is turning three in January and demands a lot of attention during his awake time. Recently, he’s decided that the computer is the enemy and Mama should be playing with him instead of typing away while he entertains himself with playmobil. Days like these when he wakes up late instead of early are pretty rare, so I’ve decided to take advantage of it and write this quick entry for Ecstatic Days.

I recently contributed two stories to an upcoming charity anthology to benefit a fund for victims of calamities in The Philippines. The anthology is titled Ruin and Resolve and is edited by Paolo Chikiamco. Paolo recently resigned from a top law firm to pursue writing and editing, and recently he launced Rocket Kapre which aims to e-publish Filipino speculative fiction.

The decision to contribute to a charity anthology is one that comes from the heart place instead of the mind place.  The anthology is a drop in the bucket. We hope that people will buy it and read it and that we will be able to raise enough to be of some significant help where it matters most.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a Filipina writer living in The Netherlands. A graduate of the Clarion West Writing Workshop and recipient of the Octavia Butler Scholarship for 2009, her work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications including Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex, The Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, and the Ruins and Resolve Anthology. Visit her online at: http://rcloenen-ruiz.livejournal.com

THE HOME STRETCH: Bring This Tired VanderMeer on Home with a Bang!

Hey, folks–I’ve been on the road since October 28th. My socks need darning. My brain is woozy, but I’m hanging in there. Help me go out with a bang and come out to one of the last three events. All three of them are awesome venues and I’m reading with some amazing people. Note–for Atlanta, there is a comics group meeting at Manuel’s at six, so come out early!

Hope to see you there. I appreciate the encouragement to cross the finish line. Love, Jeff

FOUNTAIN BOOKSTORE (Richmond, VA) – Dec. 8, 6:00pm
1312 E Cary St.
Holiday party special guest, with reading and signing (6:45pm)

CHAPEL HILL COMICS (Chapel Hill, NC) – Dec. 10, 7pm to 8:30pm
316 W Franklin St
Reading/Signing/Group Story, with Mur Lafferty and special guest Natania Barron

MANUEL’S BAR (Atlanta, GA) – Dec. 11, 8pm
(602 N. Highland Ave, North Avenue Room)
Reading/Signing with Will Hindmarch and special guest J.M. McDermott

Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published.

My friend Ann and I have been running the magazine PodCastle for the past two years and reading slush for it for almost three. I’m nominally the editor and she’s the associate editor, but we chose to work together because, well, we work together well, and as a consequence our tasks often bleed into each other. She picks up the slushy slush when it comes in and filters out the stuff I need to see — or, sometimes, I go and do that myself. I have the final say on what gets published, but her opinion weighs heavily.

I’ve also read slush for 580 Split and the Iowa Review, and helped with one time slush-clearings at Escape Pod and Electric Velocipede. Suffice to say, I’ve read a lot of slush.

I could tell you lots of things about slush. I could tell you, for instance, that if you are submitting an unsold story to a reprint market and your name isn’t Tim Pratt or Greg Van Eekhout, you are not going to sell that story to me. Why? Because you’re competing with stories printed in the best magazines, chosen by the best editors in the business. If your story was ready to compete with top-level stuff, some other editor would have seen that before your story made it down the market list to find me. Could there be an exception? Sure. There are exceptions to everything. But so far, I haven’t found one to this rule.

Ann and I have been watching the recent internet spat over at John Scalzi’s blog about the pay rate offered by Black Matrix Press. We’ve discussed this and decided to blog about it in light of our experiences as editors. Ann’s excellent entry is here. This is mine.

Some authors who’ve published with Black Matrix (and presumably been paid their fifth of a cent per word) have leapt into the fray to defend their decisions. They have a number of reasons for having decided to publish with Black Matrix, and some of their reasons may well be legitimate, but as people who have read read slush, Ann and I can tell you one that’s not:

You do not need to publish in crappy venues in order to get a publication credit that will make the editors of better venues look at your work.

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What reference books sit on your desk?

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.

So you dare call yourself a writer! If that’s the case, here’s my question: What reference books sit on your desk?

And yes, we know all about that amazing resource called the internet. And yes, we all use Wikipedia as a quick learning tool (even if we don’t admit it). And yes, if we have to quickly look up the spelling of a word, we Google it.

But what reference materials are so vital to your writing that they sit in bound form on your desk?

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At the Forefront of Madness

Being a fairly prolific short story writer, I’ve noticed something rather strange happening in the last couple of years: I’m at the forefront of a lot of so-called “movements” in genre fiction.

 What does it all mean? Why me? And how do I opt out?

 I first noticed this phenomenon when my story, “How to Make Paper Airplanes” appeared in the Mundane SF issue of Interzone. Mundane SF! Has there ever been a manifesto destined to annoy more SF fans? And somehow, my story opened the issue – did it mean I was from then on Mundane? Would they, in fifty years time, hold a House Committee on Un-Science Fictional Activities and someone would snitch them my name and I would have to go to Washington to explain why I was sighed up to the Communist Party Mundane SF?

 And now there’s Shine, Jetse de Vries’ anthology of Optimistic SF. I have a story in there too. Does it mean I believe in a shiny science fictional future where we’ll all live in Gaia mind-melds and convert faeces into nuclear power with our minds? Am I morally right in joining the movement? What will I do in fifty years’ time, when the Earth is a wasteland and the Dutch aliens have taken over the world?

 And then there’s Interfictions II, an anthology from the dark cabal with the unlikely name of The Interstitial Arts Foundation. Don’t mess with the IAF! They have agents who come knocking on your door at night, and if you incur their wrath you’ll never be seen or heard from again…

 What’s it all about? What the hell is interstitial? Is it infectious? Is there a cure?

 What am I doing here??

 Science fiction has always been overly attracted to manifestos. Let’s make our own group within this group! We’re not the Judean People’s Front, we’re the People’s Front of Judea!

 So what shall I do next? What’s the next big thing? Post-post-singularity? Retro-Cyberpunk? Mega-interstitiality?

 I don’t know, but I like to get paid, and so I might just join the next revolution – and the next – and the next… or end up first against the wall when the real revolution comes.

 But I always felt kind of sad I missed out on cyberpunk. And the New Wave was kinda cool, and the drugs were better then. And what about New Weird? I mean, seriously – what about New Weird?

 I’m going to put on my mirrorshades – spend some time in Inner Space – go space opera, or New Space Opera, or so-new-it’s-not-even-here-yet space opera – go Mundane – go optimistic – go zombie infestation – go cosy apocalypse – go where no one has gone before – maybe go a little mad…

 So what do you think? What’s the Next Big Thing? Suggestions will win chocolate – or might just earn you a visit from the IAF…

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.

A Tightrope Poet of the Impossible

Gio Clairval is an Italian-born writer who lives in Paris.

Yesterday, the road seemed too difficult and tiredness threatened with a feeling of void. I said to myself, “Why have I chosen the trade of writing–this hard journey?” Then I heard the words of Philippe Petit, high-wire walker (but he prefers to call himself ‘tightrope walker’)—an interview aired by the Italian TV channel, RAI3, and I found his answers inspiring.

I’d like to dedicate these words to Jeff, who is reaching the end of his book tour, his tour de force, and to all the friends who achieve impossible things, like   a booklife.

The rope is a harsh mistress

Petit answered questions about one of his six books, the only one that was never translated into English, TRAITE DU FUNAMBULISME (Treatise of Tightrope Walking). The only existing treatise on wire walking, and also the story of a man longing for absolute, attempting to relate the finite to the infinite.

Philippe warned, “No, the rope is not what we imagine; it is not a universe of light, space and smile. It is a trade, sober, tough, disappointing. Those who are not ready to give up everything to feel alive, they do not need to become tightrope walkers. Above all, they could never make it.”

“The taste of a second of stillness, when the wire consents to give it to us, is a moment of happiness.”

A word comes to mind, ‘meteor’, from the Greek meteoros, meaning ‘high in the sky.’

Philippe Petit is a poet of the impossible.


“Fear is the emotion of those who walk below. I can see no reason to be afraid of falling. I can’t fall. Up there, I get unexpected bursts of energy. […] On the rope, I am indestructible. Otherwise, I would not go.” No boasting swindler of the clouds, here, but decades of stainless-steel experience.
“It’s the mind that pulls the body by the sleeve, not the other way round.”
Of course, he refuses all security: nets, harnesses. “Have you ever seen a bird on a leash? I strive to weave threads of certainty under my rope.”

TRAITE DU FUNAMBULISME (Treatise of Tightrope Walking), Preface by Paul Auster, Paris: Albin Michel, 1997.

The most famous walk

In 1974, Philippe Petit, in his own words, “got the towers married.”

As soon as Petit was observed by witnesses on the ground, the Port Authority Police Department dispatched officers to the roof to take him into custody. One of the officers, Sgt. Charles Daniels, later reported his experience:

“I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire….And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle….He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again….Unbelievable really….Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”

Rain had begun to fall, and Petit decided he had taken enough risks, so he gave himself up to the police. Provoked by his taunting behaviour while on the wire, police handcuffed him behind his back and roughly pushed him down a flight of stairs. This he later described as “the most dangerous part of the stunt.”

When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

“Before & After; Talking of the Towers,” New York Times http://tinyurl.com/y8b87xv

-Gio Clairval can be found at http://gioclairval.blogspot.com/


Alas, the Poe Bicentennial: Studying Poe with Rob Velella

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.

This is my last post, and before I introduce my interviewee, I want to thank Jeff for giving me time and blog space, and I want to thank you, Ecstatic Days citizens, for reading my posts.  I really enjoyed the conversations and sharing art and ideas with you all.  If you happened to like the posts, more can be found at my Livejournal blog The Flightless Philosopher, and in various blogosphere haunts like Tor.com.

January 099

Rob Velella is an Independent Scholar and Poe blogger.  He is the author of  “The Edgar A. Poe Bicentennial Calendar” which was originally sold as a desk calendar, but has been posting almost daily throughout the year.  Through the Calendar,  Rob has highlighted unknown Poe facts and debunked popular myths.  It’s an impressive undertaking, and in addition to Poe studies, Rob is also interested in Poe’s contemporaries.  In addition to his fine scholarship, he is an accomplished orator, a performed playwright, and a gentleman.

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Colleen Lindsay Answering Questions at Booklifenow

Not sure if it’s too late to pitch this, but the indomitable Ms. Lindsay is answering questions over at Booklifenow. At the very least check out the comments thread.

Also, Finch is on the Barnes & Noble Review’s best of the year list.

And–a new post about the tour on Amazon.

Now, off to crash and get some sleep before tomorrow’s discussion/signing in Asheville.