Kage Baker, RIP

According to Kathryn Cramer and others, Kage Baker passed away this morning. Rest in peace, Kage. You were one of the good ones, and I would like to think that this is not the end, that instead you have merely been assigned by The Company to some new mission.

Ann and I can’t claim to be close friends of Kage’s, but she was one of those colleagues who you could always count on and who you always expected to be there, and whose loss you feel severely. She contributed to several of our books, always with grace and professionalism. She even recorded a video with her parrot for our pirate anthology, one of our fondest memories of that project.

As we told Kage via email last week, we are dedicating the Lambshead cabinet of curiosities anthology to her, and her sister told us she got a definite kick out of that. She always had a good sense of humor.

Dr. Baker was a contributor to the prior volume, our fake disease guide, and would have contributed to this follow-up if she’d been able. (Dr. Baker’s many accomplishments and adventures will of course be memorialized in the front matter to the cabinet anthology.)

She was a fabulous writer. She will be missed.

(Marty Halpern wrote an extensive appreciation when he found out she was ill.)

Awards Season in Smaragdine

February is not just the month in Smaragdine when things turn a little colder. It’s also the month when Smaragdineans announce the winners of various literary awards. Fisticuffs have been known to break out at the award ceremonies, along with more serious scuffles. These people take their awards seriously, and they expect the finalists to be full-blooded Smaragdineans.

Thus, it was with some trepidation that I attended one such awards banquet several years ago, accompanied by Big Bad Bear (still in trouble with the police, so I cannot reveal his identity) and Michael Haulica, a Romanian editor and writer. Michael was there to see if he could track down a couple of Smaragdine authors and to observe the local spectacle. He was not disappointed.

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Rachel Swirsky’s Nebula Novelette Recommendations & Nominations, 2009

The novelette ballot was harder for me to come up with than the short story ballot because I came into my reading with three PodCastle-produced novelettes in mind as being among this year’s best, and it was difficult for me to find ones that I felt were as good or better.

I am genuinely excited by the five I found to nominate, though, and I found a number of other very good novelettes along the way. I was most excited by Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Gambler” as a single piece — but the real trove was Eclipse 3, which provided a number of strong-to-excellent novelette length reads.

I used the same reading process as for short stories, except I also went through all the novelettes available on the SFWA boards to pick out stories by authors who I’ve enjoyed in the past. Very few people seem to be using this resource — the download numbers, even for popular authors, are low.

For full disclosure, I have two novelettes that are doing well in the Nebula nominations so far — “A Memory of Wind” and “Eros, Philia, Agape,” both up at Tor.com — so this is the category in which my objectivity is most suspect.

My nominees
The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi, Fast Forward 2
The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain” by Jason Sanford, Interzone
Good Boy” by Nisi Shawl, Filter House
“It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith, Eclipse 3
“Useless Things” by Maureen McHugh, Eclipse 3

Highly Recommended
Narrative of a Beast’s Life” by Cat Rambo, Realms of Fantasy*
The Curandero and the Swede: A Tale from the American 1001 Nights” by Daniel Abraham, Fantasy & Science Fiction*
The Nalendar” by Ann Leckie, Andromeda Spaceways (Nebula elligible due to PodCastle publication)*

“The Pretender’s Tourney” by Daniel Abraham, Eclipse 3
“Sleight of Hand” by Peter S. Beagle, Eclipse 3
“Truth and Bone” by Pat Cadigan, Poe
“Dragaman’s Bride” by Andy Duncan, The Dragon Book
Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster, Interzone
A Journal of Certain Events of Scientific Interest…” by Helen Keeble, Strange Horizons
The Magician’s House” by Megan McCarron, Strange Horizons
“Lion Walk” by Mary Rosenblum, Asimov’s Science Fiction
Errata” by Jeff VanderMeer, Tor.com
The Mathematics of Faith” by Jonathan Wood, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

*Stories that would have been on my ballot if not for PodCastle publication
**”First Flight” by Mary Robinette Kowal is still on my reading list — she’s declined eligibility for the Nebula this year, but I intend to consider it for the Hugo.

60 in 60: #38 – Thorstein Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin’s Great Ideas Series)

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 DaysYears” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog a couple of times.

The plan was to read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning, although this plan got derailed–first by deadlines and teaching, then by having fallen out of the rhythm, despite my best efforts–including a photo-essay on Thoreau (#37). My new plan is to read and blog about the remaining volumes as I have time and hopefully finish by year’s end. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

by Thorstein Veblen (1857 to 1929)

Memorable Line
“It is worthy of notice that the possibility of producing pathological and other idiosyncrasies of person and manner by shrewd mimicry and a systematic drill have been turned to account in the deliberate production of a cultured class.”

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Recalibrating, Resurrecting…60 in 60 Resumes

In a few minutes I’ll post the next installment of the 60 in 60—covering the Penguin Great Ideas series—after a delay of almost a year. The project, looking back at it now, was insane. I was going to read one of 60 small books a day for 60 days and blog about one each day for 60 straight days. It didn’t quite work out that way. First, I faltered by allowing myself weekends free. Then it got off schedule in more significant ways, before grinding to a halt.

I’m glad it ground to a halt. It had become one of many brain-numbing tasks, and the initial rather stupid thrill of “how long can I keep juggling all of this” had faded into a dull ache of “why am I doing all of this?”

Now, today, I’m engaging the 60 in 60 for a different reason: because I want to slow down. I want to reconnect with reading books, after so many months of being involved with the process of having my own books brought out into the world.

I stopped writing on this blog and logged out of facebook in part to find the time to think about things, but also to read—and to read books not slated for formal review somewhere. I re-read Roberto Bolano’s 2666, not in the kind of ridiculous skimming speed read filled with interruptions and gaps that marked the first time, but taking a couple of days off just to read it for many hours in a row. What a novel idea.

The fact is, if I have the choice, I would much rather spend the majority of my time in the real world than in the virtual world. The virtual world, if I spend too much time there, irritates me almost pathologically, saps my strength, and stresses me out. It can make me someone I don’t like very much. So, once again, I’m trying hard to rearrange my life so that most of what I do gives me and my loved ones a sense of peace and of happiness.

Spending time with Ann makes me happy. Writing stories and books makes me happy. Editing projects and collaborations make me happy. Oddly enough, resurrecting the 60 in 60 also makes me happy. A lot of the rest of it doesn’t make me happy at all. So I’m going to try not to do it.

Part of this recalibrating means you may see slightly fewer posts on this blog, but what you do find will hopefully be more personal or more interesting and involving. Or silly, or fun—who knows?—but far fewer “Hey–here’s mah book, lookit this!” posts.

I’m also going to be reading this book, and writing about it here every once in awhile, because it fits nicely with 2666, and, well, I feel like it…

Kage Baker

Green Man Review has posted the following update on Kage Baker’s condition.

Kage’s doctor has informed us she has reached the end of useful treatment. The cancer has slowed, but not stopped. It has continued to spread at an unnatural speed through her brain, her lungs and – now – reappeared in her abdomen. It is probably a matter of a few weeks, at most. Kage has fought very hard, but this is just too aggressive and mean. She’s very, very tired now, and ready for her Long Sleep. She’s not afraid. We’ve been in a motel the last week or so, in order to complete her therapy.I’ll have her home in her own bedroom by the weekend, though, so end of life care can take place in more comfortable surroundings.

There’s no getting around just how much this sucks. Kage is a lovely human being and a writer who has given a lot of us many hours of rapt enjoyment. She’s also a very humorous writer, and I hope that her sense of humor is helping her a little bit in these extreme circumstances. (In typical Baker fashion, when, not knowing she had cancer, we queried about her contribution to the forthcoming Lambshead Cabinet of Curiousities, she replied in part that she wasn’t up to it unless we wanted her as medical specimen.)

If you want to drop her a line or send her something (you really should), the information on how to do so can be found here.

Rachel Swirsky’s Short Story Nomination & Recommendation List for the 2009 Nebula Awards

Rachel Swirsky here again with another guest post.

I recently blitzed through a number of short stories so that I could finalize the short story portion of my Nebula ballot. I wanted to post about the ones I decided to nominate, and also some of the other excellent ones I encountered in my reading. I hope people will check out these stories, possibly for award consideration, but mostly because they’re cool.

First, methodology for creating my reading list: I had a few short stories from my year’s reading that I already wanted to nominate. Then, I asked a few authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past to send me copies of their eligible stories. I volunteered to read stories by Codex Writers Forum authors who wanted to email me their eligible work. I added stories from the lists by Joe Sherry and Jason Sanford. Editor Sean Wallace gave me his 4 of his favorite stories from Fantasy Magazine, and his 2 of his favorites from Clarkesworld. Editor Scott Andrews sent me 5 of his favorites from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Then I went through the list of stories that have been recommended for the Nebula so far, copied over all the titles that have received three recommendations or more, and then went through the ones that have received 1 or 2 recommendations to pick out ones by authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past. From that reading list, I picked stories to nominate and recommend.

Except for what I read over the course of the year, I did not read stories that I could not easily find online, or find within a few minutes of searching in the SFWA fiction archive. This is certainly not the most comprehensive reading I could have done — if I had more energy, I’d probably try to read all the stories Strahan, Horton, and Harrison have liked this year — but I’m resolved not to fall into the trap Cheryl Morgan describes of disqualifying myself based on too little reading, and unfortunately that means that my nominations will inevitably be imperfect.

My short story nominations
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh, Asimov’s Science Fiction
Remembrance is Something Like a House” by Will Ludwigsen, Interfictions 2
The Mermaids Singing Each to Each” by Cat Rambo, Clarkesworld
“The Godfall’s Chemsong” by Jeremiah Tolbert, Interzone
Non-Zero Probabilities” by N. K. Jemisin, Clarkesworld
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Breaking News: Weird Tales Announcement!!

JAN. 25, 2010—Wildside Press, publisher of the Hugo Award-winning Weird Tales magazine, today announced the promotion of fiction editor Ann VanderMeer to the position of editor in chief.

“Ann has done an outstanding job since joining the Weird Tales editorial team three years ago,” said publisher John Betancourt. “For two decades she’s been one of the most talented, cutting-edge editors in the business, so we’ve been thrilled to see her finally burst onto SF’s center stage, both with Weird Tales and with her recent run of high-profile anthologies. We could not be more pleased to have Ann representing the proud tradition of the world’s oldest fantasy magazine.”

Editorial and creative director Stephen H. Segal, who has collaborated with VanderMeer for the past three years in leading the 21st-century revamp of Weird Tales, will remain a valuable part of the team as the magazine’s senior contributing editor. He is stepping away from the magazine’s day-to-day operations to accept a new full-time position as acquisitions editor for Quirk Books, publisher of the 2009 international bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The Weird Tales masthead will be rounded out by two new, though very familiar, additions to the management team serving under VanderMeer.
Campbell Award-winning author, artist, designer and performer Mary Robinette Kowal will serve as the magazine’s new art director. And two-time Stoker Award nonfiction winner Paula Guran, editor of the Pocket Juno fantasy imprint, will serve as Weird Tales’s new nonfiction editor.

“It makes me very happy that three of the most creative, insightful and hard-working people I know in the fantasy world will be shepherding Weird Tales into the future,” said Segal. “I’ve loved every minute of working on the magazine, and I’m terribly glad that Ann, Mary and Paula want me to stay onboard as a regular contributor.”

“Stephen’s been a trusted and brilliant co-conspirator on Weird Tales,”
said VanderMeer, “and I’m happy that he has such a great opportunity ahead of him. Meanwhile, I’m very excited about the addition of Paula Guran and Mary Robinette Kowal to the magazine team. Thanks to our subscribers for their support; thanks to everyone who submits their writing and art to Weird Tales; and thanks to John Betancourt for his belief in the magazine and in me personally. We’re looking forward to a great future for Weird Tales, and we invite everyone to be part of that experience.”

Weird Tales has an active 2010 calendar lined up, starting with two major event sponsorhips in conjunction with its special spring steampunk issue (forthcoming in March): the Friday night festivities at Norwescon, the Seattle area’s leading science fiction convention, taking place the weekend of April 1; and the literary lineup at the Steampunk World’s Fair, a new multi-arts festival taking place in central New Jersey the weekend of May 14.

For more information, contact editor in chief Ann VanderMeer at [email protected]

Genres of Fiction, and Why They Aren’t Discrete Entities

While the Jeff’s away, the guests will play — I thought I’d take up his offer of guest posting to promote an interesting conversation about genre that’s happening at one of the other blogs I write for, Big Other.

A. D. Jameson writes:

I love genre, because genres are basically conventions. They’re expectations that both authors and readers (and editors, and sales people) bring to a text—suggestions as to what should be inside, and how it should be arranged. And I dearly love conventions, because they’re the very stuff of communication, and of artistic structure—whether we’re obeying them, or departing from them.

I’ve never really understood what some people mean when they talk about “exploding genres” and “writing between genres,” and so forth, because I myself can think of very little writing that is pure genre. Most literature that I read—even the more conventional things—already exist between multiple genres.

Consider The Lord of the Rings.

On the one hand, it’s a “pure” example of contemporary fantasy fiction. Right? Hell, it’s the cornerstone of contemporary fantasy fiction. And it definitely is fantasy fiction… [b]ut when we look even more closely, we find that Tolkien’s writing contains traces of other genres. It’s contemporary fantasy, to be sure, but it’s also heavily inspired by Norse mythology, Old English and Middle English literature, German Romanticism, and Victorian children’s literature. Tolkien synthesized these various interests to craft a new kind of fantasy literature that differs from, say, fairy tales.

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Short Hiatus

In part due to developments I’ve just set forth on Facebook and in part because I need a break–fragmentation is not conducisive to good writing or doing good work on any creative project–I’m going to be absent from this blog through the first week in February. Come back around February 5th or so. (Any prior guest bloggers who still remember their logins and passwords should feel free to post if they’d like to.)

Booklifenow.com will continue to run content during this time, including a guest blogging stint by Shared Worlds founder Jeremy Jones, and you’ll find a few posts from me over at Omnivoracious.

Before I go, a few things I wanted to talk about but won’t have time to.

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