My Novel Borne Sells to Farrar, Straus and Giroux: More Details

As the Hollywood Reporter reported last week, I’ve sold my new novel Borne to Sean McDonald at Farrar, Straus and Giroux in a mid-six-figure deal that’s a landmark for me. Many thanks to my agent Sally Harding and everyone at the Cooke Agency. In all things career-wise Sally has been a great boon. There’s also a very robust deal with The Fourth Estate for the UK rights, and it appears there will be more news soon about other rights sales involving Borne—on several fronts.

FSG did an amazing job with my Southern Reach trilogy and I am really glad to be back with them. They’ve been kind of a dream to work with, and even though I’ve been in this business 30 years I’m continually learning from what they do and how they do it. I also appreciated their tenacity and endurance in supporting the release of all three Southern Reach novels in one year. I’m very thankful they’re taking such good care of me, and I look forward to seeing what they’ll do with Borne.

Borne is the novel I’ve talked about for a couple of years now, the same one the New York Times wrote about here last year. An excerpt from an early draft appeared in Black Clock, edited by Steve Erickson. Erickson’s comments on the excerpt also were helpful in thinking about Borne as a whole. The novel’s about a woman in a ruined city of the future who is a scavenger of biotech, who finds a strange creature in the matted fur of a giant, psychotic bear named Mord that’s been terrorizing the city. The woman, Rachel, takes the creature home and slowly begins to bond with it, against her best instincts. Is Borne an animal or plant? A deity, or a cruel experiment?  “Am I a person?” Borne asks Rachel, in extremis. “Yes, you are a person,” Rachel tells him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

What follows is kind of like an intense Chekov play in the round, with monsters fighting in the backdrop. It’s meant to be harrowing, yet sometimes very funny. If ever I’ve written something that’s dark and dangerous but also hopeful and uplifting, it might just be Borne. A lot of it is taken from life and my family and there’s a lot that’s relevant to our current environmental situation. But more than anything, it’s kind of satisfying that Borne has a traditional three-act structure and lots of natural resolution at the end. The Southern Reach trilogy was always going to be more ambivalent about closure due to the nature of the novels. But Borne’s a different kind of creature…

An exact publication date for Borne hasn’t yet been set, but hopefully I’ll know by the fall or winter.

In other news, rumor has it that Natalie Portman may join the cast of the movie version of my novel Annihilation, which is being written and directed by Ex Machina’s Alex Garland. More info on the Annihilation movie when I have it.

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Area X: The Bird Watchers

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For those who’ve asked me on Twitter about the possibility of new Area X/Southern Reach fiction, I can report that I’m (slowly) working on a novella entitled “The Bird Watchers.” The novella is set during the last week before the event that created Area X and the viewpoint character is Old Jim. Some readers will remember Old Jim as “ol’ piano fingers” in one of the more chilling scenes in Acceptance. Well, it turns out Old Jim was involved in the Seance & Science Brigade’s mission, among other nefarious things.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that Control’s grandpa Jack makes an appearance. You might also catch sight of some characters from the lighthouse keeper’s thread in Acceptance. Structurally, the story is broken into sections that delve into the present and the past, each with Old Jim in the title. Like, for example “Old Jim and the Lighthouse” and “Old Jim and the Thing From Below”.

This isn’t an attempt to “wrap things up,” and I really didn’t expect to even work on any additional Southern Reach fiction. But the idea came to me while thinking a bit more about the S&S Brigade–an organization that has really stuck in my brain. It’s stuck there not just in the context of Central parasitically infiltrating and using the Brigade, but also in thinking about how their mission might extend to other places than the Forgotten Coast.

I had the idea for the S&SB when I visited the Coral Castle near Miami several years ago. On the day I visited, I stumbled upon two separate groups of researchers taking readings. One was comprised of psychics and the other of physicists. As you might imagine, I couldn’t let go of that juxtaposition and knew it would eventually come out in my fiction.

I’m letting “The Bird Watchers” coalesce slowly and organically, so I have no idea when I’ll have a final draft, but I’m enjoying revising the S&SB, exploring Old Jim’s involvement with various elements along the Forgotten Coast, and also in returning to a fictionalized history of that area. It feels very natural.

Here’s the start of the section entitled “Old Jim and the Biologists.” It’s atypical of the style of the novella as a whole, but the only part I feel comfortable unveiling for now…

***

Once there had been biologists here, in numbers so great that the forgotten coast shook with the tremors of their vehicles. These men and women bestrode the terrain like conquerors, sent by government money in the form, it was rumored, of gold bars well-hidden that could not devalue or decay like the money kept in banks.

In the summer of that first year they established their headquarters in the ruins of the ghost town, a bivouac of scientists unprecedented for that place even when it had been alive. As they spread out across their migratory range, the biologists as observed by the locals began to carry out a series of arcane rituals. They shoved pieces of swamp grasses and bits of bark into vials. They put up tents out in “the field” as they called it, even when it was just black swamp. They used binoculars, scopes, and microscopes. They took readings with innumerable peculiar instruments. At times, they stopped in their labors to swear about the heat and humidity, which did not endear them.

The biologists tagged many living things—at least one of every creature that moved and breathed across the pine forests and the cypress swamp, the salt marshes and the beach. They took fine nylon nets and set up capture zones for songbirds, the worst among them running clod-stepped to the rescue of what they had themselves endangered. Fragile wings and fragile beaks, heads to the side; small eyes looking up at giants that held their bodies in half-closed fists. They tagged so many things, had brought so many tranq darts, that the blue caps removed from the tips still showed up years later in the marshes, along the river bank or crushed into the gravel of the dirt roads.

In their heyday, at the zenith of their powers, some said their boot prints outnumbered the tracks of deer and raccoons and otters on the salt flats.

But over time, the effort that had quickened slowed, the impulse behind it dulled, and the biologists began to die out. Their mobile tents that had once dotted the camping ground near the lighthouse began to disappear. The sounds of their idle conversations before expeditions in the early morning became muted and infrequent. That last spring there might have been a hundred of them and by the fall only four or five. Their diminishment hastened by a lack of grant renewal and a moving on of government attention, that great eye roving toward other lands and foreign wars.

Research and development went to other projects, men who would soon walk upon the moon, while down below soon no one observed the marshes except the few people who had always lived on the forgotten coast. In the winter, the last biologist assigned to an area of remote swamp was recalled, never to return. The great initiative had receded into history, the ghost town left to the ghosts again.

At least, that was the story told down at the village bar, where Old Jim often sat and paid in cash for beer and sandwiches tossed to him out of coolers. Sometimes they told it for the strangeness, sometimes more serious. Every time it achieved an added velocity and detail that might not have been there before.

Shared Worlds: The Eighth Year of This Unique Teen SF/Fantasy Writing Camp

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(Above: One of Jeremy Zerfoss’s wonderful pieces of art for the camp’s annual book of student writings.)

Can you believe the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp has been around for eight years? Program director Tim Schmitz shares his thoughts on getting close to a decade.

We’ve grown from 20 students to 60 each year, from all over the world. And this year is the most robust yet, with over 150 applicants with several weeks left to register. Any teen who loves writing but also using their imagination in general should enjoy this unique camp. In the first week, the students build worlds in groups of 10 and then in the second week they write stories set in those worlds. Along the way, they receive expert instruction on creative writing as well as presentations on game creation. Many also have the opportunity to indulge their artistic bent in creating videos to present their worlds to the entire camp at the end of the two weeks. The students also receive a consult and critique from a professional writer–and a book of their fiction after the camp.

Written up by the Guardian, Washington Post blog, and many more, Shared Worlds has been a recipient of an Amazon.com grant for several years. We’ve also entered into such unique creative ventures as its Critter Map and Hand in Hand—with contributors like Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Neil Gaiman.  (You can view these wonderful projects via the link above.)

This year we have a stellar list of guest writers coming to Shared Worlds: Catherynne M. Valente, Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, Monica Byrne, David Anthony Durham, Nathan Ballingrud. Hugo Award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer will also be there, to, along with Grant, give the students insight into the world of editing. I will be there to teach from Wonderbook, the world’s first image-based creative writing book. In addition, camp founder Jeremy L.C. Jones will continue to add his worldbuilding insight and writer/game-design expert Will Hindmarch, our assistant director, will provide valuable thoughts on storytelling in general.

I’ve served as co-director of the camp for many years now, and it’s just simply the most rewarding thing I do every year—to see such dedicated and creative teenagers, who are also so invested in reading and the written word. Please help us spread the word as we enter our eighth year. Just a few more weeks to register for what might just be a life-changing experience.

Southern Reach / VanderMeer Events: Summer-Fall 2015

Southern Reach--paperback covers(The brilliant new covers for The Fourth Estate’s UK release of all three Southern Reach paperbacks on July 30.)

It’s going to be a busy second half of the year for me and for Ann, especially with more foreign-language editions of the Southern Reach trilogy being published–and The Fourth Estate bringing out the S.R. paperbacks in the UK on July 30. Here’s a look at the schedule, with additional events in Italy and Germany in September still possible. We’re looking forward to all of this–some great opportunities and some wonderful lit fest invites. Ann will be with me for Sardinia, Calgary, and the Vancouver Wordfest, too.

May 1-3: Ann VanderMeer is the editor guest of honor at Mo-Con X.

June 18-21: Wonderbook Workshop at the Yale Writers’ Conference (with Ann VanderMeer)

June 25, Thurs, 7pm: Worthington Library event (Ohio; ticketed event)

July 2-5: Sardinia Literary Festival

July 17-August 1: Teaching at the Shared Worlds writing camp in Spartanburg, Wofford College (with Ann VanderMeer; Hub City Bookstore event TBA)

October 13-18: Calgary Wordfest

October 20-25: Vancouver Book Festival

October 26–November 6: University of British Columbia mini-residency (with Ann VanderMeer;  public events TBA and classroom visits/critiques)

Hyperobjects: The Slow Apocalypse, Spooky Science at MIT, and Ex Machina

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A few things of interest have occurred in the past week or two, and I wanted to draw your attention to them.

—Ex Machina is out in theaters, a film written and directed by Alex Garland. Since Garland’s on board to write and direction the movie of my novel Annihilation, I was curious to see what his debut as director would look like. Both Ann and I found the movie mesmerizing, intelligent, thought-provoking, but also visceral. It also carries through to the end in a way that’s rare in cinema these days. There are also so many little details that are so right, including something as simple as a Jackson Pollock painting that creates a chaotic counterpoint to the stasis of the principal setting. The acting is also first-rate. Ex Machina is also a film that assumes an intelligent audience, and so there’s really not a scene or moment wasted in unnecessary exposition. The cinematography we also found first-rate. Highly recommended, and it makes me even more excited for a possible movie version of Annihilation. (There’s a great interview with Garland here, in which he briefly mentions my novel.)

—Recently, I spoke at MIT, for an event entitled “The Spooky Science of the Southern Reach.” You can now listen to that conversation here. For over an hour, I talked about science and SF and collaboration with my long-time collaborator and friend G. Eric Schaller–he also happens to be a scientist and a fan of SF and fantasy. We talked about the slow apocalypse, when science seems right in novels, and a host of other subjects. The event was moderated by author Seth Mnookin, and I thought it turned out pretty great. We had a very responsive audience and thanks again to Harvard Square for providing books for the event.

–Finally, I wrote a long piece on “The Slow Apocalypse and Fiction” for Electric Lit, which documents my reaction to participating in the Sonic Acts Geologic Imagination Festival and which also includes a review of the book published in conjunction with the event. I also touch on how we perceive animals in fiction, talk about the relevance of hyperobjects to fiction, etc. As noted, novels by Margaret Atwood and Kim Stanley Robinson have entered the public awareness in a way others have not. What does this mean? What doesn’t it mean? The essay is meant to serve as an initial personal inquiry, not to be taken as a definitive list of answers. These issues are so vast that it is generally a mistake to reach conclusions, but it is important to ask questions.

As I said in my presentation at Sonic Acts festival, there’s a caveat to some of this exploration. “Fiction is contamination–of the writer by something foreign to the self (if you’re lucky) and yet intimate to it, and contamination of readers, who themselves mutate, and mutate the text. Because people are not at heart rational. Because fiction is not a road to a theorem or a final accounting of sums–and not just the hackneyed idea of a ‘journey,’ but also a series of microcosms in the paragraphs along the way and sometimes a series of traps. In such a context, philosophy or ideas must warp and be rendered at times as disinformation or misinformation, overheard wrong even, and remade as something living, understood and misunderstood in the usual, everyday human world. In other words, to ‘cook’ philosophy into most fiction, you must beat the living crap out of it metaphorically speaking.”

Jeff VanderMeer Southern Reach Events: April through June

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Starting in April, I’ll be doing a series of interesting events in the U.S.. In the second half of the year, I’ll be teaching at Shared Worlds and may be going over to Europe for some literary festivals. In addition, Ann VanderMeer and I will be teaching at the University of British Columbia for a couple of weeks in late October. I’ll have more information on all of that shortly. In the meantime, here are the details for April through June…

April 9, Thurs, 7pm, Buffalo, NY: University of Buffalo Exhibit X Reading Series, at 468 Washington St (WNYBAC), Off Campus. More information on this exciting series and on my event.

April 11, Sat, time TBA, Tallahassee, Florida: Word of South book festival Southern Reach/Weird fiction event with Living Colour founder musician Vernon Reid, moderated by Ann VanderMeer. More information on the events at this new festival, which will feature Oscar winner J.K. Simmons.

April 14, Tues, 7 pm, Beloit, WI: Beloit College reading at Richardson Auditorium (Morse-Ingersoll Hall). More information here.

April 16, Thurs, 5pm, Boston, MA: The Spooky Science of the Southern Reach: An Evening With Jeff VanderMeer also featuring G. Eric Schaller and Seth Mnookin (Stata Center–32-123). Jeff VanderMeer, author of the New York Times bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), will join G. Eric Schaller, Professor of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth, for a broad-ranging discussion about the scientific and philosophical ideas that inspired the series. The two friends and occasional collaborators will discuss conservation science, VanderMeer’s relationship with the natural world, and the theme of extinction in “slow apocalypse” fiction, as well as the role of real-world science in science fiction. Moderator: Seth Mnookin. Event listing here.

April 21, Tues, 7:40 pm: Inside the Writer’s House Skype Series (in association with Rutgers); details here.

June 18-21: Wonderbook Workshop at the Yale Writers’ Conference (with Ann VanderMeer). Hugo & World Fantasy Award winning editor Ann VanderMeer and NYT bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer, teach a mini-course on literature of the imagination, using Jeff’s Hugo Award-finalist Wonderbook, the world’s first fully illustrated creative writing guide. Whether expressed literally or through metaphor, a non-realist worldview permeates aspects of many genres and approaches. In-class exercises will include finding the autobiographical in the fantastical, use of surrealism and constraint to energize even the most traditional approaches, and analysis of successful but atypical scenes as the jumping-off point for discussion of characterization, setting, and the numinous.More details here.

June 25, Thurs: Worthington Library event (Ohio); details TBA

Vintage Science Fiction Readings #7–Alice B. Sheldon

Ann and I are now in the process of reading for The Big Book of Science Fiction for Vintage, which will appear in 2016. This huge anthology of well over 500,000 words will collect the best and most unusual SF stories from approximately 1900 to 2000. This requires a lot of reading and research. Every so often I will report back in an ad hoc way about current reading related to the anthology. I don’t claim these are systematic reports.

1972: Author note entitled “Man of All the World” from Best Science Fiction for 1972, edited by Frederik Pohl (for Tiptree’s story “Mother in the Sky with Diamonds”)

As with Doris Piserchia (elsewhere in this volume), James Tiptree, Jr., is a writer I would not recognize if he walked into my office and sat on the corner of my desk. We have never met. I rather think the chances are we never will, because every time I see in my peripatetic career a date when I will be in the neighborhood of the city where he lives and suggest we get together for a drink, it turns out that in his peripatetic career he is that week off to Borneo or Brooklyn or Swaziland. I do not know what he does in these places, I only know that he must have been on every airline in the world, and must by now know every customs clerk by first name and bribe rating. I also know that I like very much the way he writes, and above all the way he writes his stories, nobody else’s.

1974: Author note for Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year #3, edited by Terry Carr

Like any branch of literature, science fiction reflects the trends of current thinking. Last year Joanna Russ won a Nebula Award for a feminist story entitled “When It Changed”; this year James Tiptree, Jr., offers  a male viewpoint on the same subject. As you might expect, other than the basic theme, there’s very little similarity between the two stories.

1976: Author notes from Aurora: Beyond Equality, an anthology of “amazing tales of the ultimate sexual revolution” edited by Vonda N. McIntyre and Susan Janice Anderson. The Sheldon story included was “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!” and the Tiptree story was “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”

Raccoona Sheldon, a retired teacher who lives in Wisconsin, has published many articles in technical journals but only recently began writing fiction. “Your Faces, O My Sisters,” uses an especially imaginative approach to explore feminist themes.

James Tiptree, Jr., was born near Chicago but spent most of his childhood in Africa and India. Many of his stories show the influence of these and later explorations in extrapolation to alien worlds in a wider view of human potential, and the variability of social systems. In 1974, he won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

1977: Author note for “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Awful Things to Rats,” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year #6, edited by Terry Carr.

James Tiptree, Jr., has been the mystery man of science fiction for the past several years. No one in the sf community had met him or even knew what he did for a living; his address was a post-office box in Virginia, near enough to Washington, D.C. to make some people suspect that Tiptree was a CIA agent or some such. Others, noting Tiptree stories on feminist themes such a “The Women Men Don’t See” and “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” suggested that Tiptree must be a woman.

Tiptree ignored the rumors as much as possible, issuing little personal information out of the conviction that the stories should be judged for themselves, not as products of a known person with all the expectations and usually irrelevant interpretations to which that situation is prey. But early this year Tiptree finally allowed the truth to come out: “he” is Alice B. Sheldon, 61, a married semiretired experimental psychologist who has recently begun publishing science fiction under the name Raccoona Sheldon.

Of Tiptree, Sheldon wrote to me, “I swear he exists, and is in part dictating this. Much as I hesitate to embrace Jungianism, it seems as though one contains shadow-shelves—or maybe something was waiting to get incarnated.”

The news of Tiptree’s identity is already stirring comment. Theodore Sturgeon remarked in a speech prior to the unveiling that all the major new sf writers with the exception of Tiptree were women—“The exception is now gone,” wrote Charles N. Brown when he broke the news in Locus. But Tiptree/Sheldon was right all along, of course: an author’s identity is irrelevant to any given story.”

1978: Author note for “The Screwfly Solution,” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year #7, edited by Terry Carr.

You’re probably more familiar with “Raccoona Sheldon” under her more famous pen-name “James Tiptree, Jr.” Actually, as I explained in last year’s book, her real name is Alice B Sheldon, and most everyone in the field was stunned (and many delighted) to learn that the author who had written so many excellent stories in a crisp, supposedly “masculine” style is a woman…The fact is, of course, that personal data about an author is seldom, if ever, relevant to our enjoyment of stories; what matters is simply the quality of the stories.

1978: Author note for “The Screwfly Solution,” from The 1978 Annual World’s Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim.

[This story] is the sort of thing that readers expect from the mysterious James Tiptree, Jr. And we mention that because Tiptree is no longer a mystery. “He” is the person signing this story. Just add Alice.

1980: Author note for “Slow Music,” from Interfaces: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction edited by Ursula K. Le Guin and Virginia Kidd.

James Tiptree, Jr. is a pseudonym. He is a woman. She is also Raccoona Sheldon. They are an experimental psychologist of great insight, a writer of surpassing strength, and a person of infinite reserve, generosity, and charm.

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(Image from Wikipedia.)

Vintage Science Fiction Readings #6–“But That’s Not Science Fiction”

Ann and I are now in the process of reading for The Big Book of Science Fiction for Vintage, which will appear in 2016. This huge anthology of well over 500,000 words will collect the best and most unusual SF stories from approximately 1900 to 2000. This requires a lot of reading and research. Every so often I will report back in an ad hoc way about current reading related to the anthology. I don’t claim these are systematic reports.

The following excerpt is from Judith Merril’s introduction to George P. Elliott’s “Among the Dangs,” published in the Merril-edited The Year’s Best S-F, 7th Annual Edition, published in 1963. “Among the Dangs” was first published in Esquire.

***

But that’s not science fiction…!

Even my best friends [to invert a paraphrase] keep telling me: That’s not science fiction!

Sometimes they mean it couldn’t be s-f, because it’s good. Sometimes it couldn’t be because it’s not about spaceships or time machines. (Religion or politics or psychology isn’t science fiction—is it?) Sometimes (because some of my best friends are s-f fans they mean it’s not really science fiction—just fantasy or satire or something like that.

On the whole, I think I am very patient. I generally manage to explain again, just a little wearily, what the “S-F” in the title of this book means, and what science fiction is, and why the one contains the other, without being constrained by it. But it does strain my patience when the exclamation is compounded to mean, “Surely you don’t mean to use that in ‘S-F’? That’s not science fiction!”—about a first-rate piece of the honest thing.

For some reason, this comes most often from other editors—and most irritatingly from the editor who first bought and published the story in question, and does not want to think that he printed that kind of story. But the ultimate frustration is to hear the same thing from the editor who is publishing me

[It is hard not to add commentary here, since Ann and I have experienced the same frustration. What the tribalism of genre usually results in is invisibility for some authors and an incomplete understanding of the amazing constellations of fictions that make up the entire SF and fantasy universe. What it does, too, is wear down those editors and writers who try to breach these boundaries, who want to present the complete picture. I’ve rarely read such an evocative description of the frustration inherent in dealing this issue. – JV]

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Leena Krohn Omnibus: Call for Nonfiction

Cheeky Frawg Books is publishing a hardcover Leena Krohn Omnibus consisting of several of her short novels and some short stories.  The publication date is December of this year.

We would also like to publish some nonfiction essays, articles, or appreciations of Krohn’s work in the omnibus. We have no particular length restrictions and reprints are, of course, fine. Academic pieces are fine as are those intended for a more general audience. We have some limited ability to translate into English from various languages and to take some original pieces as well.

Our deadline for receiving materials is April 30, although the earlier the better. We must receive queries prior to April 1. Please provide a description of what you propose with credentials, or an attachment of the piece in question. We have no particular length or format requirements. We can provide more payment details on request.

Krohn is an iconic Finnish writer and we hope in this omnibus to do justice to her fiction. It should go without saying, but we expect anyone who queries to already be very familiar with Krohn’s work.

You can send me email about this project to: vanderworld at hotmail.com. Please note that I am traveling intermittently from February 20 to March 8 and may not answer all email immediately.

 

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Vintage Science Fiction Readings #5–1971-1975, Presented Without Comment

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Ann and I are now in the process of reading for The Big Book of Science Fiction for Vintage, which will appear in 2016. This huge anthology of well over 500,000 words will collect the best and most unusual SF stories from approximately 1900 to 2000. This requires a lot of reading and research. Every so often I will report back in an ad hoc way about current reading related to the anthology. I don’t claim these are systematic reports.

“The dead astronaut: The phrase is filled with anxiety, the words themselves evoking the tension and anguish, the words themselves evoking the tension and anguish that gripped the whole world in that fateful month of April 1970, when a technical malfunction came close to costing the lives of astronauts Lovell, Swigert and Haise…All but one of the stories in this book were originally published before anyone set foot on the moon. And yet these stories foretold the perils of space travel, often with uncanny accuracy and curiously precise detail.

“A case in point is ‘Here Comes John Henry,’ [by Ray Russell] the protagonist of which is a black astronaut. The story was written in 1967, just a week or two before the announcement of the first real-life black astronaut, Major Robert Lawrence (since deceased). That appointment compelled the editors to delay publication of the story for over a year, to help dispel any erroneous assumptions that the fictional astronaut was based, even remotely, on Major Lawrence.” – from the introduction to the Playboy anthology The Dead Astronaut, published 1971

“Some of the ideological declarations that have been made concerning the New Wave have been as meaningless as they have been asinine. Proponents of so-called traditional science fiction have declared that the New Wave does not exist, while out of the other sides of their mouths attacking this supposedly nonexistent phenomenon as nihilistic, anti-rational, involuted, and a threat to the special virtues that supposedly distinguish science fiction from the ‘mainstream.’ For their part, some of the writers and critics who have become associated with the label New Wave…have expended a great deal of energy in attempting to substitute the label ‘speculative fiction’ for the label ‘science fiction’ when classifying their own product.” – from Norman Spinrad’s introduction to The New Tomorrows, described on the first page as “a predestined collision of fifteen first-rate stories of somewhat scientific speculative fiction”, published 1971

“[In The Mirror of Infinity anthology,] James Blish, that most erudite and academic of sf authors, can be discovered mourning the loss of the stringent plotting demands of the extinct pulps, and giving a little succinct advice about the art which gave rise to Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula (an invaluable work, to be found on the shelves of all those much loved and sadly departed masters of interplanetary adventure). Who would remember Whip Queens of the Scarlet Asteroid, Mr. Blish implies, if that narrative of courage in extremity had not been founded on a ‘sympathetic character with whom the reader can identify’?…[followed by discussions of types of sympathy, bad and good in the writer’s estimation and reviews of novels by Blish and Jack Story, which leads to…] If the genre as a whole imagines that it has somehow become worthwhile [because of mainstream attention], that its relationship to real life has been consummated, because a few men have walked on the moon, then it had better stop and think. Because until…the Master Plot Formula and Mr. Blish’s ‘sympathetic viewpoint character’ are replaced by a little observation of reality and human understanding, it will never become relevant to anything.” – from M. John Harrison’s essay “The Problem of Sympathy” in New Worlds Quarterly #4, published 1972

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