The Periodic Table of Women in SF–Awesome!

Diana Comet and Sandra McDonald put together this totally awesome short video of a periodic table of women in SF–and I’m not just saying that because my wife Ann is on it. It’s got lovely pacing, it embeds a lot of information, and made me smile more than a few times.

There’s also a PDF version, but there should really be a poster version, too!

The Smell of the Weird: Sniffing Books

In going through our library and acquiring books for our reading for The Weird antho, I’ve noticed once again the smell of books, and in particular the smell of the weird. Herein I disclose Part 1 of my findings, with a relatively small sample.

Jean Ray’s Ghouls in My Grave dates from 1965, and thus there’s a full-on must surrounding this slim paperback. The cover’s foxed and there are a couple of peculiar gray stains on the binding that add to the ambiance. The scent surrounding the book like a mist is a subtle yet sharp melange of cigar smoke, mold, gravel, and something in the background I can’t quite identify no matter how long I sniff Ghouls. Dry earth? Anyway, this is a classic case of the aging of a book creating the perfect smell for its subject matter. Indeed, one might speculate from this sampling that some reading experiences will only have the appropriate tactile element after an aging process has occurred. (Taken to its furthest extreme, Kerouac would require steeping in years of cross-country buses and cars and anything by Bukowski would need to be marinated in a bar for decades.)

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Weird Loot, Entering the House


(Sleeping cats for a Friday.)

First of all, happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Ann!! (Okay, so her birthday is tomorrow, but I’m not online tomorrow.)

Second of all, I did an interview with writer and editor Maurice Broaddus on Omnivoracious. I really love this interview–it’s one of my favorites. Go check it out.

So…we went down to one of the local used bookstores yesterday, thinking “Maybe we can pick up a couple of anthologies or author collections of use for weird and other projects”…only to find more than 200 titles, mostly in old Doubleday or Book Club editions–part of a collection sold by an elderly man moving to a smaller house.

An unseemly feeding frenzy ensued, and close to half of that collection now resides in our house.

It’s fascinating going through these older books. First off, there’s not as much of a reliance on names–they’re absent from some front covers entirely–and more of an emphasis on “hey, you’re about to read some great stories.” New writers appear several times, and there’s a value assigned to publishing new writers expressed in the introductions to several of these anthos. I don’t find that to be the case, generally, with present-day anthologies from large publishers, which fixate on big names as the best or easiest way to generate sales.

And, yep, women appear in these books, sometimes in quantity (although I haven’t looked through all of them yet), and especially in Marvin Kaye’s anthologies there’s a good balance of type of story and also lots of great stories by writers like Joanna Russ, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Joyce Carol Oates, etc. Indeed, there’s at least one story by Rabindranath Tagore in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown. In addition, there are translations either picked up in reprint or commissioned for a particular antho. (Full Spectrum 3 isn’t pictured here, but it features two translations.) In Foundations of Fear, not pictured here, edited by David Hartwell you can find stories by Daphne Du Maurier, Octavia Butler, and more.

This all by way of saying that with regard to the SFX stupidity in not featuring any women in its special horror issue…maybe we shouldn’t let a few asshats define how we think women in horror are or have been represented. Castigate the asshats, yes, but don’t let them define the overall experience. Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy Magazine have all published excellent creepy/horrific stories by women over the last few years, there have been many anthologies with great horror by women, and some of the top editors interested in horror include Ellen Datlow and my wife, Ann VanderMeer, just to name two. (Indeed, all SFX had to do is email Ellen or Ann and ask who to feature and they could’ve had a cornucopia of women.)

One other interesting note before the book photos…one of the books is Dreams that Burn in the Night, by Craig Strete, who writes using a lot of Native American themes. This collection comes with a blurb from Jorge Luis Borges as well as James Tiptree Jr, and one story is co-written with Michael Bishop. The stories, in my opinion, are among those that haven’t dated well. But, given that he apparently was up for the Hugo and the Nebula and no one’s really heard of him today (except for this mention; scroll down), it’s a cautionary note for all of us writer types–see also the Peter Tate collection (who?). Here today, gone tomorrow. Bwaahahahaahaha.

Any observations about these covers? They’re drab in many cases, but, honestly, I prefer drab to the pseudo-Romance covers so popular today, with characters represented. I really don’t want any image of the characters in my head other than the one provided by the words inside.

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The Reading in the Closet

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer and designer. He also blogs at his home site, The Gist, and his game/story operation, Gameplaywright.net.

What’s happening here? This is Jeff VanderMeer perched and balanced above his audience during his reading in Manuel’s Tavern’s storage closet in Atlanta on Friday. Why have a reading in a bar? In the closet? Because at least it’s quiet.

manuels10

Thanks to all who came out to the reading in Manuel’s on Friday. Thanks for following us into an unlikely venue and being great sports about it. One day we shall tell the others that you were there that day, for the readings on the closet ladder, atop the televisions, in the back room of an ATL bar. The others won’t understand, but that night wasn’t meant to be understood. It was meant for stories. So: Cheers.

Update: Here’s are nine more images from the night, on Flickr.

Got pictures from the event? Share them in the comments!

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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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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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?