Also, just a note that our Shared Worlds feature on Karin Lowachee, our Amazon.com writer-in-residence, is now up at the SW website.
I am in New Hampshire at the moment, with a short break hanging out at Matt Cheney’s house before driving on to Newport and then to Richmond, Virginia, with the goal of winding up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, by Friday—in preparation for teaching at the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp for two weeks.
Stonecoast: Memory and Fantasy
It’s been an eventful and fun time on the road thus far. I started out in Maine, giving a presentation at the Stonecoast MFA program and then doing a reading that night. I had a wonderful time. The Stonecoast house is near the water and the grounds are lovely. I stepped out of the car and all of the stress in my body just left me…and then came back as I came to realize we wouldn’t be able to print the notes to my presentation. But someone—someone miraculous whose name I’ve lost—managed to do a kind of split screen thing where the slides showed up for the audience and my notes, on the same computer, just showed up for me…
The presentation was on Memory, History, and Fantasy: Urban Landscapes and Characterization, focusing on my novel Finch—basically swooping down from an eagle-eye view to a street-level view to talk about the ways in which characterization and settings interact. It’s not presented like Finch is the be-all and end-all, as that would be presumptuous, and indeed I told the audience that what I was about to show them was predicated on an ideal of the novel, including thoughts I’d had about it since publication. Since it was an MFA group, I thought I’d just bring it re the complexity and have the visual element and some bullet point lists strewn throughout help make it not too dense.
One of the central ideas of the presentation is that spaces and buildings are not neutral, inert things in novels—or shouldn’t always been seen as such. That in fact structures are important opportunities in fiction, related to characterization. I tie this into the following idea, a note from the presentation: “Everything we see around us, whether functional or decorative, once existed in someone’s imagination. Every building, every fixture, every chair, every table, every vase, every road, every toaster. The world we live in is largely a manifestation of many individual and collective imaginations applied to the task of altering reality.” I like to pull back to the abstract level here because it helps the audience to envision these elements as not inert but as kinetic and alive at the level of idea and metaphor.
Stepan Chapman’s incredible 1997 novel The Troika, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, is now once again available to readers—in e-book form. Originally published by my Ministry of Whimsy Press, this new, definitive author’s version has been published as a joint venture of Ministry of Whimsy (now an imprint of Neil Clarke’s Wyrm Publishing) and Cheeky Frawg. Neil has a post about how to order it. (Thanks to my Ministry partner back in 1997, Tom Winstead, for making it possible to publish the book.)
When it came out, the novel was perhaps the most reviewed science fiction novel of the year, garnering a ton of critical praise. It was also the first independent press title to ever win the PKD Award. Beneath the cut, find a teaser from my original introduction to this new e-book edition…
Recently, we hiked the Lone Cone Trail up the mountain on Meares Island, near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. You have to hire a boat to take you over to the island—on a wave-smashing ride—and it’s a very difficult trail, with a steep incline, and many times we didn’t even think we were on a trail—you couldn’t really tell trail from non-trail. It usually takes about five hours, but it took us over six due to the truly treacherous conditions—it was one muddy, aggressively ascending, tree-blocked, gully choked amazing experience. The craziest part is having to clamber up a ravine of huge fallen tree trunks and limbs…like, literally crawling up it over top of these fallen trees. We’ve hiked mountains in Australia and California but nothing like this.
I asked Ann what she learned from the experience and these were the top five things:
1—Little trees are my friends.
2—Rocks with green moss are not my friends.
3—Not all mud is squishy.
4—I can climb over a sh*tload of solid tree trunks on an extreme incline.
5—Jeff’s feet are bigger than mine, so I can follow in his footsteps.
More about the hike under the cut…
We’re headed down to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (Orlando). Thursday morning, I’m reading from my monstrous novel Borne and Friday Ann has two panels (editing/copyright) and I have one (rethinking the canon). Looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
Meanwhile, our celebration of the ICFA theme of the monstrous continues over at Weirdfictionreview.com. Everyone from Kelly Link and China Mieville to Genevieve Valentine and Ekaterina Sedia, Lisa Tuttle and Theodora Goss. Free downloads, fiction, nonfiction, and more.
Pretty much everything Cheryl Morgan says here about panels makes sense to me. It’d be really nice, too, if con organizers as a rule got ahead of this issue and didn’t put participants in the position of having to suggest female panelists or to point out the problem.
The Philip K. Dick Award finalists were announced today, and I’ve got a short piece up on Omnivoracious taking a brief look at the nominees. Go check it out!
Matt Cheney writes about current awards-complaining in the context of just being named a judge himself.
It brought back memories of being a World Fantasy Award judge. I still remember when they announced our consensus winner, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore I was sitting in the banquet room with a prominent NY editor for a genre imprint right in my line of sight. As Murakami’s name was announced her face twisted into a mask of anger and disbelief. Which along with some general muttering made me worry about getting out of the room unscathed.
Later, another editor generously tried to rationalize the decision by finding six degrees of separation between Murakami and the genre subculture, as if membership in that subculture was a prerequisite for receiving the award. Someone else told me it wasn’t right the award had gone to someone who wasn’t one of us—again, referring to the subculture. I then had to sit through a lecture from a fellow writer about how Kafka on the Shore wasn’t the best Murakami, and ergo wasn’t worthy of the win…despite the fact at the time I’d read everything Murakami had ever written and thus could at least be said to have some perspective on it all…and definitely not in need of the lecture. Later still, some stuck the “blame” for that choice on me, even though it had been a book put forward by another judge and the decision had been unanimous.
All I know is…that year we read thousands and thousands of pages of material and also exchanged over 5,000 emails as judges. We gave it all our undivided attention and debated all of it, and dealt with it all honestly.
There is always plenty of room for debate and for honest differences of opinions, and it’s important when looking at finalist lists and the winner lists that for judged awards most of the time the judges spend hundreds of hours reading and re-reading and agonizing. And there’s no way to get it completely right. But for most judges, the process is one that creates a further love for fantastical literature and a determination to be as fair as possible.