Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SKINJUMPERS published!

Posted On 2:12 PM by Christopher Fletcher 1 comments

It's been a long time coming, but M-Brane Press has a fresh new book out in the world as of today: Skinjumpers by Michael D. Griffths, with a vivid front cover by Hannah Walsh. This is a book that I committed to so long ago that I was still living in The Exile in OKC when I first announced it. I remember sitting at my desk there informing the Twitterati about it. And I returned from Exile three years ago, so it's been a while. Several issues of the first year of M-Brane SF Magazine during 2009 and 2010 featured a serial of short fiction by Mike concerning the adventures of the Enforcer Dak and his body-swapping partner Erin in the deadly city of New Cluster. This new novel continues their tale in a big way, but it is not necessary to have read the original stories to enjoy this new one. It stands alone just fine. I placed a preface in the front of the book, the text of which I will copy below. It's for sale now on Amazon and will show up elsewhere shortly.


PREFACE to Skinjumpers
I first encountered the world of Skinjumpers—a strange and dangerous milieu—in a short story that the author submitted at the end of 2008 to my then-fledgling zine M-Brane SF. The story “A Clone of a Different Color” introduced New Cluster, a decaying city in an unspecified future and location, run by a corrupt and authoritarian police-state structure that resembles a mafia as much as a government and which is shot through with struggles among various factions. But it was not the post-cyberpunk veneer of this tale that appealed to me, but rather its subversive core conceit that people can move their consciousnesses, their very selves, from one body to another and somehow remain whole.

Specifically, the first Skinjumper tale evoked a topic that I’d wondered about a lot before I’d read that story: if I somehow change bodies (a perennial fantasy of mine), am I still me? Is there even actually a “me” outside my physicality? This remains a vexing question that we may—within the lifetimes of people reading this—have answered for us when we find out whether or not it is possible to separate consciousness from the body, move it into another body or possibly into a computer construct and learn whether that consciousness can survive intact or if it will be radically altered by the nature of its new physical form. I’ve wondered whether my “selfness” is really somehow a wholly different thing than my body in the way that humans tend to believe it is or if all I am is simply the compound of the literal physical stuff of my body. Is that which makes me an individual, a consciousness, actually a real thing that can be taken out of my body by some sort of futuristic instrumentality and moved elsewhere? Or is my body’s physical gender, its chromosomes, its genitalia, its sexual orientation, its age and condition and experience inseparable from the “me” of me? We don’t know this answer yet in the real world, but in the world of Skinjumpers, the answer is no: we can separate from our bodies and remain ourselves. We can even become even more our real selves by doing so.

In Michael D. Griffiths’ series of Skinjumper short stories that I published in M-Brane SF, and in this novel, a lot of questions are left unanswered. One is not given a detailed rationale as to why things are the way they are in New Cluster, but the reader doesn’t really need one either. The titular Skinjumpers threaten the social order and draw the fire of the authorities because (among other reasons) they are sex-rebels. They not only change bodies and cheat death by “jumping” into cloned replacements, but they can change physical gender. Some of them choose to do so permanently. In this story, you will meet Erin, a young woman whom you may underestimate at first because of the way she chooses to present herself. She is the long-term girlfriend of our protagonist Dak. But Dak has a particular sexual kink that is fabulously enabled in this world: he is oriented toward men who inhabit female bodies. Erin was once a guy and still somehow is even within her unambiguously feminine physical form. But she seems to not quite fit into our current understanding of LGBTQ-ness either. She and he are a shade different than what is enabled by or even understood in our so-called “real” world. Underneath their more or less conventional gender self-portrayals, they are both fascinatingly queer.

I am brought back to my original wondering about whether all this is possible and plausible. If I could move from my own body into that of a female, would I still be basically the same person, a gay male but somehow with a female physicality like that of Erin? What if I moved into the physicality of a straight guy? Or that of a one hundred-year- old man or a ten-year-old boy? Or even a younger clone of myself? Skinjumpers proposes, with great enthusiasm, that it is all possible: you can have the body you want and still be you—and maybe even a better “you.” It’s wonderfully subversive in the world of New Cluster in almost the same way that simply not being straight can be in our real world.

Now, please relax, turn the page, and recline into a world where your body is not a permanent boundary.




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Thoughts on THE WANTING SEED

Posted On 9:10 PM by Christopher Fletcher 1 comments


Usually someone gives me an Amazon gift card around the holidays, and annually I use that as justification for the delivery of a bunch of books I might not otherwise have purchased—and, of course, I always way exceed the gift card’s value in doing so. Among this season’s haul is a nice Norton trade paperback (not pictured here) reprint of Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed, his other futuristic dystopia, written and published at about the same time as his more famous A Clockwork Orange, and which dwells upon some of that book’s same themes of whether human goodness is innate or not, and what, if any, kind of government or social order can foster the best sort of behavior in people.

Since the book is readily available, and summaries of it abound online, I won’t detail its plot overly much, but it’s generally about a social transition that occurs in England during an unspecified future era, and the things that happen to a few closely connected characters during that period. The world is somewhat Orwellian, with a fair amount of Newspeak-style short-word jargon, but it’s not ruled by quite the same sort of repressive totalitarianism as Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Ingsoc regime. Instead, as the story opens, England is part of a multinational state called the “Enspun” (Newspeak for the English Speaking Union), which in turn is part of a world order that also includes the “Ruspun” (Russian-speaking, naturally), and its government and society is in what is described as a “liberal” phase. More on these phases later, but contemporary American Teabaggers and moral majoritarians would eat this stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because the excesses of far-future liberalism, according to Burgess’s future-world, include: Forced Abortion! One-Child-Only Policy! Self-Sterilization! No Religion at All! The Intermixing of the Races! and, most obnoxious of all, Glorified Homosexuality!

Burgess was a comic novelist primarily—even A Clockwork Orange with all its horror is frequently laugh-out-loud funny—and his wit is baked thoroughly into the cake of his writing style, his word choices and multi-lingual jokes and seriously enormous vocabulary (who ever actually says “eleemosynary" several times in a single book, really?), his unexpected and sometimes weird metaphors, and jokes that are drawn out over long sections of the novel. For example, a secondary character’s odd verbal tic—he peppers his speech constantly with the phrase “do you see”—comes back eventually as the highlight of a stupidly funny scene well after one has probably forgotten all about it. So The Wanting Seed is super-funny fairly often, but…but…

But it’s also chockfull of homophobia and racism, do you see.  I’m not generally one to criticize dead writers and their work based on these things when they and it are of a period in history a lot different than now, and when the work is not primarily all about those issues. Also, I know that social change in England and America on issues like race and homosexuality has happened more rapidly in recent decades than it did during most of the twentieth century. I get it that everyone who has ever written fiction tends to have been a creature of his or her own era. For example, I strenuously disagree with a lot of other readers and writers in the spec fic genres who think that we ought to jettison H.P. Lovecraft and ignore his influence on the genres because he was a typical man of his culture—a turn-of-the-20th century New England white man freighted with tons of racist prejudices and patrician class biases. Unattractive? Sure as hell it is. But he didn’t write Mein Kampf. He may have been insensitive to and fearful of and uncharitable toward the Other but he wasn’t on an explicit mission to oppress people and didn’t actively work at promoting a hate-agenda with his work. One might think the same about Burgess, a man of his time, certainly not on a hate-crusade. Yet I winced and was annoyed every single time, while reading The Wanting Seed, when I encountered a stereotypical or straight-up mythical characterization of gay men and every time I encountered a reference to the non-English “races” and their attributes.
           
And they are legion:

This novel is hung heavy with the preposterous conception that a majority of straight men (they in the yoke of population-control “liberalism”) will actively feign homosexuality in order to secure career advancement, and that to feign such an (obviously) undesirable condition, one must simper and caper and lisp and have their balls cut off and otherwise cultivate faux-“effeminate” characteristics, and such references dot this tale almost from cover to cover, fading out only toward the end (when society has changed blessedly back to hetero-normal). Also, there eventually comes into being a brutal security force, crewed entirely by homo men, with a mandate to oppress the breeding straights, and which resembles somewhat the thuggery of Alex and his droogs in Clockwork (I must admit that this development appealed to me rather more than a little bit after chapters of homo-cliché…but still). But this is purely a satire, right? A joke, right? Maybe. More on that in a minute.

It’s also larded through with race business. Asians are small-boned and high-pitched in voice. Africans are huge, frightening. One of them, a Nigerian, has such a large mouth that it beggars the imagination that he is able to pronounce properly the sounds of English (he also seems endowed with a supernatural number of teeth). One woman is an “orchestra” of races, indecipherable as to her whole complex lineage. Again and again it is commented upon when non-white people appear, as if they are anomalous even in this future society of the Enspun which is supposedly past having such worries. Never is a non-white man mentioned without also mentioning some supposedly intimidating or unflattering characteristic of his appearance or behavior. It’s a multi-racial world with a lot of white people worrying overly much about mixing it up, and the reader is reminded of this all the time and by an uncritical narrative voice. However far in the future this England is, it’s still the ideal social norm to be white, rather patrician, and more than a bit scared.

Oh wait, how about sexism? From cover to cover, it’s this novel’s stock in trade, perhaps even more so than homophobia and racism. In the far-flung future of the Enspun, even when having babies is state-discouraged and literally illegal if you’ve had one already (even one that died young), women still don’t seem to have any reason to exist at all other than for reproduction. There is not anywhere in The Wanting Seed, a novel replete with incidental characters, a single occurrence of a professional woman other than a servant nor any sort of woman not in the thrall of an undesirable man and his broken-down jalopy of a social order. Which is just plain bizarre given the rest of this story’s trappings. I could embrace this more readily as the reader if the author didn’t seem to be tacitly in alliance with that social order.

Burgess proposed an idea of cyclical social/political history. It’s indicated in A Clockwork Orange, but elucidated more fully in The Wanting Seed. Basically, the organization of human affairs turns again and again from a “Pelagian” phase to an “Augustinian” phase, with a tumultuous transitional period in between. The names for the phases refer to the theologians Pelagius and Augustine. To very crudely summarize it, Pelagius believed that humans are basically decent and can be prodded toward good works and ultimate spiritual redemption, free of the Original Sin. Augustine, on the other hand, subscribed to the concept of Original Sin and pretty much assumed that humans had no chance at all short of redemption by way of submission to the Christian faith’s most doctrinaire doctrine. In the novel, Burgess’s protagonist calls these phases, in Newspeak fashion, the Pelphase and the Gusphase, with a transitional Interphase. As the story get under way, we gradually learn that the Pelphase is ending and a violent Interphase is beginning. What’s striking about these developments is that they appear to have little at all to do with the specific actions of the government of the time. Indeed, the Prime Minister, in one scene, lazes about in bed ignoring attempts at soothing from his “catamite,” oblivious to and helpless against the turning of the historical wheel that is happening around him. The protagonist explains to his social studies students early in the novel that the actions of parties and parliaments had eventually come to be irrelevant over the ages because the affairs of people just somehow naturally cycle from Pelphase to Interphase to Gusphase, and do so with a consistency that can be seen again and again in the historical record.

This book is comedic and satirical, but it feels as if its author’s views on things like race, gender and sexuality have passed almost unfiltered into it, because the comedy and satire seems never aimed inward at those biases. Though he indicates a calm and unworried supposition that the transition from Pelphase (liberal) to Gusphase (conservative) and back again, over and over, is the normal order of things, his own authorial alliance seems clearly with the Gusphase and its return to traditional roles for women (breeding stock), non-white races (scary, undesirable) and gays (outlawed). But why does this bug me more in Burgess’s book than it would if I’d encountered it in something written a half-century or more before it (like Lovecraft) or even from someone else from Burgess’s own time period who didn't delve into spec fic? I think it's because that he chose a couple of times to write science fiction in an era when he should have been more progressive. And also because he was in fact a real intellectual, world-traveled, an internationalist, and should have somehow just been too modern to have been so reactionary about social change. It’s almost like the reason that I don’t cut any slack for Orson Scott Card. Though in the case of Card, there is much less excuse: he is a currently living, producing writer who is also actively promulgating a crazy-ass view of things for political reasons. It's maybe because Burgess is a bit too recent, and that’s probably not a rational reason, but there it is anyway. But it does somehow feel different when Burgess refers to the weird and frightful attributes of the various races (the non-English people) than when Lovecraft gives the cat in “The Rats in the Walls” the name “Nigger Man” or when Card openly calls for the toppling of the United States government should gay marriage become legal (even while he continues to milk the gay-ass Enderverse for all its worth).

Since the course of real-world history seems always, in fits and starts, to be toward greater tolerance, inclusiveness and equality among various peoples, I think it gets under my skin when science fiction writers are so aggressively not progressive, and it bugs me more the closer they are to being my contemporaries. I can deal better with Lovecraft’s bigotries because his work is most of century in the past and it was never principally about being a bigot. I cannot deal with Card because he is currently working and is actively and deliberately a bigot. Burgess is somewhere in between. He came of age before the Second World War, but he saw the world from a position of great privilege after it—even living for a while in a motorhome on the Continent as a tax exile from Britain because he was so well-to-do and didn’t like paying his taxes. Because he was such a good stylist of a prose that can be so much fun to read, I wish that I could read The Wanting Seed without all these annoyances that repeatedly made me trip and stall during my hours with this book. 

In fairness, it's true that some of these things can easily be spotted in other British spec fic of the period, particularly in regards to the assumption that the English are the most accomplished race of people ever (a bias that white Americans inherited and still cultivate aggressively even now). For example, in J.G. Ballard's The Wind From Nowhere, we learn that the ever-accelerating titular wind is blowing to the ground all the shoddy cities and hovels of most of the rest of the world at a point where it has only reached the level of a nuisance in stoutly-built London. 

But, really? Extra teeth? A mouth so large, do you see.
           
But, on the other side of the ledger, The Wanting Seed does fairly pillory war and all the frauds surrounding it with some very funny comedy and satire. Later in the book, as the world passes out of the Interphase and into the Gusphase, a professional army is raised, its function: war. But the world has known no war in generations, England has no real infrastructure for it, and no particular enemy to fight, (shades of 1984 where it remains unclear whether Oceania’s perpetual enemies even actually exist). So the War Department—now not even a department of government but rather a private contractor—creates the illusion of such, shanghaiing people into the army, duping them with mock campaigns, noises of battle literally blasted over loudspeakers from record players. It’s all a scam to create corpses for the processed food industry and to provide a useful lie to sedate the public. As a character very cannily observes, perpetual war is perpetually popular so long as it has no impact on day-to-day civilian life. “Civilians love war,” it is noted, so long as they can continue to be civilians during it. It sounds very, very familiar and timely.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The delayed re-launch further delayed!

Posted On 5:57 PM by Christopher Fletcher 2 comments

Egads! This place needs a good dusting and general tidying-up! When last I visited this, the official website of the M-Brane SF Magazine, I was mired in intense day-jobbery and still undergoing a bit of sadness over having ended the monthly run of the zine. I posted over there under "Writer's Guidelines" that I'd get things relaunched in 2012 and news would forthcome. But then it didn't. The great Ralan (of the site where editors notify of the existence of their publications and writers find their guidelines), mailed me a few days ago, noted that 2012 had passed and 2013 had set in without another breath of life from the supposed M-Brane re-launch, and wondered if all was well.

The zine?

So, for anyone who may still care, here's an update. Yes, I do wish to resurrect M-Brane SF. I love it, it was great, and want to do more. But I haven't decided on the best way to do it yet, and maybe somebody will give me some opinions on it. The old format of monthly issues got to be too much. So I think it needs to be something with either less frequency or less content. Maybe it could be monthly still but only one or two stories? Or a quarterly with a few more? Should it be a free web-posted thing? I will probably still always want to compile print anthos, like I did for the last twelves issues of the old zine, the four print Quarterlies, which were beautiful thanks to the unbelievably imaginative writers who filled them. But the subscription model for the electronic version never did work very well, and was a giant pain in the ass to maintain. In fact, I did not maintain it. At all. There were some readers who paid for a subscription back during the beginning of the first year and ended up getting all three years of it without ever renewing and with me never once bothering them about it. Basically, I hate selling stuff and I hate the fuck outta fundraising. The whole sales/money-finding aspect of editing and writing and publishing never was the thing for me, and I know that clearly now after the experience of M-Brane SF. So, yes, I think the new zine will be freely available online. And I will probably still do print versions of it for fun. And then I need to figure out what I can pay writers, how or if I am going to have some kind of income stream for it in order to fund those payments, and so on.

Whatever form the re-launch takes, I think I need to offer up much higher pay for the writers (even if I can't figure out how to fund it, which I probably won't because I will not engage in anything more than the most passive fundraising activities). During the final year of the old zine, its pages were filled with writers who were either already pros or have since become so, and I considered myself lucky to have had my pick of such good content. I am not even sure why that happened, and I am too modest to think that some kind of weird respectability and cachet had evolved around my modest publication, such that certain authors would take my paltry compensation for their work in exchange for an appearance in its pages.

But then that becomes a whole new problem: if the new M-Brane SF pays significantly more than the old one did and reaches a wider audience (due to the new free-everywhere format), then I am going to be faced with an even larger mountain of slush than ever before. Because sf writers who sub to the micro- and small-press pubs naturally work down the list from those who pay something to those who pay a little bit and then to those who pay nothing. Even though it is basically impossible for anyone--even the most established pro--to make any kind of noticeable money from short fiction anymore, the tendency is still naturally to try for at least some. Which leads me to the other thing I don't really want to do, try to recruit uncompensated slush-readers. Because the day I re-open to submissions, I am going to be swamped. That's what slowed me down so much during those last few issues of the old zine: I was buried in "real life" work and buried under heaps of M-Brane subs that I had to cull ruthlessly, some by barely reading their first sentences. No way to live, and not fair to the writers.  So, do I ask for help? Not sure right now.

Other stuff:

In other news, there is some new and pending activity in the broader M-Brane Press itself. I am finally, after about three years of promising it, rolling out Mike Griffith's Skinjumper novel. That's hopefully on the February docket, and I'll announce it officially as soon as a couple details are settled. The new, and (alas) final, issue of Fantastique Unfettered is finally about ready to roll out after some delay. But the wait will be worth it. And then there's some rumor and hearsay afloat regarding a possible new antho (something to do with "aether" of all things) and maybe a short fiction collection from a major figure in the M-Brane expanded universe and the vague possibility that I may just go ahead and expose my own nearly-done WIP if I don't get immediate agreement-of-awesomeness from some other pub, we will see (it's not more Justin Bieber fan fiction, btw!). I'm also considering a follow-up to Things We Are Not (the queer antho from 2009), but maybe with some kind of very specific hook or semi-shared reality for all the stories.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Crossed Genres close to becoming a PROzine

Posted On 5:37 PM by Christopher Fletcher 1 comments

Below is an update from publisher Bart Leib of Crossed Genres (posted to the Outer Alliance list earlier) about their Kickstarter campaign to raise sufficient funds to elevate their wonderful magazine as a SFWA pro-rates-paying market for fiction. If you can help out at all, please do so. They are offering some nice incentives, and it would be terrific to see CG at pro-paying level. I've always had a lot of liking for that zine and for Bart and Kay personally. Like M-Brane SF, their zine ran on a monthly schedule in electronic and print formats, and also managed some very cool stand-alone book projects, and we had a lot in common as far as the kind of stories we liked, including an openness to and desire for socially progressive material. Our ToCs over our overlapping period of publication included a lot of the same writers, which always made me happy. Also, I was very proud to have one of my own stories published in CG about two years ago, an item that I wrote to fit that issue's theme. I was very happy with the story, but  I wasn't sure it was going to find a home elsewhere if it didn't work for CG, so I was thrilled when it was accepted and I showed it off far and wide when it went live not just because it was my story but because it was my story in a zine that I was a big fan of.


Hi all,

I apologize for multiple posts on this. But we're down to the wire and we need a last, big push! After saving Crossed Genres from extinction, we're trying to raise funds so that CG Magazine can pay SFWA-level pro rates for fiction! We've managed to get our Kickstarter up to $11,361 - that's over 80% of our stretch goal! Butwe still need $2,639 more, and we have only 55 hours left!

No matter what, CG Magazine will continue to encourage and publish progressive, inclusive fiction. We want to be able to compensate authors better than token payments for their excellent work! 

Also, as a market that always wants to support and help develop new/emerging authors, if we reach our goal we intend to implement a "Spotlight" feature, where each month a new author gets their first pro sale, as well as an interview and hopefully some extra promotion as well.

More info about WHY we're pursuing pro rates is in this post: http://dft.ba/-2NUa

There are some great pledge rewards: you can preorder ebooks of everything we publish through 2013 for just $25, or add all our current titles (7) to that for $45! There are t-shirts and photo prints (including the well-loved cover of our LGBTQ issue by Julie Dillon), signed or OOP books, even one or two short story critiques still available! And ANY pledge of $25 or more gets ebooks of the 2013 year of CG Magazine FREE!

Please support our efforts with a pledge, or help spread the word with a blog post, FaceBook Like, tweet, or sharing via word of mouth. We have until 5pm Eastern time on Friday!

Kickstarter main page: http://kck.st/LdGatJ

Thanks!
-Bart



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quarterly #4 is out (finally)

Posted On 8:35 PM by Christopher Fletcher 2 comments

I finally managed the long-delayed publication of the M-Brane SF Quarterly #4, compiling in print form the fiction from the last of the electronic issues of M-Brane SF. It's a really nice book with a lot of interesting entries from a lot of really fine creators. It's up now on Amazon and should appear shortly on B&N, and it marks the conclusion of the zine's regular operations. Details still to come on future projects for M-Brane Press.

Speaking of B&N, I just noticed that a number of back-issues of the zine have materialized there as Nook ebooks, which struck me as quite odd since I had never created Nook versions of them. But evidently some of the print versions that I made available from Lulu back in the day were converted by Lulu. I vaguely recall being aware of them doing this some time ago and not responding one way or another on whether I wanted this done. I guess it explains why I still periodically receive very tiny little royalty payments from Lulu even though I haven't used their print-on-demand service for M-Brane projects in a very long time. I have no idea what these issues might look like or behave like in Nook form, but they are there.

Hopefully nobody would mind too much if I returned to this site periodically to just point out things or issue updates on stuff that is interesting or stuff that I am reading, like I used to do back in the day. In recent times, I have felt kind of isolated because I have so busy with my work life, and I miss saying stuff here and in my Live Journal. But things are calming down a bit at work, and I have no regular publication deadlines for a while, and I am doing a little bit of writing again, so I think I'd feel more "normal" if I posted stuff once in a while. So I'll try to do that more often.


Monday, February 20, 2012

M-Brane SF #30 released; downloadable for free right here

Posted On 5:28 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

The new issue of M-Brane SF is available now, for free download, by clicking right here. It features the following great new stories.


Travis King "Stumptown Physics: Toward a Unified Theory of Infinite Probability Amplitudes, Elective Affinity, and Amanda Palmer"
Mary E. Lowd "A Second Enchanted Evening"
Chris Stamp "Dandelion and Gossamer"
Corin Reyburn "Endangered Species"
Andy Dudak "The Blind Can't Hear the Stars"
Sevan Taylor "Long Haul"
Robert Drake "The Vitruvius Project"
Margaret Karmazin "Watch Over Me"
Christian Arrowmaker "Mirrors"
Jude-Marie Green "Shiver"


It also happens to be the final issue of the normal run of this zine. I am planning a return with a different format later this year, but for now, this is it. Last night I posted some comments and reflections about this.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Acknowledgments; M-Brane #30

Posted On 11:22 PM by Christopher Fletcher 4 comments

The following is from my rather lengthy editor's notes section from M-Brane SF #30, due to release tomorrow, Monday. It contains some overdue acknowledgments for some people who made it possible for me to do the zine and the books for three years. 


Three years ago when I published M-Brane SF #1, I wondered if anyone would ever notice or care, and I did not imagine that there would ever be a #30. Beginning this zine in the first place was a thing I had been wanting to do for years previously, but I began it more or less in the dark, not sure exactly how I’d even make its existence known to anyone. I wasn’t sure it was even worth the effort at all, but as a thing to do with my time it helped bring me out of a very depressing period of my life in part because it ended up connecting me, through social media, with a huge cadre of comrades that I’d never have met otherwise.

This new issue is the last of its kind. M-Brane SF will reincarnate later this year in a new form, but these regular monthly issues (yeah, I know it’s been seven months since the last one) must end now for reasons of personal time management. So before we start reading this thirtieth batch of stories, I want to acknowledge a few of the many people who were integral to life on the Brane over the last three years:

Brandon H. Bell, author and editor. He appeared in M-Brane SF #1 and in a couple other issues, and wrote the gorgeous novella Elegant Threat, which I published as one half of the M-Brane SF Double #1 last year. He also founded and edited our lovely, incomparable sister zine, the print-only beauty Fantastique Unfettered. He conceived the Aether Age shared universe and co-edited the anthology with me. And he’s been my very good friend this whole time, too. We have never met in person, but I feel like I know him as well as almost anybody in my immediate meatspace.

Prolific Writers: Rick Novy, Derek J. Goodman and Michael D. Griffiths supplied me constantly with entertaining and thought-provoking stories and made my job a lot easier, especially during the rocky early months of the zine when I wasn’t drawing as much attention from writers as I’d have liked. All three of these guys are involved in M-Brane Press books projects: Rick Novy’s (as editor) 2020 Visions, a seriously good antho of very near-future SF; Derek J. Goodman’s Machina, a lovely quartet of novellas that I wish to hell more people would buy (get thee to Amazon!); and Michael D. Griffith’s Skinjumper is forthcoming this year. This is a novel-length sequel to a series of shorts that I ran in M-Brane SF, and which I will repackage in book form with the new novel.

Random Actors of Kindness: Writer Dan Tannenbaum, out of pure generosity, donated a ton of time to creating ebook versions of a whole bunch of M-Brane issues and several M-Brane Press books, including my queer-fic antho Things We Are Not. Artist and writer Mari Kurisato provided two cover arts for that same antho and donated several covers to M-Brane zine issues and created the M-Brane SF logo that appears on the cover of this issue and on our print quarterlies, all for no ascertainable reason other than that she is made of awesomeness. Eric T. Reynolds (Hadley Rille Books) decided to take a chance and sign on as publisher of The Aether Age, completely sight-unseen, nothing to go on other than our description of how cool it would be. This is an example of a very cool comrade who “gets” it. I’d also put in this category a few friends who (possibly unwittingly) did a lot of promoting of my zine and my personal existence via social media, these being the intellectually stunning Harrison Brace, and the mysteriously compelling Red Bakersen and the incomparably sweet and wise poet Lydia Ondrusek (who really tries to stop me from fucking up my hair, alas to no avail).

Editor-Comrades: Without the generous feedback from, assistance from, and general camaraderie with other people who were also engaged in the crazy project of publishing short fiction zines, doing my zine would have a hell of a lot harder. I made some really great friends among my peers, such as Bart Leib and Kay Holt (Crossed Genres); Eden Robins and Caren Gussoff (Brain Harvest); Kaolin Fire (GUD); Jason Sizemore (Apex). Those are all, by the way, great writers, too, and I published all of them in M-Brane at one time or another.

Those Literati Who Remind Me Why I Do This: I am an emotional dude susceptible to crazy highs and lows, and many times during the run of M-Brane SF, I would get discouraged and wonder why the hell I was bothering with the endless labor over it. And then, wallowing in a bed of disillusionment, I’d remember that Alex Jeffers and Cesar Torres still walk the Earth and just might once again send me something to read and publish, and I’d arise ramrod straight and get back to work. Alex’s work is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and I have gotten to show it off a couple times in M-Brane SF, and in the Things We Are Not antho, and in the Double (his half was The New People). He is woefully under-recognized as an author and that needs to change.  Cesar is the author of the little gem of a book The 12 Burning Wheels (M-Brane Press, 2010) and the short story “The Nagual’s Elision” which appeared in the zine and in the print Quarterly #1 in 2010. He’s a relatively new writer and he is going to be a big deal. These are two genre-blurring writers who seem capable of almost anything with their words, and they are the names I would invoke if ever asked to prove to a jury that I am a competent editor and publisher: read The New People and The 12 Burning Wheels—case closed!

The Haters: Actually they were blessedly few in number but extant nonetheless, those who felt they needed to bash me for my “lifestyle” or for my “normalization” of what they see as abnormal behavior, sending me hate mail, attacking my partner, and so on. And some of them do remain housed within the fiction genres and the small-press publishing world, and the big-press world, too. I won’t dignify any of them by actually stating their names. The Outer Alliance, of which I am proud to have been a founding member, rose to stand against them not with violence and ignorance and hate but with reason, science and art. If the Haters don’t come around, then they may eventually find themselves cordoned into a tiny little intellectual ghetto as stifling as the whole-real-life one that I spent most of my life in. So why do I even mention them here in this makeshift elegy to the end of the First Age of M-Brane SF? Because their very existence occasionally (and ironically) pulled me out of the very deepest depths of depression in the early days of the zine: out of sheer cussedness and pissed-offedness, I rose from the dead to battle my arch-enemies. I’ve seen some blog chatter in the last year about how science fiction is somehow an inherently rightwing, closed-minded (ie. “conservative”) genre. That’s a bunch of bullshit. SF is fundamentally a forward-looking and therefore, by its very definition, a progressive and open-minded genre and I have a huge stack of zine issues and books to prove it. If the impression of the genre is otherwise, then it’s because we don’t speak up enough when assbags spew venom.

The Departed: We lost a few friends. Author Glenn Lewis Gillette, whose story “Time Enough for a Reuben” was the first story of the first issue of M-Brane SF, left the world, succumbed to disease. He was a great writer and a cool dude and we miss him. Author Jamie Eyberg—who was a great Twitter friend to me personally—appeared a couple times in the zine with really cool stories, and we lost him, too, along with his wife in a tragic accident in 2010. The very last sentence of his final blog post before he died still haunts me and occasionally inspires me to action: “Sometimes life really does get in the way.” Don't forget it. I’ll also mention Emily Moore. She had nothing to do with the M-Brane world but she was a very dear friend and the very best friend ever to my partner Jeff. She was also a talented creator, and would have been a great published writer had she made it a few more years. She died in November at much too young an age.

Those Too Numerous to List: Sometimes when I see an entertainment or sports celeb receive some kind of honor and thank “God” or “the Lord” for it, I think to myself “If I were getting this kind of award, I’d say to everyone that God had frak-all to do with it, no miracle involved, I did all this by myself, thank you, good night.” But it’s not really true that all of the cool shit I have been able to do could have happened without help. It wasn’t from God, but it was from all the people above and all the many, many more that I did not mention by name here but whose contributions, friendships, kind words, nicenesses, great art and general coolness are nonetheless deeply appreciated. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

M-Brane SF #30 Contents Announced

Posted On 6:04 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

Below is the list of authors and stories that will comprise the forthcoming new issue of M-Brane SF. It is our 30th issue, after a hiatus of about seven months, and it will be the last one in its familiar format. A couple months ago I said that there would be a 30th and 31st issue, each with six stories, before ending the zine's run and shifting to a new concept, but some of the stories I wanted to include between those two issues fell though (my fault for being too slow at grabbing them) and I eventually decided to put these ten stories together into a somewhat fatter issue #30. Posting for the last time the ToC for my beloved zine kind of makes me want to cry, but it also fills me with a little bit of pride for the work that M-Brane SF did in bringing forward so much really great work from a lot of new writers. It was a really great run. And it's not over anyway: I will relaunch M-Brane SF in a new format later this year. The new issue will appear shortly and its subscribers will get their usual PDF download. Also, on publication day I will post its entire content for download on this site, and all of its stories will appear in print as part of the M-Brane SF Quarterly #4.


Travis King "Stumptown Physics: Toward a Unified Theory of Infinite Probability Amplitudes, Elective Affinity, and Amanda Palmer"
Mary E. Lowd "A Second Enchanted Evening"
Chris Stamp "Dandelion and Gossamer"
Corin Reyburn "Endangered Species"
Andy Dudak "The Blind Can't Hear the Stars"
Sevan Taylor "Long Haul"
Robert Drake "The Vitruvius Project"
Margaret Karmazin "Watch Over Me"
Christian Arrowmaker "Mirrors"
Jude-Marie Green "Shiver"


Monday, November 21, 2011

Hiatus!

Posted On 8:09 PM by Christopher Fletcher 1 comments

As those few of you who still pay attention to me know, my other-life of busy career has caused a lot of serious delays with M-Brane SF publication. What I said in the last post--that I intend to publish the final two issues of the current format shortly--is still true, and I am close to done with content selection for those. I have, however, closed to further submissions. I haven't yet made final decisions as to which stories will fill those last two issues, but I believe that I have them in hand and just need separate the great from the really great. Since I am no longer taking subscriptions for the current (soon-to-be-former) format of the zine, the final two editions will be released for free on this site and elsewhere.

M-Brane SF will appear in a new iteration in 2012, details forthcoming. In the meantime, this site will remain a place for news of my small press's business, including future book projects, our fantasy zine Fantastique Unfettered and other cool stuff.

Thanks, everyone, for all the support, companionship (and patience!) over the past three years. I have some good stuff in the works for after the end of this little hiatus.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Update on the Recent Inactivity

Posted On 9:17 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

I've made no new post to this blog since July, and that one was about how I imagined my schedule was back under control and that M-Brane Press and zine matters would resume their normal calendar. Such has  not happened. Since that post, the situation with my day job has changed fundamentally. We are in a transition there, and I have been doing essentially the work of at least two people. An average work day has been about 14 hours, and I haven't had a single full day off since Labor Day. I am not complaining (I do like my job), just reporting facts by way of explaining why M-Brane SF has not had a new issue lately and why writers who have stories in submission have been awaiting reply for an exceptionally long amount of time. So I want to update anyone who still cares about what's going and what the future holds for my little publishing operation...

1) The M-Brane SF zine will appear in its normal format twice more, as issues #28 and #29, probably in November and December. After that, I intend to change it into something else. I want to continue curating the particular kind of fiction that I have attracted to M-Brane SF, but it needs to be in a manner that both draws more attention to its writers but which also requires a less crazy amount of labor on my part given the ongoing facts of my "real" life.

2) Writers who have stories in submission to M-Brane SF (or whom may still submit) can either patiently await my reply or email me at mbranesf at gmail dot com to inquire about their submission status or withdraw their submission, no hard feelings. A bunch of stories have already been in the "maybe" folder for going on 90 days, which is crazy-long by my standards, so I understand if anyone is tired of waiting. That being said, stories that I have here will be replied to eventually, and new submissions will be considered for the last two normal "monthly" issues until I have them filled.

3) M-Brane Press projects such as our fantasy zine Fantastique Unfettered and our various book projects will be unaffected by the change with the M-Brane zine.

4) Some new M-Brane Press projects--including a re-imagining of the M-Brane SF zine concept--will be announced later. We have have a couple of books on deck, and have a few other cool things in the cooker.

I've learned a lot, met a lot of cool people, and done a lot of wicked awesome stuff in the almost three years since I launched M-Brane SF, and I don't intend to stop doing any of that. It will just be different and probably better. Thanks, all, for not sending me a lot of hate mail during my recent relative silence.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

M-BRANE SF #29 releases tonight

Posted On 8:41 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

The new issue releases in PDF form to its subscribers tonight in about an hour. Below is the usual PayPal button that one may use to purchase a copy. Money received in this way is a large part of what keeps the zine going. Due to various delays, I missed my usual post previewing the table of contents and the writers, so I copy here my intro notes from the issue:


EDITORIAL NOTES 6/11
Since I’m already late with getting these stories to you, I won’t take up a lot of time with my usual news updates and other ramblings. It’s a powerful quintet of astounding visions that comprises this new issue, and together they form an answer to the question, “Why science fiction?” A writer can explore big ideas and smaller-scale personal situations in any genre, but there’s not a genre quite like sf for probing into those interstices between the grand and the minute, the cosmic and the personal, the Big Idea and the assimilation of it on a smaller scale.
Occasionally I hear complaints that a “sense of wonder” left the genre a long time ago, supplanted by smaller ideas and unimportant concerns. When I hear this, I wonder what people are reading because this is certainly not true of the best of the contemporary genre. This attitude emanates, I think, from a conservative outlook on the genre and a notion that the old Golden Age, and its total occupation with Idea and Plot, was necessarily superior somehow to contemporary work where Character and Style are of interest and importance and where the imaginary boundary between science fiction and “literature” has blurred and broken down. I think that over time with M-Brane SF I have managed, unintentionally, to show that this debate is at least somewhat contrived. Because here we have it all.
The new issue opens with A.J. Fitzwater’s stunning “Twixt,” and it ends with Kenneth Burstall’s lavishly bizarre (and very “M-Braney”) item “The Cone.” In between, we have stupendous entries from Mark Ward (“After the Fall”), Mason Gallaway (“Ocean of Change”) and M-Brane SF veteran and recent Writers of the Future winner Patty Jansen (“War Games”).
Engage and enjoy.—CF 





Friday, July 1, 2011

Back to business, for the most part

Posted On 10:00 PM by Christopher Fletcher 2 comments

Readers of our zine, or people who follow it or me in other online ways, may have noticed that I have been somewhat off-schedule and generally absent for the last few weeks. A big pile-up of projects in May, plus an incredibly busy work schedule through May and June caused some problems: we missed entirely our May issue of the zine. The third print Quarterly (collecting issues #25, #26 and #27) is a bit late, as is issue #29 (we're skipping #28--it may show up later in some kind of special off-schedule form). But the good news:

1) Issue #29 is basically done and will release in a few days (it will be called the June issue, even though its release will happen a few days into July). It's full of terrific new stuff. I'll post its table of contents, info about its authors, and its cover image shortly.

2) The third Quarterly is also basically done, and it, too, will show up within a few days. I have to finish its cover and a few other little details, but it's about there. It will feature some great content not seen in the electronic issues: two brilliant stories by Adam Callaway and an interview with him.

3) Issue #30, July, is expected on schedule, returning us to our normal calendar.

4) I may have an announcement about some kind of cool new book project soon.

My day-jobbery is always busy (and a fresh new change in my job description adds to this), but it has a couple of high seasons each year, and last week was the climax of one such. I worked all seven days of it and clocked about 74 hours on duty. While that was a bit out of the ordinary, it's not too different than what most weeks have been like for the last couple of months. But we're in a bit of slower spell now for a few weeks, and I intend to catch up on a lot of other business.

Thanks everyone who has supported M-Brane SF and M-Brane Press's other projects over the last couple of years. We've been a bit quiet lately, but are still in business.

(The image, appropos of nothing, is of the dessert from a wine dinner I prepared in June--part of the day-job work. It is a chocolate-peanut butter ganache tartlet with salted caramel sauce, accompanied by red and white wine jellies. Yeah, zinfandel and chardonnay solidified with apple pectin, like wine Jello shots!)


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Behold, the M-Brane SF Double!

Posted On 5:26 PM by Christopher Fletcher 2 comments

A short vid of me showing off the proof copy of the M-Brane SF Double. It should be live for purchase on the major online booksellers any hour now. Also, I will still honor the pre-order special indefinitely if anyone wants to take advantage of the electronic freebies, because why not? Click on that "related articles" item at the end of this post for more info on that.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

M-Brane SF #28 is late!

Posted On 9:22 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

So this is all rather embarrassing: the month of June seems to have begun already without there ever having been a May publication of M-Brane SF. The twenty-eighth issue fell to my crazy work schedule during May, plus the final push to finish The New People/Elegant Threat (M-Brane SF Double). We had a situation like this in December when the December 2010 issue was actually released in the first half of January 2011, followed two weeks later by the January issue. This might be how it plays out with May and June this time. Expect either two nearly back-to-back releases this month, or a double issue.

While just being too busy (average work week was 65-70 hours during May) was the main factor, there was another situation that contributed to this unusual lateness. I just didn't really have enough stories that I wanted for it. I looked at a ton of submissions and didn't see a lot that was quite right. I did not, however, want my decision-making to be too much affected by fatigue--and the fact that I was seeing basically nothing indicated that the problem might lie partly with me--so I held a lot more candidates in the "maybe" folder than I might have otherwise. I've gradually worked through it, and there are now only eighteen stories submitted since April 26 that are awaiting a decision, which I hope to get done within a couple days.


 

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