Friday, January 30, 2009

More M-BRANE writers' links

I've added links to a few more M-Brane SF writers' sites (they're down there on the left side of the page a little way down).  If you have a story in #1 or one scheduled for a future issue but do not have a link to your site and want one, let me know and I'll add it.

LOCUS link/ #1 Corrected edition free on web/ Still effing around with the print version

There is a link to this site in today's "Blinks" items on Locus Online.  Pretty cool: maybe a lot more people will hear of the zine that way. A couple new subscriptions showed up, too, which is always encouraging.

I think I have pretty well redistributed the corrected edition of the issue #1 PDF (restoring a couple lines of omitted text from Glenn's page 1 story), but for anyone still lacking it but wanting it, it is available freely to the world in a couple of venues: Brandon Bell ("Do Men Dream of Bloody Sheep?") placed it here on issuu and links to it from his site in his 1/20 post (also located on his "credits" page); also Glenn Lewis Gillette ("Time Enough for a Reuben"), has it up on his site

CreateSpace has some formatting problems with my publication for the print edition, so I suppose I will be spending much of the day trying to fix that--I really just wanted it to be done today! We'll still make the 2/15 official publication though.  And once I've been through all of this once, then #2 should be a lot easier. In fact, #2 is in pre-production and so far it's not taking me anywhere near the time to put it together as #1 did.

Check out this story about President Obama on The Onion.  It made me laugh.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

M-Brane writer in Amnesty campaign/ Read Greg Egan

I know I already went on and on today (see below) , but I forgot a couple things:

1) Writer Rhian Waller of the UK, whose marvelous and disturbing story "Hard Frost" will appear in M-Brane #3 in April, is getting her head shaved as a charity event for Amnesty International. Clicking on this text will bring you to her site and you can get the details if you are interested in supporting this. 

2) It's not that I was totally unfamiliar with Aussie sf writer Greg Egan, but I hadn't thought of him a lot lately, and that was an oversight.  He is a tremendously excellent crafter of character-focused HARD science fiction.  His sf is hard as nails.  By which I mean it is super-scientific to the point of being actually educational to read it--but still plenty fun.  I was reminded of him recently because I have sitting here two recently-read anthologies each containing two stories by him.  Last year's Year's Best has his stories "Glory" (new-style space-going sf) and "Steve Fever" (effed up nanotech/biopunk amazement); Hard SF Renaissance (David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, editors, from a few years ago) contains "Wang's Carpets" (wild post-cyber computer stuff) and "Reasons to be Cheerful" which just about knocked me over with its brain prosthesis premise.   


Various business to catch up on...

1. If you're into fiction that evokes the Lovecraft ethos, check out Nathan Shumate's zine Arkham Tales. It's a handsome (and free) PDF zine. The fiction is solid and it is not "Lovecraftian" in the sense of just being more Cthulhu Mythos-type stuff, but much more broad and varied than that. Writer Jeffery Sims has a novella in it called "The House on the Hill of Stars" featuring his character Professor Vorchek who also stars in his novella "Peril in the Red Zone," scheduled for release in M-Brane #2 in March.

2. A major casualty in the genre zine world: Realms of Fantasy, a pretty big and important fantasy mag, is ending publication with its March issue.  I never really followed this one myself, but I understand it had become one of the heavy-hitters of short-form fantasy publishing. (ERROR!  Their last issue will be dated April--thanks, Rick, for catching that).

3. The print edition of M-Brane is probably going to be handled, at least for the first few months, by way of CreateSpace's print-on-demand service.  I will have the final price for #1 and the way to order it within a few days after I have been provided with some confirmations from them.  I have to say that this a less than satisfactory situation for me because it will be impossible to have the price per issue any lower than something like $5.00 or perhaps a hair higher.  The problem, however, is that I can't really produce it myself by "conventional" means for any less.  Unless and until the demand for a print edition exceeds at least 100 copies per month, I am stuck having to pay the much higher per-copy rates for much lower numbers of copies no matter what I do. While this cover price is not exactly insanely high, it does not include shipping, and I do not know what that number is yet. I have made this tentative decision, however: at least for the period that I am using POD by way of CreateSpace, and starting with issue #2, I intend to offer up two ways to buy M-Brane in print: 1) the individual issues #1, #2, etc. will be available as one would expect; and 2) I will create a sort of bimonthly "omnibus" edition containing two issues (#1 and #2, for example) under one cover.  I will actually be able to sell this double issue for not much more at all than the price of the single issue because the printer's base price for a book that size is the same as it is for one half as big. The shipping will probably be a tad more because it will weigh nearly twice as much, but it should make it possible for people who want to have the print version and do not mind waiting for bimonthly availability to buy it without spending an absurd amount of money. Once we get to where there is heavier demand for the print version, I will have more options and hopefully cheaper ones. I really want this zine to be available to as many people as possible while still having some income to support it, and a really high cover price cuts against that.

4) Sort of following from that, I have been mulling the pricing of the PDF edition. I'm going to, for now, leave the base price at $12/12 issues and continue for a while the half-price offer. Brandon Bell, in a comment on my 1/24 post makes the excellent point that people associate quality with price, and that I may be going in the wrong direction by making it so cheap. Indeed, he suggests I massively increase the subscription price and suggests much larger donations to our "pledge drive." The idea is that it would make it seem more worth buying than something that is priced just barely above the web's base price of "free" for most things. Cory Doctorow, in one of his Locus columns recently, also doubts the potential of success for "micro-payment" schemes. My natural democratic (small 'd' this time) inclinations, however, make me want to believe that it's worth making the PDF available to people who just won't--or nowadays can't--spring for a thirty dollar or more subscription to something. I suspect that there are a lot of people who can put up $12 more easily (just a hundred such folks pretty well endows my writers fund for the year assuming I stay at my lowly pay rate for stories).  Maybe the perception that this is twelve bucks well spent will follow after the zine has been around longer and people are talking about it.  And then I will triple the price!  Just kidding!

5) I continue to feel great swells of pride over the kind and generous comments that I have been receiving since the early release of the issue #1 PDF. Apparently, it is generally considered to be a good-looking zine.  I sent copies over the last couple of days to a bunch of sf "greats," major writers and other luminaries in the field, and have been dazzled and touched to get some replies from the likes of Rudy Rucker, Kevin Anderson, and David Brin among others all complimenting the nice appearance of it. I wasn't actually expecting to hear back from busy people like that, so it was extra special to know that they had actually gone to the trouble of looking at it. It reminds of me of years ago when I was maybe twenty years old and I submitted a short story to one of Jerry Pournelle's There Will Be War military sf anthologies. Ages and ages later, after I had all but forgotten about the submission, I received the expected standard rejection letter, but with a personal note from Pournelle stating that it took a long time to reject my story because the first tier of readers liked it a lot and needed him to look at it and make the call.  I had this geeky thrill over that because the dude who's name is on the cover of the book actually looked at my dumb story! (The reason that the story was rejected by There Will Be War, by the way, was because it was not really a story, but more a series of vignettes--it was, in fact, three pieces of loosely connected "flash fiction" under one title, though we didn't call it "flash" back then. I would reject it from M-Brane now, too, for the same reason). 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Naturally my biggest blunder in what was otherwise a pretty mistake-free first edition of M-Brane occurred right on the front page in the form of some omitted text from Glenn Lewis Gillette's story. I have begun redistributing the corrected edition: if you had one of the first-round copies and have not received the correction yet, you can see it right now at Glenn's website, where he has posted the complete issue.  It's a neat site anyway, and worth the visit for its other content as well.

The weather situation persists here, though we may be past the worst of it.  Of course my endless list of errands today required several lengthy and seriously slow episodes of driving around town that have wasted much of the day. I am in for the night, and hopefully tomorrow as well. My big goal related to the zine this week is to be able come up with an announcement on the details of the fabled print edition

Monday, January 26, 2009


OKC is getting some freezing rain--what we fondly refer to as an "ice storm." Actually, it's not anywhere near as bad as the biggest episode of it was last year, but it's still coming through and we're not safe yet.  I mention it here because I want anyone who follows this blog and M-Brane stuff to know that if I go "dark" for, say, two or three consecutive days, it's not because I have flaked out and abandoned the M-Brane mission but because ice has brought down the beloved, blessed coaxial cable that connects my house, my TV, and, above all, my computer to the internet, life blood of my whole, well, life. Should that happen, I will make effort to get to places that still have electricity and internet access to at least deal with the most pressing emails, etc.

Last year--actually December of 2007--we experienced in OKC a horrendous ice disaster which knocked out power and cable to many thousands of people (but not us, somehow!) and which also brought down the limbs of way too many of what few trees this bloody, benighted city had. The year before (December of 2006) when Jeff and I were still in St. Louis and still had our restaurant, an even worse ice disaster (followed immediately by a big snow fall) struck. In the one and only stroke of luck that we had during 2006, our restaurant was put out of business for only about 24 hours (as opposed to a week) and we did not lose electricity in our home at all while other people, by the hundreds of thousands, were losing it.

All right, I need to go to my command post.  More tomorrow....hopefully!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I am feeling somewhat normal again, fairly well recovered from the bout of illness the other day. That, and having to spend the last two days at my so-called real job, have put me somewhat behind on my M-Brane schedule for the week. Things work out though: writers have blessedly laid off a bit on filling my in-box with tons of new story submissions for me to consider as I catch things up. As it stands now, the in-box is fairly well caught up, issue #2 is in pre-production, print edition of #1 is supposedly closer to launch, and the shape of things to come with a couple of the issues past #2 is becoming apparent.

Anyway (as a couple of people have already noticed), I have added to this page a second "Buy Now" button, offering the subscription to the PDF edition of the zine, for a limited time, for the crazily low price of $6.00.  As those of you who have seen the first issue can attest, this is a super deal.  It was already dirt cheap at $12.00 (a buck an issue), so this is hella good. How limited is the time on this offer?  Who can say? If it goes well, it may last longer. My goals are to 1) be able to pay writers something and 2) have a wide readership for those writers. If those goals are achievable at a lower price, then fine. It's all sort of an experiment: no really good standard model for monetizing fiction periodicals that are distributed in part or in whole by the internet seems to have caught hold yet. There exist plenty of totally free webzines, but a lot of them don't offer even token payment for contributors or they do pay but put up a very small amount of content (like one or two stories per issue or very infrequent issues).  That's one way to do it, but it's not for me.  Some others offer, like I do with M-Brane, a PDF edition, and some charge in different ways (such as two or three bucks via Pay Pal for a download of a current or back issue). And there's even one pro-level webzine, Jim Baen's Universe, which pays its writers very handsomely and also charges a subscription fee comparable to a print magazine (Card's Medicine Show uses a similar model but is not quite as pricy last I checked). I have no data on how well or how poorly any of these concepts work, though I will report as we go on how M-Brane fares.  It seems like the medium itself creates a conundrum: when we want to read an sf magazine, is it more the content that we're after or is the medium? In the case of Baen's Universe, it appears that they have cast their lot one hundred percent with content and decided that this will induce people to pay a premium price for their web-only mag.  Of course, that's an in-house operation of a major book publisher and they probably can afford to have it not work for awhile until people get comfortable with the format. At the other extreme, a lot of the totally free webzines don't seem to have bet enough on content and are hanging on the free nature of their medium (and there's a few, like Clarkesworld, which are both free to the reader and decent-paying markets for writers, but I don't know how they manage to be financed unless it's purely on the largesse of their publishers). I guess with the web, there is an issue of cost--even when the cost is very low--because it can give internet users pause when a thing goes from costing nothing to costing something.  We'll see how this goes, but I have reason for confidence since at least some people have decided that this is worth paying something for.

And yeah, I'll have some news soon on the blessed, bloody print edition: I keep getting sabotaged just when I think I'm ready to go on that.  #1 will make it out on time one way or another.

I wanted to spend some time tonight writing about writer Greg Egan, who was somewhat familiar to me before but whom I have read more short stories by recently and become quite taken with, but I will have to leave it for next time. While I am mostly well again, fatigue sets in too early!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


1. Damn and blast!   I am undeniably sick this morning! I'm pretty tough and don't fall ill very often--typically I'll get a cold or a stomach virus for a couple of days about once every second year and shake it off quickly, but this is the second bout of some kind of creeping crud in two months. I work in an assisted living facility where disease sometimes runs amok, and 'tis the season I suppose. I am off from work today, but I am annoyed at how my condition is probably going to waste a lot of what could have been a productive day at home.  If I'm going to be sick, I'd just as soon be at work, since that's a waste of time anyway and I can overlap some hours of feeling physically like hell with feeling mentally like hell. My method of coping with this (whether at home or at work) is to dose myself with TheraFlu, the high-test sleepy-time formula, not the silly "non-drowsy" kind.  It quells the aches and pains and puts me into a pleasantly stoned state for a few hours--that's the only reason I am able to sit up and do this post right now!

I knew something was wrong when I woke up at about 3am feeling a good deal of stomach discomfort and general full-body pain. Also, Maus (the cat) was pestering me excessively, making it hard to get back to sleep.  Looking back on it, however, from his perspective it was probably me who was pestering him. He insists on lying in the middle of the bed in between the pillows, near my head.  But if I turn over and face outward, then he gets up and comes around to the other side and needs me to get him re-situated.  No matter which way I am facing, he requires that I face him. So if I am tossing and turning a lot, then he has to do a lot of moving around too.  Its' really something else.

2. I've gotten out to the world a bunch more PDF copies of M-Brane #1, and Brandon Bell continues to offer ways to access it at his blog (see yesterday's post). So, you know, there's really not a lot of work on that I have to do today that cannot wait until I feel a bit better, so maybe I'll take it easy for a few hours. Maybe this afternoon if things are better, I will get back on finding people to send  it to.  Hey, if anyone is involved in any big genre-related groups of any sort who might like this, let me know and I'll try to either get them copies or tip them off to Brandon's download links. My blog is apparently once again part of some kind of "sci-fi creators" webring which I joined some months ago and then was kicked out because my blog isn't good enough or active enough or something.  But I guess I'm a member in good standing again (discovered this during a Google search on "mbrane sf." ) So maybe I'll look at that later and let my fellowship of the ring know all about it, too. Damn...I think the dose is wearing off...! Later!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Initial reactions to #1

The PDF of M-Brane SF #1 is traveling through the net, and I have been gratified to already have received a bunch of positive reactions to it from readers and from many of the writers whose work is featured therein or will appear in future issues. Though we're still some days away from its "official" publication and the availability of the print version,  I have decided to let this first one be freely available for anyone to examine starting immediately. In fact, Brandon Bell, author of the fine story "Do Men Dream of Bloody Sheep" in this issue, has made available a couple of different ways to download the issue on his blog. (click there). Brandon is rather more clever with the tech than I am.  After he explained to me how he set that up and after I saw what he did, I think I could repeat the feat and have it work directly from this page, which I may do later, but I am busy with other stuff right now (and y'all oughta be reading his blog anyway).  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today, Tuesday January 20, is a huge day for me for a number of reasons.  Bear with me for a few paragraphs, and I will explain:

1) The inauguration of President Obama was such a special thing, even more than I knew it would be back in November when we saw him win the election. I don't generally like to let real-world political stuff intrude into the world of M-Brane too much, but I'll make an exception for this. I don't care where anyone stands on the political spectrum, everyone has to acknowledge that something really grand and great happened today. I, for one, feel better about the future of the country than I have in many years. The only blemish on the day for me was having to spend the time at work.  In my workspace, I was able to hear all of NPR's coverage of the goings-on in Washington, but I kept being intruded upon by co-workers who failed to understand and appreciate what was happening. "This is on every radio and TV in the place!" screeched one of these creatures. "Well, yeah," I said quietly. "It's easily the biggest deal going on today." She replied, with a sneer, "Why? Just because he's black?" Saddened that the whole significance of the moment was lost on some people, I just said, "No, because he's the new president. It's always a big deal when we get a new president...but it's a really big deal this time!"  Did she think it would pass without comment, or maybe rate just a brief mention at the top of the hour? Jeff DVR'd all of it for me, though, so I will still be able to see the swearing-in and the inaugural address if I choose to without such distractions. 

2) January 20 is the birthday of my cat Maus.  He's the small orange one in the accompanying picture.  That's my other cat Jack cuddled up next to him. Maus was born on the day of President Clinton's second inauguration, January 20 1997.  That makes him 12 years old today, and I have to admit that it's a lot easier to remember his birthday during presidential inaugural years (4, 8 and 12 were easy; we might have let pass unacknowledged some of the weird ones like 7 and 9 and 11) . He and his litter-mates were all born essentially tailless--just little nubs for tails. He is quite small (about 11 inches tall and about 9 pounds). His other attributes include a penchant for yelling at us early in the morning, a sometimes-fierce temper, and an endless capacity for cuddling. He spent much of his birthday and Obama's inaugural day napping on a pillow.

3) Tonight, I commenced the release of the PDF edition of issue #1 of M-Brane SF. I think I picked a great day for it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

OK, Tomorrow EVENING!

I had wanted to have the issue rolled out, as described below, in the morning of 1/20. I have, of course, been summoned to work tomorrow on what was to have been my day off. So I need to do it in the evening instead. I guess President Obama being inaugurated is enough excitement for the first half of the day anyway. I have been screwing around with tiny little final edits of the zine off and on most of the day and am getting a little too obsessive about it.  I'm taking the rest of the night off.


The PDF edition of M-Brane #1 will be "unofficially" released tomorrow, a few weeks ahead of its scheduled 2/15/09 publication date.  It will trickle out in a couple of stages: 1) subscribers and writers will receive it first; 2) then, over tomorrow and the next couple of days, a long list of other people whom I have selected to receive complimentary copies of the first issue will begin to receive them. My reason for a broad free release of the first issue is twofold: I'd like to drum up interest and attention for the magazine as early as possible and I'd like to encourage more people who may or may not have heard of it to spring for a paid subscription. Accompanying this will be a special offer for those who receive issue #1 (and whoever else they might want to tell about it) to subscribe at a lower, limited time price.  I'll have the details of that up on the blog and in the cover email going out with the freebie copies. Those of you who have stories in #1 can take some pleasure in the fact that a LOT of people beyond the zine's still-quite-small subscriber base will have the chance to see your work. I think this will work as a good "advertisement" for the magazine, too. To pay the writers the paltry fee that I am currently offering, I need to raise about a thousand dollars in subscriptions or donations or ads to cover that for a year (figuring that I am going to buy about 100 stories this year).  What I would rather do, however, is raise quite a lot more through subscriptions so that I can offer higher payment to writers and attract a lot more attention to M-Brane SF. (I'd also like to not have to screw around with selling ads, and junk up the zine with them, but it may be necessary). Wouldn't it be awesome if someday we had a zine that could pay writers at a semi-pro or even pro level but still be very inexpensive to the reader because we have a HUGE readership base? 

THE PRINT EDITION: Though the PDF version is coming out tomorrow, I am not committing to availability of the print edition before 2/15, as originally scheduled. When we get to issue #2 and beyond, I'll be set up to have it all happen at the same time. Getting the set-up completed for the paper version has been much more of a hassle than I had guessed, but I think it's just about resolved.  I am concerned about the cost to the customer for it (the "cover price" isn't that crazy, but shipping fees from the POD printer are pretty ridiculous, and I am still working on a way to alleviate that). I will update very soon on the real details of the print version, including it's final price. I ask any writers for #1 who are looking forward to the print version of their work to be patient for a few days.  It's coming. 

PAYMENTS TO WRITERS: Some #1 (and #2 and beyond) writers opted for a year subscription to the PDF edition as their payment.  For them, that begins tomorrow.  Others took the money option.  For them, it's forthcoming.  I don't mean to get all technical and legalistic about how our contracts are for 2/15 "payment on publication"--I just didn't budget it into January's cash flow because I didn't know for sure that I was publishing early. I'll get y'all paid at least on time if not well early. Hang tight.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

GALACTICA finally back!

I don't talk about TV or movie sf on this site very much. It's not what it's for.  I do want to make mention, however, of last night's long-awaited premiere of the final half-season of the brilliant Battlestar Galactica. Jeff and I were quite excited: it's our favorite show and one of the very few things on TV that we can enjoy together and make sort of an event around it.  Jeff does not consider himself a fan of sf.  He also doesn't have a lot of experience with reading any sf, and so (like most people really) thinks of "sci-fi" only in terms of movies and TV shows, most of which are garbage (take, for example, nearly the entire programming line-up of the SciFi Channel save for Galactica and one or two other things). So he explains to his mother who is also not a sci-fi fan and not a reader of it and who also hasn't seen this show, that she ought to Netflix it and watch it because she'd like it the way he does. Yeah, it's sci-fi, but it's good. I don't bother him too much about the fact that there is a wealth of really good and amazing sf in written form that he has never tried and probably had no interest in because of bad examples in other media. I'm just glad that he is as into to Galactica as I am and has probably become a bit more open-minded about the genre as a result (he's also a big fan of Heroes and follows that much more assiduously than I do). So it is with some bittersweetness that we welcome these final ten episodes.  When it's over, will Jeff and I drift apart on Friday nights once more?  Well, Caprica is on the way, and we have high hopes for it, so maybe not. 

We are also thrilled that (as revealed in the pre-season webisode series on the SciFi site) the Galactica creators have made the pretty much unprecedented-in-sci-fi-TV move of having a regular male character on the show be gay. Mr. Gaeta, always a fixture in the ship's CIC and an extremely important character during the New Caprica storyline, and Hoshi (his equivalent from the Pegasus before the merging of the crews) are indeed boyfriends. Science fiction on TV has usually been, unfortunately, a domain of of sexual stupidity. I assume that the producers of it don't want to risk freaking out what they assume to be their predominately young-to- middle-aged- male-will-never -ever-ever -get-laid demographic without knowing that a lot of the people who watch shows like this have probably also read a lot of books where these boundaries and taboos were explored and exploded decades ago. Even comic books have been way more progressive in dealing with sexual orientation than TV shows have. I was always a fan of Star Trek, but despite how supposedly forward-thinking and liberal that concept is, the producers of the various spin-off series always held firm against ever letting any gayness creep onto any of Trek's pristine starships. Producer Rick Berman did relent once during Next Generation's run and allow a story that was sort of an allegory about the issue and let Commander Riker to have a romance with a genderless person (who was plainly a woman). Later on Deep Space Nine, there was sapphic kiss scene (but one of the women had been a man in a previous Trill incarnation) which was supposed to knock everyone's socks off.  Not to sound sexist, but anymore you can't hardly turn around without seeing two women kiss on TV. It's just not groundbreaking and it really is just about titillating straight men. Seeing two dudes kiss on a sci-fi TV show, however, is a pretty big deal (even if it's so far not really on TV but just on the webisode). Cheers to Galactica for taking a swing at this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Philip K. Dick Award/ In-box

1. I saw on Locus today that the nominees for the next Philip K. Dick Award have been announced. They are: Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro, Fast Foward 2 by Lou Anders (editor), Judge by Karen Traviss, Plague War by Jeff Carlson, Terminal Mind by David Walton and Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by KA Bedford. The Dick award is for distinguished books first published in paperback. It's a cool thing that there is such an award, because a lot of great sf over the years has seen first publication in paperback, but it's easy to overlook those titles amid the ones that get more attention because they see first publication in hardback editions. I have not myself read any of these books yet. I know, however, that Fast Forward 2 from Pyr is an anthology that follows the much acclaimed first volume.  This one has stories from McDonald, Rusch, Resnick, Kress and Doctorow among others (there's a link from the Pyr site to Doctorow's site where one can hear a podcast). 

2. My pile of submissions to M-Brane has been dealt with.  Save for a couple of writers who just sent stuff in today, everyone should have a reply now.  That feels good.  It also feels good that I have found some great stories for upcoming issues. The project for the coming weekend is to get #1 ready for launch.  Though I have decided to try to go early on #1, I still don't necessarily want to move up #2. But then I'd have a big gap between the first and second issues. I don't know. We'll see how the premiere goes and decide on other matters later.

Monday, January 12, 2009


1. This morning, in his final White Press conference (I can't believe that  I can write those words and not have it be just a line from a science fiction story), President W opined that he had been "misunderestimated." I feel like I may have poorly estimated the timing of my planned early launch of the M-Brane zine: I thought it would happen as soon as Wednesday, but I may need to delay a couple of days because work (my day job) has intervened and junked up more of my time this week than was originally scheduled. Worry not, however.  I'll be back on track soon.  Let me just type those words again: "This morning, in his final White House press conference..."
2. Any writer looking at this blog who has a story in submission to M-Brane but has not received a reply yet will get one by the end of the day on Wednesday--I've fallen a bit behind on my reading, but it's not so bad that it could be called a "slush pile" yet. I've set for myself what outgoing Secretary of State Rice would call "an aspirational goal" (George Orwell, save us!) of replying to all subs in less than two weeks, but I see that I have a few items that are getting about that old.  I'll clear the in-box on Wednesday (including for anyone who has an acceptance but not a scheduled issue yet). 

Saturday, January 10, 2009


This post has nothing to do with any of the real subjects of my blog: neither the magazine, not my personal writing, not the sf genre.  It is purely a personal venting of frustration related to the job that I have been working during the past year to earn my paltry paycheck. Yeah, I know, it is considered imprudent to write about one's job on one's own public websites, but everyone can rest assured that there is no possibility that anyone that I work with 1) knows about my site; 2) knows for sure my full name; 3) knows how to use a computer; or 4) has heard of the world wide web. The current date at my place of work is approximately January 10, 1985. In my effort to start some sort of career in a new industry, I have blundered into a situation where incompetence is standard, initiative is quashed, and naked negligence is rewarded with sympathy and tolerance. Without boring everyone too much, I will summarize by saying that a co-worker who should have been (and in fact was) fired recently for gross unreliability and reckless disregard of job duties is all of a sudden re-hired and working again as if nothing happened. This tells me that I am the one who needs to be gone from there. It also inspires a deep, painful emotion that I think is called "hate."  In fact, to express how I feel about this situation today, I will simply quote the following immortal passage from Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream":

SINCE     I     BEGAN     TO
LIVE.        THERE       ARE
387.44                MILLION
YOU.      HATE.        HATE.

OK, then, that feels a lot better. As I said yesterday, M-Brane #1, is certain to launch early. Stand by.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Science Friday/ Zine update

1. I always recommend that everyone listen to Ira Flatow's radio show Science Friday (it's the Friday edition of NPR's Talk of the Nation show, available on most NPR affiliates). One can also sign up for the podcast at or at the NPR site. Sometimes the show gets (in my opinion, anyway) bogged down in tedious health/ pharmaceutical/ medical topics, but it very often deals with exciting technological matters and wild super-science. I mention it because it's good fertilizer for the imaginations of sf writers.  Today they discussed new information that indicates that our galaxy is much larger and faster-moving than was previously suspected.  For many years, it was believed that the Andromeda Galaxy was much larger than ours. Not so, evidently: our galaxy is about as big and spins 100,000 mph faster than previously estimated. The downside is that the future collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda will probably happen much sooner than planned...but it's still billions of years off. The image here is of an artist's conception of our galaxy from the show's site.  More interesting ultimately  (but not available to look at yet) is a new map of the galaxy that astronomers are gradually composing by using new and better techniques to plot the locations of observable objects.

2. I'm getting close to throwing the switch on the M-Brane mag. I don't think I can wait until 2/15 to release #1.  I have a couple of minor things to resolve yet, but I'm getting really close to just going ahead with an early release.  It may be the case, however, that the availability of the print edition comes a bit later than the PDF edition if I race ahead like this. I'll have an announcement on it soon, I think.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Contents of 26th Annual Year's Best SF

This has been showing up all over, starting with a post from Gardner Dozois on the forum at the Asimov's site. Everyone's probably seen this list of the contents of the next edition of Year's Best Science Fiction by now, but I figured I'd post it here also and a draw some attention to a couple of things. Swanwick, Reed and Baxter were all represented with very good entries in the last edition, and it's no surprise to see them in the line-up again since they are all quite prolific and good in the short form. I am glad (and also not surprised) to see two pieces by McDonald. He also showed up twice in the last volume with two super fine stories. He's a writer I am newly very interested in (posted about him a few posts back). I dig how he deals with wild tech and its impact in "third world" societies. I just started reading Terminal Cafe, and will have a book report on that soon. I'm also glad to see in this list some names that I don't recognize. Maybe they've been out there for years and I'm just out of touch, but these are some that will be new to me at least: Bacigalupi, Kowal, Rajaniemi, Sellar. I didn't see where a lot of this stuff was originally published, but I would assume that most of it was in the usual suspects (Asimov's, F&SF, Analog, Interzone and some original anthologies), but it would be cool to see some items from the smaller press or the e-press make these lists sometime (I'm sure tons of them will rate a mention in the long "honorable mentions" list that always concludes these volumes). I know that Dozois appears to take the time to look at a lot of these sources because he always introduces this collection with a very extensive summation of the year's activities in publishing. The series itself, I think, is valuable because it gathers together a lot of good "real" SF in one place. Dozois doesn't get very much into anything that would be called fantasy or horror or "slipstream," and that's good, because there's plenty of other venues for all of that. Here's the list:

TURING’S APPLES, Stephen Baxter
THE GAMBLER, Paolo Bacigalupi
BOOJUM, Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
N-WORDS, Ted Kosmatka
THE HERO, Karl Schroeder
EVIL ROBOT MONKEY, Mary Robinette Kowal
INCOMERS, Paul McAuley
THE EGG MAN, Mary Rosenblum
HIS MASTER’S VOICE, Hannu Rajaniemi
THE POLITICAL PRISONER, Charles Coleman Finlay
THE VOYAGE OUT, Gwyneth Jones
G-MEN, Kristine Kathryn Rusch
THE RAY-GUN: A LOVE STORY, James Alan Gardner
THE TEAR, Ian McDonald

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Does everyone know about David Langford's zine Ansible and its accompanying blog at I've had a link to it down below for a while, but haven't mentioned it directly yet. It's easier for me to just send you all to it so you can look for yourselves instead of trying to describe it. It's basically just a newsletter (and maybe a gossip sheet) of goings-on in the sf world, but it is somehow compulsively readable. Even entries that I don't understand at all I will still sit here and read. I guess I'm not the only one (even if I am a Johnny-come-lately to it) since it is a fact that Langford has won a huge pile of Hugo awards for his work on this thing. But here's the really amazing thing: Ansible has been going on since 1979. But here's the totally wild bugfuck CRAZY thing: you can go to the site and READ those issues from all the way back then because they have been transcribed from their hard-copy-only world of the pre-computer days so that they can be archived on the web. For example, you can look at Ansible#1 from August 1979 and learn that:

"SF Book Club supremo Paul Begg informs me that David & Charles are planning a follow-up to that super collection Aries 1 (not to be missed by Langford completists). The new collection will not be called Aries 2 (which is OK by me), will be paying twice the money (yes, yes, go on Paul) and will not be featuring writers who appeared in Aries 1. Hate, hate, hate. Another rumour from D&C is that the SFBC will be folding next year, perhaps in an attempt to make sure they don't print Bob Tucker's The Lincoln Hunters for a third time. Several people, including Greg Pickersgill, insist that SFBC lost its charm when they stopped numbering their books; D&C remain impervious to such criticism. Better death than dishonour, and so on. It may be that D&C will not survive the Langford book on flying saucers, due next month."

If you don't yet know about Ansible, then go to the site and check it out, and also look up Langford on Wikipedia. That's where I grabbed the accompanying picture which is of Langford at Worldcon 2005 with two Hugos.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


To the right is an image of the front cover of issue #1 of the M-Brane SF magazine. The stories start right on the front of it, with Glenn Lewis Gillette's clone tale "Time Enough for a Reuben" leading it off. The complete issue is still undergoing some editing and formatting, but it's way close to being presentable and I may decide to go ahead and put it out ahead of its scheduled 2/15 release date. I'm not really wanting to move up 3/15, however, so I haven't decided for sure yet. 

I have been getting troubling information about possible glitches with PDF file creation and what happens to the documents on other people's computer displays if the fonts are not what they call "embedded" properly. Apparently in the Adobe Acrobat standard, there are a set of fonts that it defaults to and wants to translate everything into if the originals are not embedded, thus making the document display like a piece of decroded crap. This concern first came to my attention when I started shopping for print-on-demand publishers for the print edition, and all their sites were all full of FAQs and grim warnings about how they need the PDFs submitted to them with embedded fonts, and how if you are using a Mac (like I am) then it's nearly impossible to get it right for some reason, blah, blah, blah (because the Mac allegedly doesn't "distill" it the same way one would using the Adobe.) Well, the print situation is one thing, and I think have that almost solved also.  But I became concerned that my regular electronically distributed edition would get effed up somehow because of this font foolishness. This morning, however, I took my MacBook over to Pat's house for a test run. He also uses a Mac, but for his job he always has with him a work-provided PC, one of those typical, clunky, no-frills, workhorse laptops that companies issue to people for work purposes. We figured it was a safe bet that this machine would be not any better or fancier, if even as good, as any PC that any M-Brane reader might be using, and that it would use Adobe Acrobat Reader to try to read the file (as opposed to how a Mac will use Preview or the web browser to look at it if one isn't using Adobe).  Well, I couldn't figure out for sure if my fonts were embedded or not, and I wasn't necessarily trusting what Adobe Reader was telling me. So, with Pat and his work PC next to me, I emailed him the PDF of Issue #1 and we opened it (which took a minute on that older clunkier machine--it's a two and half meg file when all is said and done) in Adobe Reader and compared it side-by-side page-by-page with what displays on my screen and saw no problems.  So I feel a lot better about the technology now.

If one theme defines my life to date it is that I seem to always believe that I can do pretty much anything and that it will be reasonably easy...despite the overwhelming crush of evidence and history to the contrary. So just once, with M-Brane,  I'd like to catch a break and just have it work as planned. I think it will!


I have added down below somewhere beneath the posts (yeah there's stuff to look at down there, too) a new list of links to the websites of writers who have stories upcoming in issues of M-Brane SF.  I will add to it over time as I acquire new stories and meet new writers. The list of general links is getting impractical because I am about to add a lot of stuff to it, so I need to come up with an organizational scheme.  But I'll always keep the M-Brane writers section as a separate section for easy reference.  If you are a writer who has placed a story with the mag and have a site but are not listed down there, let me know (there's a couple of you who have placed stories but we haven't done the contract yet, and there will be a space in that for you to give me your link). Writers who provided web and email contact info will have that published with their stories as well.

Friday, January 2, 2009


1. Well, evidently I lied the other day when I said, at the start of my entry about Kiln People and Vacuum Flowers, that I would update "later" on the magazine. I never got back to the blog or really anything else. 12/31 was pretty much a lost day as far as any kind of productivity, though Jeff and I did have fun visiting our friends Pat and Heather, who hosted a small party, that evening. We stayed up far too late, however.  None of us are particularly late-night kind of people normally, and I was about to drop over from a combination of exhaustion, indigestion and intoxication at about 11:30pm, but I was persuaded to stick it out for the onset of the New Year. Of course, all that remained of our gathering was Pat, Jeff and me and we let midnight pass without comment. We were heavily involved in watching ancient Black Sabbath videos on You Tube. Next, I had to arise at 5:45am  on 1/1 to get ready for work.  I did not feel real great, as you can imagine. I was in such a decroded state by 5:45pm when I returned home from work, that I wasn't about to get any writing or blogging or zine editing going on. Thankfully, Jeff had prepared our traditional New Year's Day "breakfast" featuring his famous home fries with jalapenos and roasted garlic, scrambled eggs with sour cream and cheese and tomatoes and garlic in them, bacon, sausage and toast. We ate all of that, drank the remaining beer from the night before, and were both asleep on the couches by 8:30pm.  My copy of Schismatrix fell on my face as I dozed.

2. Issue #1 of the magazine is all but done as far as its editing and formatting go. I am quite pleased with this because it's not due for six weeks, and I need to some more time to sew up all the details with its print edition.  The electronically-issued PDF will be ready to go almost anytime, and I am tempted to release it early because I am becoming impatient with how slowly word is getting out. I think if people have something to actually look at, then it should take off. It contains nine short stories, an essay about James Blish (by me), and a few editorial bits and pieces.  It also runs about sixteen pages shorter than I had estimated. It appears that it will be 56 pages instead of the 72 that I had estimated during my first rough mock-up of the copy.  This is good, because it might make it possible for me to charge somewhat less for the print-on-demand paper edition. It's also very text-dense, however.  There's not a lot of pictures or other graphics in it.  This is by design--the things about the words, after all--but if I end up somehow getting more "graphicky" later on, then it might make me need to increase page count as well. 

3. My poor novel in progress (still untitled and known only as Current Project) has had to take a backseat to the magazine and my stupid day job the last couple weeks. I was sure that by this date, at latest, I would have finished a complete and total first draft with all elements fully in place, needing only--at worst--some minor revision.  As it happens, I still have two dozen scenes to write and LOT of revision to do to the stuff that's already written.  The good news is that I know how it goes from start to finish and some things about the story and its characters that had been mysterious to me for a few weeks recently resolved themselves.  I just need to sit still and finish writing it.  I've also gotten distracted by a couple of new short stories that I started (and mostly finished) during the last couple of weeks. I haven't worked on any new short fiction in a pretty long time, but I actually have some new pieces all of a sudden that could probably be presentable without too much more labor. While working on these, I tend to nag myself for taking my eye off the ball (the novel).  But I think it's good that I write what I am inclined to write when the inspiration hits and not worry about the ongoing projects at all times. The spurt of productivity that generated the first fifty thousand words of the novel in the space of a few weeks will happen again.


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