Monday, August 31, 2009

Outer Alliance Pride Day 9/1/09

September 1, 2009 is the first Outer Alliance Pride Day. This is our mission statement:

"As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work."

I am posting an excerpt from a WIP here, and another (somewhat more "adult content") one at my "Region Between" blog. The item below is not particularly "queer," I suppose, aside from the fact of my authorship of it. The main character of it, Jun, happens to be gay, though that is not a major point of this particular excerpt. It matters to the story overall, however, (if it ever gets finished!) in that a love relationship he had becomes a sort of axis around which everything he does turns. The way he feels about that relationship causes him to make a decision that largely decides the outcome of the complete story, even though he is more of a secondary character through much of the book.

In this short excerpt from Draft One of my novel-in-progress (located perhaps a third of the way into the story), a teenage indentured servant named Jun has gotten free of his owner but has now found himself in the custody of someone who may or may not be a dangerous new foe…

…“I hate that term… ‘meat raider.’” Canaan’s smile dropped away and his soft voice suddenly sounded shot through with deep despair, as if he could not absorb one more affront to decency and dignity. “I can see that we have a lot of work to do down here to win over the hearts of the people and prove that we are not villains. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, obviously. I hope we can start correcting them now.”

“Letting me go would be an excellent start,” Jun said. With deep dryness, he added, “I can go around telling everyone how great you all are.”

Canaan’s smile returned, but it was more wistful now, and he completely ignored Jun’s sarcasm. “You do know, I hope, that we don’t really take people by force and make them do things they don’t want to do.”

Jun shook his head, amazed to hear such a claim from a member of the Hong itself. “So you say. Buying people and stealing them away to the Moon and the can cities sounds a lot like making people do things they don’t want to do.”

“Do your own people not trade in human bodies, Jun? Were you yourself not a slave, bought for money by a man who wanted you to do his work for him? Did you want a life like that?”

“I wasn’t happy there, no!” Jun said. “But Hagen never hurt us…well, he did hit us sometimes but he wasn’t a sadist. He didn’t hurt us for fun like your people do.” He glanced around the room. “And we weren’t jailed in cells like this either.”

His eyes wet wells of grief now, Faxor Canaan reached for Jun with both arms and clasped his shoulders. “You poor boy,” he whispered. Jun closed his eyes and stiffened his spine and let himself be pulled into the Hong man’s embrace. “I’m so sorry for what’s happened to you, Jun.” So kind in tone was the whisper in his ear, the words sounded quite nearly authentic. Jun shuddered.

“Jun, I need to ask you something: did the…uh, zombies, as you call them show you anything rather strange? An unconscious man just a few years older than you? He sleeps steadily and never awakens?”

The strigoi, Jun thought, alarmed, easing away from Canaan, back onto the bunk, back against the cold cinder blocks of the cell’s wall. He said nothing.

Canaan pulled his chair closer to the bunk. “He’s comatose or in some sort of fugue. They’ve left him naked so they can better observe changes in his appearance. He used to have a Force Ares marine strike force tattoo on his chest, but it’s faded away almost completely. His skin used to be quite dark—darker than yours—but it, too, has faded in color and become very smooth. Did you notice how smooth and pale his skin was?”

Jun nodded slowly and, in the next instant, realized that by doing so he had also accidentally admitted to having seen the strigoi.

“This sleeping man was once part of the Martian platoon that’s currently in your city. Did you know that?”

Jun shook his head.

“I think the Martians know that the zombies have their man and were thinking about rescuing him when you got caught in the crossfire.”

Jun felt increasingly confused. He felt nauseous with it. Either this Hong man knew more than he was revealing—more than what Jun himself knew, which was almost nothing—or he was fishing for clues that would support one theory or another. None of it makes any sense. Silence, Jun decided, was his best option. Let the Hong agent show what he knows.

“Jun, I’d like to show you something.” Canaan turned the small vid-screen of his handheld toward Jun. “Can you look at these images for me and tell me if any of it jogs a memory or means anything to you?” Apparently detecting Jun’s apprehension at this, Canaan reached out a hand and patted the boy on the shoulder softly. “It will just take a minute.”

Jun looked at the screen that Canaan held before his eyes. A hazy hologram blossomed from it, like a whorl of fog. Jun blinked, his vision blurring, and then he saw it:

The strigoi lies in air, afloat above a glassy slick of oil or water. He does not breathe; his chest does not rise or fall. Something pierces his chest, a smoky shaft of vapor, a ghostly stake.

Someone approaches the strigoi’s invisible bed and leans down, placing his head against the strigoi’s heart. The stake passes through this newcomer’s skull, but he does not seem to notice. His hair is thick, blond and tousled and his gray eyes smile when he looks up at Jun. It is Garren. But Jun knows that it can’t be Garren because Garren never saw the strigoi.

For the briefest sliver of a second, almost too quickly to be perceived, the top of Garren’s head explodes in a sleet of flechettes, blood and bone. But then Garren is still looking at him, uninjured and smiling. He turns away and circles the strigoi’s bed.

The sequence repeats itself: Garren approaches the strigoi, listens to its unbeating heart, smiles at Jun, dies in a hail of gunfire.

And again it happens.

And again, many more times….

“Please don’t cry,” whispers a soft voice. “Please, please, it will be all right again. I promise.” He knows it’s probably Faxor Canaan, the enemy, who embraces him and mops his tears with cold fingers. He lets himself be held anyway because it seems to make the images fade away and cease their terrible repetition. The one image he can’t get rid of, however, is the last one, the one that happens only once: Garren, bleeding and dead but still standing, turns his back on Jun and the strigoi and walks away into vapor and darkness.

“He is okay," said a voice. Jun gave into sudden sleepiness as he heard Canaan say, “He is ready for us now.”

From Shame, work-in-progress

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Announcing the AETHER AGE

I finally make good on a promise that I have been making for weeks: we are resuscitating the "Shared World" scheme. As regular readers of this page may be aware, this is a plan to create a fictional milieu which will be open to any writer for the creation of new stories. We will be putting together some sort of special issue of M-Brane of such work eventually.

After some consultation with Brandon Bell, who came up with the idea to have a shared world in the first place and who suggested many of its key characteristics, we have decided to call it The Aether Age. I have posted at the first draft of what will eventually be formal guidelines for working within this universe. The document can be downloaded or read online there. If you are interested in creating something within this new realm, please check it out. Also, all the past posts related to this project can be called together here using the "shared world" label.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We are tantalizingly close to completing the Things We Are Not sponsorship drive! A few more people throwing in a few bucks each will close the gap, which now stands at about $105. I am amazed that we got this close this soon, but failure was not an option either. M-Brane needs these funds for stability during the next couple of months and to make sure the launch of the book is smooth. As before, I will consider donations of any amount as applying toward the goal, as well as any further "vote" dollars in the cover art contest, and new subscriptions to the zine. This is totally doable.

Friday, August 28, 2009


M-BRANE 8 has been released with the following contents:

GUSTAVO BONDONI: Interplanetary Bicycles and the One Back Home

TRISTAN PALMGREN: Outside the Standard Deviation

JAMIE EYBERG: Winter Solstice


DEBORAH WALKER: Forever Sisters


FRED OLLINGER: The Brightest Spark


ROBERT E. KELLER: The Gates of Plutonis


TOM RIBAS: The Probe from Outer Space


RICK NOVY: Cex in the Sity

It rocks, much like this accompanying song:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Upcoming events and things

Just a quick update on some pending things:

1) I feel pretty confident about 10/1 as publication date for Things We Are Not. Expect to see some more news fairly soon about price and advance order information. I have a bunch more work to do on it, but I think I can have it ready on time. I'm considering trying to hold some sort of online launch party for it, too, involving Twitter and Ustream and Skype. If that still sounds like a good idea after I sober up, then I will figure out the details.

2) M-Brane #8 will be out by Monday 8/31 at latest most likely (since I am at the day job on 9/1).

3) The reading window for M-Brane #12 (Novy's issue) closes Monday 8/31, so writers need to move quickly if they still wish to submit.

4) I will have by Saturday (probably) some major new things to say about the Shared World project. It's getting moving again. For real this time.

Also, if you're interested, I have a new post up at The Region Between about my feelings and reflections regarding the passing of Senator Kennedy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Outer Alliance announces Pride Day 9/1/09

No one panic: I'm not going to talk about something "gay"on this blog every day. But I wanted to point out that the recently founded Outer Alliance of queer and queer-allied writers and editors and the like, will be conducting a very cool multi-blog multi-national event on 9/1. Details here. Also, writers who have stories in Things We Are Not and would like to use short excerpts from those as their participation may feel free to do so. Everyone is invited to participate regardless of whether you want to actually be otherwise involved in the Alliance or not.

Monday, August 24, 2009

To boycott or not

As a dude who is ready at any moment to do what little I can to economically retaliate against bigots, I'm pretty easy to talk into joining a boycott. I'll admit, however, that very often the considerations that come into play are more nuanced than what may seem to be the case at first. I found this very interesting and thoughtful article by Christian Nutt at Gamasutra in which he discusses his thoughts on whether or not to abstain from buying the game Shadow Complex because it is based on a premise by Orson Scott Card who has chosen to be a freakily rabid crusader against equal rights under the law for gays. (The article's writer, by the way, is a gay guy who was really interested in the game--go over there and read it. It's a very intelligent piece).

I'm not sure where I would come down on it myself. I do not play video games, but if I did and if I were really interested in Shadow Complex, I might play it anyway since whatever royalties Card is getting from that game are certainly not by themselves the funding linchpin of any kind of whacko anti-gay campaign. On the other hand, I am a reader of fiction. This game is based on the milieu of Card's novel Empire which is absolutely the single worst book I have read during this decade. So...hmm...I guess I might boycott it on those grounds then. Which would make my participation in the boycott no real sacrifice at all, rather like my participation during the 1990s in boycotts of the Wendy's fast-food chain and Domino's pizza (I hate the food from those places anyway). "I don't know about the game," I'd say to my imaginary gamer friends, "but have you read the book? Bleccchhh!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Updates on current affairs...

1. Please note that the GreenPunk website has launched. It's brand new and rather sparse still, but it already has a little bit of interesting content on it, and it is very, very open to much, much more. It's easy to interact with founder Matt Staggs via that site and also at Enter the Octopus. Also, I have admin access to the GreenPunk site as well, and am happy to review and pass along or post content if anyone wants to hit me up with anything from over here. It's a new Movement, so have fun throwing in on it at the the beginning if it appeals to you (see previous post on the this page, which links to Matt's original call to action).

2. Speaking of fresh new things, note also that the Outer Alliance, just a few days old, expands rapidly. Hit that little Alliance badge at the top of the right-hand column of this page and visit the main site. From there you can join the group if you wish. You can even get your own badge (it was designed by Mari Kurisato, naturally).

3. A few months ago, I announced with great confidence and self-satisfaction a Grand New Vision for M-Brane SF in which I vowed to take the zine into professional status and huge (by sf zine standards) circulation by a year from the date of that proclamation. As the months have passed, and as I have not gotten a whole lot closer to completing that vision yet, I wonder if I need to push back the deadline a bit. On the other hand, I have a strange and rather pleasant sense of movement in some direction, and I still think that the Vision could be realized. I can't discuss in detail right now some of the plans that I am kicking around, but I will say that I envision a number of new book projects following after Things We Are Not which should help solidify M-Brane as a growing presence in the world and shore up the zine itself.

4. Writers: You have a few more days to submit for Rick Novy's special issue (M-Brane #12). Deadline is 8/31. After that deadline passes, Rick will make his decisions and then I will resume normal reading for submissions (I will actually be backtracking a bit and acquiring a few more things for #1o and #11). Once those issues are all filled, there may be a reading hiatus for a little while, but I'll make sure I update guidelines promptly if that happens.

5. Shared World: Bear with me guys. I know I've been promising a re-boot of the Shared World discussion for a while now. It's coming. In the meantime, interested parties may want to review posts here and at Brandon Bell's page under the "Shared World" label at both sites.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Announcing GreenPunk

It seems that no matter how hard status quo-oriented people want the world of the last few decades to carry on forever, it is obvious that the old days are not only ending, but perhaps actually ended a long time ago. Consider these facts:

1) Finance-Capitalism has collapsed. No matter how Republican you want to be, it is, as you have known it, done, down in the ash-can of history, dead forever. Finished as surely Stalinism was. The party’s over, and it probably should have been cancelled long before the food and the band showed up;

2) The planetary climate is undergoing a shift that is currently and will continue to be perceptible within the lifetimes of people living now. The estimates of how long it will take to move radically toward a warmer and much different-looking planet are starting to look way too conservative and, (sorry to my neighbors, the “I-Don’t-Need-Facts-I-Got-Faith” folks of Jesusland) there is no serious scientific doubt anymore that something is happening. None at all. You can argue all day about how and why and what to do about it, but it is happening, and continuing to pollute the hell out of the planet is not going to help;

3) We have created (and by “we” I mean, collectively, the people of countries where people get to sit and type on computers like I am right now) mountains and heaps and rafts and flotillas of—excuse my language—shit. There is shit heaped everywhere, towers of manufactured crap, hordes of cheap and useless consumer goods, monumental barge-loads of human-made garbage as far as the eye can see. There’s a vortex of water bottles, trash bags and other plastic crap the size of Texas out in the Pacific ocean for eff’s sake! This is simply unsustainable in a world where the level of human anguish and the depth of planetary exhaustion and the complete and total fuck-all-this world-pain demand profound change at nearly every level.

End of lecture. But I said all that as a preface to presenting the following: Matt Staggs’ “GreenPunk Manifesto,” published yesterday on his fine blog Enter the Octopus. He proposes to identify and promulgate a sub-genre of fiction centered around this premise:

GreenPunk: a technophilic spec-fic movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing. GreenPunk would emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change.

“Rejecting steampunk’s romanticism while embracing its focus on approachable, ‘knowable’ technology (as opposed to the ‘black box’ nature of digital tech), GreenPunk envisions a world in which the detritus of consumer culture as propagated by the Elite is appropriated and repurposed by the masses toward the reconstruction of a devastated ecology and the address of social ills.”

Please go to Matt’s page and read more. A lot of people have posted interesting comments suggesting some already-existing literature that may fit under this umbrella or which may presage it. Also, according to recent Twitter updates from Matt, there will soon be a full-blown web resource for GreenPunk (if it hasn’t been launched already), and I will update as appropriate. Finally, I will commit right now to using M-Brane resources, such as they are, at some level with producing an anthology of new GreenPunk fiction should that seem to be demanded by the Movement.

[I’ll note that the website also ran an article about Matt’s post today, but (as is common on that site) somewhat missed the point (at least in user comments) that this is first and foremost a written fiction concept and not just a visual aesthetic. That may come later, but the TV/movie/videogame fanboys who like to dump on book-related ideas are not yet the whole intended audience for this. Also, I swiped that image of a library with trees growing in it from Matt's own post.]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OUTER ALLIANCE DAY 2: Already a Big Deal!

I'm amazed and delighted at the response that there has already been to Natania Barron's call for a new alliance of LGBT sf/f writers and allies. Dozens of writers and other interested folks have already joined the group, including such great people as Cheryl Morgan and Hal Duncan (relevant posts at both of their sites). [UPDATE: Also check out Cesar Torres' post about this.] Natania has worked with amazing speed and has already established a blog site for the group. It's still skeletal--the Alliance is less than 48 hours old after all. But it should be a fantastic resource. For my part, I am committing to contributing whatever I can as far as supporting and promoting the organization, as well as offering content to the website. I intended to run some profiles of the Things We Are Not writers on the TWAN page anyway, but perhaps I can cross-post some of that to the Outer Alliance page and expand the audience for it a bit.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Here's the front cover and table of contents for M-Brane #8, due out by September 1. I am quite happy with the selection of stories this time. It's fairly heavy on hard science fiction, but has some variety of flavors for readers who may not be in the mood for that.

We have the usual range of frequently published writers, including some Clarion alumni, along with some fairly new writers. Walker, Griffiths and Novy have appeared in M-Brane before, and three of these writers also have stories forthcoming in Things We Are Not (Gaskell, Walker and Griffiths).

The styles and themes range from super-science (Palmgren and Bondoni) to alien-planetary misadventure (Ribas and Keller) to cyberpunk (Beasom) to humorous erotica (Novy) and many other things in between and among.

GUSTAVO BONDONI: Interplanetary Bicycles and the One Back Home

TRISTAN PALMGREN: Outside the Standard Deviation

JAMIE EYBERG: Winter Solstice


DEBORAH WALKER: Forever Sisters


FRED OLLINGER: The Brightest Spark


ROBERT E. KELLER: The Gates of Plutonis


TOM RIBAS: The Probe from Outer Space


RICK NOVY: Cex in the Sity

While this news is a big deal in my little world, I hate to distract from today's earlier post about Barron's plan to form a LGBT writer's alliance, so continue reading down the page and catch that as well.

Sf/f LGBT writers' alliance?

If you have interest in LGBT issues in sf/f, check out this post from Natania Barron in which she proposes forming an alliance of writers. I suspect some of the Things We Are Not writers will wish to consider this. While this proposal is inspired in part by The Recent Unpleasantness, I think Natania has it right that there should be a way to be positive and proactive rather than always reacting to attacks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Campaigning for THINGS WE ARE NOT here and there

Not a lot of news tonight (in the exhausted center of a weekend of day-jobbery), except to point out that Brandon Bell has a good post up at his blog about things that people can do to get the word out on Things We Are Not. He is right that this a good little opportunity to have more WIN and less FAIL in our sf world.

Also, I guess I'll just go ahead and do something that I would never, during most years, even consider, and point out that tomorrow, August 16, is my birthday. Most years I neither wish for nor expect acknowledgment or gifts on this fairly pointless occasion, the date at which I can say I have lived another full year. Generally, as I advance further toward decrepitude, I would like to downplay the occasion as much as possible. But this year, I am asking that the Things We Are Not sponsorship campaign reach its goal so that I can rest assured that all is well with the book (and so I can quit shaking people down). If I find when I get home from work tomorrow a bunch of Pay Pal receipts in my in-box, I will be a very happy birthday boy indeed. (We're a bit above 40% of goal right now.) So if you have something to promote or if you just want to aid a worthy project (or know someone else who does), read about the Benefactor program at the Things We Are Not page.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Duncan demolishes another moralizing phony-baloney homophobe

Please enjoy this fine, fine item by Hal Duncan, one of my favorite writer/bloggers. He always says what I would say if I were even half as smart as he is:
Notes From The Geek Show: An Open Letter to John C. Wright

Sir Terry Pratchett on Alzheimer's and dying

Earlier this month, Sir Terry Pratchett, the English fantasy novelist best known for his many-volume Discworld series, published an article in the Daily Mail in which he advocates for death with dignity and the right to choose such (and get help if needed) for people who face lingering, terrible ends.

A couple of years ago, Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Fortunately, his cognitive function remains quite high and he is still able to be an advocate for the position he expresses in his article. Please go over to The Region Between, where I have reprinted Pratchett's piece in full, preceded by a short intro from me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Silverberg's SF 101, mindblowing short fiction

You may be of the aware of the recent online discussions over the recent Mammoth Book Mindblowing SF, which has attracted some unfavorable attention over how it has managed to be a collection of stuff entirely by male writers. A good intro to the matter is can be found here at the Tor site, and one can turn up plenty more discussion of it in other places, such as Tempest Bradford's site. Brandon Bell this week offered a pair of posts acknowledging the controversy (one about some mindblowing books not necessarily all by white dudes, and another set of reading recs for great stuff by female authors).

It seems to me that an editor would have to go out of his way to come up with an all-male antho anymore. I ended up with a 50/50 male/female writer ratio for Things We Are Not naturally without even thinking about it a lot. I did not apply any sort of "quota" to it. It just happened to work out that half of the stories that I most liked out of all of the submissions that I received were by women. While sf may still be perceived in some quarters as a guy's genre, it seems that nowadays there are just as many women writing it as men. At least that's the impression I get from my experience with M-Brane and also from general reading in recent years.

Well, the above is by way of introduction to the fact that I wanted to mention this all-old-white-dude anthology that I happen to be perusing this week: Robert Silverberg's Science Fiction 101, previously published as Robert Silverberg's Worlds of Wonder. I picked it up at the library a few days ago. It's a collection of a dozen remarkable, classic sf short stories, each accompanied by critical essays by Silverberg. It serves as a sort of primer for readers and writers of sf. I have to admit that it might have escaped my notice that the table of contents has nothing but dudes in it had I not had the the Mammoth affair on my mind. But, in the case of this book, it serves as an example of how things have changed. The collection was originally published over twenty years ago, and even then, most of the stories in it were already quite old. Silverberg selected mostly items from the 1950s and 1960s, almost all of it pre-New Wave and before an increasing number of women writers were taking up sf.

But he did this very deliberately because he was trying to present a starting point with the genre for both readers and writers, along with plenty of analysis and commentary as to why these stories as a group are a good starting point. And it is very true that this earlier era of sf was almost wholly male-dominated. So, while I doubt that Silverberg was even thinking about representing the other gender when compiling this book, I do not think either that he was deliberately disregarding it. What's more important with this book, I think, than the vintage of the stories or the genders of their writers, is that these twelve stories are still, for the most part, stories that could be listed in the "mindblowing" category.

The book contains decades-old tales that still seem somehow fresh and endlessly re-readable today. Items like Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain" and Alfred Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit" and Fred Pohl's "Day Million" dazzled and rattled people back in their day, and they still pack their punch. I was also happy to find a few things that I had read before in my life but had forgotten about such as Brian Aldiss's brilliant "Hothouse" and Robert Sheckley's terrific "The Monsters," as well as Philip Dick's "Colony." If you were to turn up a copy of this somewhere, I'd recommend reading even if just for Silverberg's essays accompanying each story. He makes a lot of great observations about the work of his peers and passes a long some good technical analysis of what makes the stories work without getting tedious and pedantic about it. Also, I think it's a good thing once in a while (even while doing the necessary of work of keeping abreast of what's hip and happening and significant in today's sf world) to go back and spend some more time considering our beginnings.

[The image is of Silverberg.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A rant over at "Region Between"

I have posted a rant about the health care reform debate at the Region Between. It makes references to time travel, and so could be of tangential interest to M-Brane readers who may not otherwise wish to endure such a rant.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Writers links updated

I added a few new names to the M-Brane writers links list (down below in the right hand column), including a few of those who have so far returned contracts for their stories in Things We Are Not. As I get the info in from that group of writers, I will add the rest. If you are a writer who has published a story in the zine, or are scheduled to have one either in M-Brane or Things We Are Not, and have a website, but do not see your name listed (it's alphabetical by first name), let me know so I can fix it.

The importance of one's workspace

[UPDATE: I've added a sequel to this post over at The Region Between. Also Luke Burrage has a new post about this same subject matter on his blog today. But read this one first.]

I found a link by way of Enter the Octopus to this Where I Write page from photographer Kyle Cassidy, which contains photos of writers in their workspaces. (You'll need to click that link and go there to understand most of this post.) One of my favorites of the set (copied here) is of Samuel Delany in his writing space. The small room in what looks to be an old building, piled high with stuffed bookshelves and a window by the desk really appeals to me. Also I like the paint colors. The green is very similar to the wall color of my kitchen, while the orange is the same as the color in my dining room. It's bit disheveled for my comfort level, and I'd love to straighten or put away those heaps of paper, but what a nice little room.

Others I like include Elizabeth Hull's room with the free-standing bookshelves, though that desk needs to be seriously tidied up. If I were to let mine get like that, I would become even more mentally unbalanced than I normally am (but J would make me clean it up long before it got that messy anyway). Swanwick and Datlow have nice rooms and, in both cases, they strike me as exactly the sort of spaces that I would picture them being in if I had never seen these pics. And check out the image of Fred Pohl. The room he is in is perhaps nothing too special, but look closely at the man himself. There's so much story in that face. It's a great photograph of a great figure of the sf genre.

But, of course, different people do differently in different spaces. Personally, I think Piers Anthony's room is tragic. It looks like he just moved in (though years ago) and never really unpacked or got set up. If J went into that room, he would immediately pull down and throw into the trash those vertical blinds. "And why's all this junk on the floor!" he would say. It's a neat pic of the author, though, despite the aesthetic problems that plague the space. Similarly, Harry Harrison's space is not the most attractive. It's a bit too spare and unlived-in like Anthony's, though it's tidier. And, again, a great image of the man himself. One room that's not quite to my taste but is well done is Ben Bova's. It's not really the way I'd want a workspace to look, but it's orderly. There's a lot of stuff in it, but it's not messy. Stacks are neat. It looks like he would know completely what is in that room and where to find it.

Some of you have seen little bits and pieces of my own workspace in images of me that have shown up here and there over the months. Considering how modest our home is (it's a somewhat smallish first floor of an old two-family house in one of OKC's few attractive neighborhoods), and how much I would like to move to another home in a different city someday soon, I very much like the room that I call the "library," and which would have just been a second bedroom in a more conventional family relationship. It's sunny most of the time, with a south-facing window. It has big, lovely houseplants in it (thanks, J!), and a lot of books. When we painted the place (we did every inch of every room because the existing scheme was uber-fugly), I chose a rather intense blue wall color (because I like it and also because we had already used yellow, red, green and orange elsewhere). Later, I heard that blue is supposedly a good color for a "creative" work space. Maybe there's something to it: we were living here for five months already before we had the money to buy paint, and I did no creative work to speak of. Since then, since the advent of the blue walls, I've done a lot of personal writing and founded M-Brane.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 HUGO Awards

The news of the Hugo winners is all over the web by now, so let me just link over to the well-presented list at the SF Signal site rather than re-list it here.

I have not managed to read anywhere near all of this year's nominees, but I have heard such acclamation for Neil Gaiman's book that I am not surprised that he won in the novel category. I am also pleased that Nancy Kress and Elizabeth Bear won in the novella and novelette categories respectively. They are wonderful, stunning story tellers.


Last night J and I watched Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope (Special Edition) and had much fun digging out his collection of action figures (in their Darth Vader carrying case, of course), taking pictures of them and tweeting those images with appropriate quotations from the film as we watched it. When we reached the Death Star battle sequence, J decided that we should take the accompanying picture. It captures the exact instant when fighter pilot Porkins, an early fatality in the fight, was doomed. For some reason, this rather minor event in the movie, has always been for both of us disproportionately memorable. And far funnier than it really should be. We think it may trip the same silly-giggle switch as all the other blatant prejudices that permeate Star Wars: the kinda-fat dude is named Porkins and is one of the first to get blown up; Jawas, a sentient race, are, in the estimation of a droid, "disgusting creatures"; a Wookie, also sentient, is "that thing" and "a walking carpet"; the Imperials evidently employ no "aliens" at all (but they have a monster in a trash compactor on a space station for some reason), and so on.

I am also including pics of us with the Darth Vader carrying case and of the extremely rare Snaggletooth action figure. I was most impressed that J had that one because I somehow lost mine way back in the day and was never able to track down a replacement.

The Ellison documentary, etc

I have a new post up at the the Region Between about how J and I watched the Ellison documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth this weekend (with a link within that post to a review of it). I mention it here because it may be of interest to M-Brane readers, but I put it over at the other site because it contains a couple of frank references to sex. I'm just putting that out here as a warning for those who aren't in the mood for it. The Region Between site does present an advisory of "adult concepts" when one goes there, but I think it may only happen the first time you go there, and I don't know of it happens at all if you follow the direct link to the post from here to there.

Whither the zines?

Go over to Brandon Bell's blog and read his post titled "The Short Fiction Singularity." He offers some good comments, observations and suggestions about what's happening to short fiction markets currently.

Since my own post about Baen's Universe announcing that it will cease in a few months, we've heard similar news about Farrago's Wainscot. Also, I heard via Twitter from Jason Sizemore that he is again making Apex's content free online, ending a brief experiment with keeping it behind a pay wall. While I can sympathize with and support whatever he decides he needs to do with his excellent zine, I do not consider this to be good news and I wish that the pay-to-play model had worked out better.

We got word out of the Worldcon that the Semiprozine Hugo will continue to be a category, finally ending that debate. But there being an award that can be won doesn't necessarily mean that there will be any semipro fiction publications around to win it. I wonder what the short fiction publishing world is going look like in a few years, or even as soon as one year from now.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

THINGS WE ARE NOT cover art contest announced!

Get over to the Things We Are Not page right away to read the details on the cover art election/contest for the anthology! We're going to use both covers, but we're still having a contest with a fantastic prize anyway. It's also a good alternate way to micro-donate to the Cause. Check it out.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I have set a goal of increasing M-Brane's treasury by $500 this month in order to defray a few costs related to launching Things We Are Not and also to keep the zine in decent health for the next few months. If enough generous people participate, this goal should be easily attainable. Please visit the Things We Are Not page ( to read the details in the post titled "SPONSORSHIP" dated August 7. People who have things to promote, in particular, may find my plan appealing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Contents announced: THINGS WE ARE NOT

The upcoming M-Brane “queer anthology” will henceforth be called by its newly official title Things We Are Not, which is also the title of Brandon Bell’s contribution to it. While the title means one thing in the context of Brandon’s story, I strongly felt that it could apply appropriately to the entire contents of the book. In four syllables, it seems to catch a bit of the rebellion and transgression that infuses the entire collection. As this project’s editor, I will concede that I may be unduly enthusiastic about it, but I am convinced that this collection is not what anyone is expecting. It is better.

I am not ready to show the cover art yet, but I will list below the authors and their story titles. This table of contents is provisional pending completion of contracts with the writers (yes, writers, I will be sending you those shortly, I promise), and the order in which stories are listed does not necessarily indicate their order in the final publication. The cover art has been created by Mari Kurisato and will be shown soon. The catch, however, is that we have two covers from Mari and there will be a contest to determine which one ends up being the final one. Details will follow within a few days. [UPDATE: the cover art is previewed now on a new page devoted to this anthology.]

Alex Wilson “Outgoing”

Derek J. Goodman “As Wide as the Sky, and Twice as Explosive”

Alex Jeffers “Composition With Barbarian and Animal”

C.B. Calsing “Seeker”

Trent Roman “Confessions of a Call Herm”

Mari Kurisato “Connected”

Larissa Gail “Diplomatic Relations”

Eden Robins “Switch”

Deborah Walker “The Meerprashi Solution”

Jay Kozzi “Pos-psi-bilities”

Abby “Merc” Rustad “Queen for a Day”

Therese Arkenberg “Reila’s Machine”

Christopher Fletcher “The Robbie”

Stephen Gaskell “The Offside Trap”

Michael D. Griffiths “Transitions”

Lisa Shapter “The World in His Throat”

Brandon Bell “Things We Are Not…”

[Notes: Wilson’s story appeared previously in Asimov’s (February 2007); Jeffers’ story appeared in slightly different form in Universe 3 (1994, Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, editors). Goodman, Walker, Arkenberg, Griffiths, Rustad, Kozzi and Bell have appeared with other stories in the pages of M-Brane SF. Gaskell has a story upcoming in M-Brane #8; Robins and Kurisato both have stories upcoming in M-Brane #9.]

An online kerfuffle over the Hugo slate in which lines are drawn and people get all wound up

This topic is getting to be a couple weeks old and has probably run its course already, but I thought maybe some readers of this page might be unaware of it and would like to check it out. Perhaps you are aware of the Recent Unpleasantness incited by novelist and professor Adam Roberts on his Punkadiddle blog. I won't rehash the whole thing since you can go there and read it for yourself, but to summarize, he asserts that the slate of novels from which Hugo voters will choose a winner this year is a rather mediocre lot, perhaps somewhat wanting in literary merit. Someone will always have a problem with any group of nominees for any award, but what has gotten folks particularly wound up in the case Roberts' broadside is that he implies that the readership of sf and fantasy novels is too undiscriminating, too unaware of what qualities a truly "great" novel ought to have.

This drew lengthy replies from The Crotchety Old Fan (Steve Davidson, also of the Classic Science Fiction Channel site) and novelist John Scalzi , among others. The former focuses more on the Literary vs. Popular theme, while Scalzi spends more time on the Insulting the Readership matter.

It appears that Roberts doesn't like the system of selecting the Hugos--popular vote by the convention members, and would rather it be a juried award. Well, it's not. Don't get me wrong: I can work up an Elitist Bad Humor in no time and spend an hour ranting and raving about all the mistakes the Dumb Masses can make when they have the vote on something. But in the case of the Hugos, the voters are hardly the common rabble. There is only a thin wedge of people who even read books, much less fiction at all, much less sf/f. The audience for great, even "literary," genre fiction is there, and I think there a lot of other reasons aside from the voters just going for what's popular that explain why a lot of these other great books go un-nominated. A lot of great books get tiny print runs or they don't show up at all in North America (where a majority of the voters are) or their authors or publishers don't do enough to promote themselves.

I think the Crotchety Old Fan's reply makes an interesting case, but I'm not sure that I quite buy all the assumptions inherent in the Traditional SF vs. Literary SF comparison. Also, I find it regrettable that he uses movies to make the argument. SF films have frak-all to do with sf as a written form. Also, I would argue that if one must use Forbidden Planet and Star Wars in a comparison/contrast, then the COF has it somewhat in reverse. I'd argue that Forbidden Planet, while maybe "traditional" in the COF's view of it, is also the more "literary" of the two by far. I understand that he is saying that Star Wars shows everything and keeps nothing hidden in the way that literary fiction can get (too) deeply into detail of character and emotion. But I don't think that's always true of "Literature" either, and I don't see the line being so sharply drawn. A lot of writers that I would consider to have written "traditional" sf are also fantastic literary stylists (such as LeGuin, Sturgeon, Delany, Ballard). I think a more apt comparison that would perhaps make the COF's point better would be between a writer like Asimov or Heinlein or Haldeman or Niven and one of those High Literature writers who use genre devices but still get counted as Serious Artists, such as Cormac McCarthy or Michael Chabon.

[The image is of Adam Roberts from his Wikipedia page. Aside from being a prof and a lit crit, he is the author a number of well-regarded sf novels such as Salt and Gradisil; he has also penned a number of those goofy parody novels (Star Warped, The Soddit, etc.) that I think one needs to be either English or a super-dork to want to spend time with. But, ya know, whatever turns your crank...]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SHARED WORLD: Getting back to work

This is the week that I swore that I would start some new work on the Shared World project. Since it's Wednesday and I've done nothing on it yet, it's a great thing that Brandon Bell has had some inspiration and focus and offered this great post on his site. I think he's on target as far as identifying some general time frames of events in the World and suggesting a historical progression from one to the next. Also, after reading his remarks, I'd agree that we don't need to have quite as much detail worked out in advance as I thought might be needed. What we're working on is really more general guidelines, broad-stroke type stuff. So...I am, as always, welcoming new comments and ideas from anyone who has participated in this discussion before or who would like to get in on it. The whole run of Shared World-related posts can be called up using the Shared World label below (and one of those contains a link to download a document summarizing most of what has been discussed in those posts and their many comments).

Baen's UNIVERSE closing

The April 2010 issue will be the final issue of Jim Baen's Universe, according to a recent message from editor Eric Flint on their site. This is highly disappointing to me not just because it amounts to the business failure of a professional sf magazine, but also because this one was the big example to which I often pointed as the possible future of short fiction periodicals. People who have read my remarks on this in the past know well that I am convinced that there needs to be a business model for fiction mags where the readers pay something for content. I have based the existence of M-Brane on this conviction.

But, again, the model fails and the tiny sf-reading-world insists on free content. Let's compare Universe to another highly-regarded web-only, no-paper-version zine, Clarkesworld. The former has a paid subscription scheme--and not exactly cheap either. Plus they offered all kinds of ways to give still more money in various tiers of patronage. The latter, on the other hand, is entirely free. So Clarkesworld is much better, right? Because it's free? Well, it depends what you want out of a "magazine." If you were paying money for it, I suspect you'd be happier with Universe because it offers a LOT of content, like you would expect out of "real" magazine. Clarkesworld, while offering top-notch content, has relatively little of it and what is there is stuff that is in compliance with rigid word-count rules. Why would there be word-count limits on a web page? Maybe because they pay an impressively high word rate to writers with no readily apparent source of support for it save for donations. If you are an editor and have to spend four hundred bucks for a story with no one paying one thin dime to read it, then you are not going to be able to buy very many of those stories.

I have no idea how the free zines that also pay their writers survive, and it's none of my business. I do know, however, how Universe failed (not because of my great insight but because Flint explains it on their site). It all came down to inadequate reader support in the form of paid subscriptions. It seems very unfair, considering that the "Big Three" print digests which are not necessarily better zines than Universe, continue to somehow survive under the old dead model while the online free-for-all thrives on the other side, but right in the middle there seems to be no way to be viable as both paying and paid-for. I'm sad that Universe will go away next year just because it can't take in enough money. If M-Brane ever goes away, that will probably be the reason for it, too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


A Dune-related post is freshly up at The Region Between. It's rather more about how communication on Twitter can be unintentionally funny as a thread lengthens over a day or two. I had an entirely other subject for this page tonight...but sleepiness drags me down. I am off from the day job for the next few days, have a long list of Things to Do and will probably have a number of items to announce here between tomorrow and the weekend.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zine submissions updates, other miscellany

Reading for issue #12, by guest editor Rick Novy, continues until the end of August. I have noticed a steep decline in volume of new story submissions coming into M-Brane. This decline became noticeable at about the start of July, right after a fairly heavy June. This could be seasonal, and it could have to do with the fact that this particular issue has a set reading period and perhaps some writers are working toward meeting that deadline and we'll hear from them closer to it. Anyway, if you are a writer with something good in search of a home, go ahead and submit for Rick's issue.

After the 8/31 deadline for issue #12 has passed, I will return to reading for some other upcoming issues. In fact, I will be going backward in the schedule to complete the partially-filled issue #10 and the still mostly empty issue #11. And that will round out the first year. I have begun production on issue #8. I wish had the cover and TOC ready to preview already because I am pretty excited about it. It is going to be quite a good issue with some fine work by a some past M-Brane contributors like Deborah Walker, Mike Griffiths and Rick Novy as well as some great stories by writers new to our pages. Among those are Stephen Gaskell, a Writers of the Future published finalist who is also scheduled to appear in our queer antho. I also have a terrific hard sf novelette by Tristan Palmgren, who has also placed fiction with Interzone.

I swear I will do something to revive the Shared World planning soon so that we can finally have some writers guidelines for that someday and get a publication scheduled somewhere on the calendar. How well (or poorly) the queer antho does will have some bearing on whether the first published Shared World project ends up being an issue in the regular run of the zine or a separate stand-alone publication. But decisions on that are obviously somewhere off in the future still since we're not done world-building yet.


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