Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10/1 is "Support Our 'Zines Day"

Writer Damien G. Walter is promoting this very nice campaign to encourage readers of speculative fiction to show some support for their favorite zines by subscribing or donating to them on October 1. I always feel like a douchebag when I'm trying to raise money...but I'm getting used to it. If anyone is so moved as  to show love for M-Brane in this way on 10/1, the handy Pay Pal buttons to subscribe to the zine or donate to the Writers' Fund are always available on Page 2.  But a new and terrific way to support the cause this month is to pre-order a copy of Things We Are Not. It comes with a zine subscription, too!

M-BRANE #9 RELEASED; Pre-order TWAN and get it for free!

The ninth issue was just released to its writers and PDF subscribers moments ago.  The print version and single copies of the issue may be ordered as usual by way of Page 2. This issue contains, aside from its fantastic stories, a reprint of the author/story intros for Things We Are Not which ran on the TWAN page recently. Also, the list of Benefactors--those great people who donated to the TWAN sponsorship campaign--appears in this issue.

This issue is terrific, and the perfect one for new readers to start a subscription, which they can do for FREE by pre-ordering Things We Are Not. As an additional inducement, I should mention that this issue contains Mari Kurisato's story "Lurker," which has a sequel in Things We Are Not. So pre-order the anthology now, and get "Lurker" right away so you are ready for "Connected" in a few days!

Monday, September 28, 2009


The pre-order period for print (for US domestic readers) and PDF editions of Things We Are Not has begun. Go to the TWAN page for complete details. The print copy price of $16.95 includes shipping. Also a PDF subscription to M-Brane SF is included with both print and electronic editions of the book. This is a good deal.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TWAN proof approved! Pre-order to start 9/28

At last I have in my hands the proof for the print edition of Things We Are Not. It’s a bit later than I had hoped it would be at this stage, but I believe we are still on track to release by 10/15.  The physical edition is quite gorgeous and I breathed a great sigh of relief when I opened the package and laid eyes upon it for the first time. This is the first book project of its type that I have produced and the first time I have used this particular process to publish something, so I had an irrational yet persistent fear that the spine text would somehow not be on the spine, or that the cover image colors would be all wrong or that the interior pages would be shuffled out of order. But all is well.

I will start a pre-order period soon.  Order options will appear on the TWAN page and there will be a link to it from this page and M-Brane Page 2 (the usual buy-stuff page). This will likely begin on Monday 9/28.  The reason I am delaying a couple more days is simply because of day-jobbery tomorrow and through the weekend. A couple more details need to be firmed up before I can set a final price for the paper and e-editions, and I won’t be able to have all that squared away until Monday morning. A couple of things that I can say for sure is that I will have a shipping-included price that will be available to US domestic readers who order directly from me, which will probably be cheaper than ordering it from Amazon. As for overseas orders, I do not know how the numbers work out yet, and that’s one of the things that are delaying the pre-order period for a couple more days.

Also, if you were thinking of becoming a subscriber to the zine and haven’t yet, you might as well wait a couple days now: everyone who buys Things We Are Not in print or electronic form directly from M-Brane during the pre-order period will also get a subscription to the PDF edition of the zine (this offer will probably not apply to Amazon print or Kindle sales, but I will be able to determine that for sure by start of next week).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The rest of the TWAN writer profiles...

...are now posted at the TWAN page.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Autumnal City

I've been fascinated by the images coming online from Sydney, where a bizarre dust storm blanketed the city today, turning the sunlight an eerie red. Check out this Red Sydney Project Flickr page, where people have been posting hundreds of these pictures.  A lot of them are beautiful and weird.

Many of the pictures make me think of Bellona, the strangely isolated and enigmatic city of Delany's masterpiece Dhalgren. Perhaps because of the look of the various cover art for different editions of the book, I always see Bellona in my imagination as a place where even during the day it is never quite fully light (which I guess makes sense, since the place is described as having areas that are somehow continuously on fire and probably emitting smoke), and everything is perceived through a haze.

The image to the left is the art from the original printings of the novel, and the other one is the cover of the more recent Vintage edition, which is the one I have in my own library.

In both cases, one can probably see why the images of Red Sydney reminded me of Bellona even if one has not read the book.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A few more TWAN author/story profiles...

...are posted on the Things We Are Not page.

M-BRANE 9 coming soon

I am very excited about the upcoming new issue of M-Brane SF. The October issue features a wide array of wonder and weirdness from a few writers new to our pages and few returning writers. We have here  three writers (Robins, Kozzi and Kurisato) who also have stories imminently appearing in Things We Are Not. We also have return appearances in M-Brane from Lange (#5), Grady (#2), Brill (#3), Earls (#1) and Dagstine (#2). I'm excited also by the stories from writers who were new to me (McHugh, Ward, Reynolds-Ward, Obermeyer and Sykora). I usually think that the upcoming issue is the most exciting one ever, but I think it may be especially true with this one. 


SUE LANGE The Kangaroo Wars

MAURA McHUGH: Empty Mind Came Back with the Pearl


BILL WARD: Chance in the Year 54

BOB BRILL: Hibiscus Sex



JASON EARLS: Fibonacci Numbers and the Psycho Living in the Condemned Funeral Parlor

JEFF KOZZI: The Veritable Vegetable Victory

ANNA SYKORA: The Coming of the Abaries



Friday, September 18, 2009

Robinson blasts Booker Prize for ignoring sf

I don't have time to comment on it tonight, but I wanted to point out this interesting article about Kim Stanley Robinson taking to task the Man Booker judges for ignoring sf, which he considers to be in a sort of Golden Age in Britain. I'd be curious what anyone else might think about this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TWAN writer profiles at antho page

I put up a new post of interest to people who are looking forward to Things We Are Not at the TWAN page. Also, I apologize to readers who are less interested in the anthology--I am deep into the process of finishing it and getting it published, so for a few more days it's probably going to be all TWAN all the time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWAN cover art update

I've posted some news regarding the cover art for Things We Are Not and the little contest we held related to it over at the Things We Are Not page.

Monday, September 14, 2009

THINGS WE ARE NOT getting closer

I feel somehow out of touch with everyone when I let a couple days lapse without a new post either here or at the Region Between journal.  Here's what's been going on over here on the Brane:  I have been somewhat overwhelmed with my own self-created list of Stuff to Do lately, but I have made major headway during the last couple of days as far as digging myself out.

The major formatting and design work for Things We Are Not is now finished and I am very close to being able to get a proof from the printer, give it a last look, fix any last little mistakes and get the thing published. I am "officially" pushing back the release date to 10/15 from 10/1 because I do not feel comfortable promising that people will have copies in their hands by 10/1 since tomorrow is 9/15 already. Stuff took a bit longer than I thought it would this month. At this point, however, things will probably move pretty quickly, but I think a month from now is a comfortable date. It will be a pretty hefty book, weighing in at about 350 pages, in trade paperback format.  We will also have the usual e-versions (PDF, Mobi and Kindle). I hope to announce advance sales of it within a few days. I plan to offer some sort of deal for pre-release purchase and I will probably throw in subscriptions to the zine as part of it as well.  Details should be known in another week.

Oh. I guess at some point I also have to finish M-Brane #9, too! That's due by 10/1. Normally, this is the point during the month when I'd like to preview the TOC and cover, but we'll just be a bit late on that this time.  The issue itself will, however, be on time and it's going to be an especially great one, with new stories from the likes of Eden Robins, Mari Kurisato, Maura McHugh, Sue Lange, Jason Earls and others.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some updates on current/pending projects

1. Rick Novy has been making his story selections for his special issue, M-Brane #12. While I have not read most of the stories myself yet, I am certain that it will be a terrific issue. I am considering making a special alternate print version of it available in a trade paperback format, laid out like a regular anthology as opposed to the normal magazine's design, as a format experiment, a possible dry-run for the Aether Age project. Not sure yet. Though incoming submissions were a bit slow during the reading period, it sounds like the selection process became quite competitive due to an overall high-quality pool of submissions.

2. Things We Are Not, the queer antho, is undergoing some editing work still, and it is going a bit more slowly than I had hoped. I think I am still on track for completion and release by 10/1. It is possible that the publication date may technically be 10/1 but it could be more like 10/15 for delivery of print copies to people. I hope it doesn't go that late, but I need to receive a proof copy, make sure it's OK, fix it if it's not, and that can slow me down a bit. I am off from the day job through Monday and am hoping to be to that proof stage by then. Also, I hope to be able to start offering advance purchase of the book in both print and e-editions any day now. Exciting! By the way, we are still not quite to goal on that fund drive. Just saying. I haven't been panhandling too much lately, because it tires me out, but we still need about $75.00

3. See this earlier post if you have interest in The Aether Age (formerly referred to as the Shared World). We're still taking comments and suggestions, but are now basing it on the document that can be downloaded via that post. It would seem to unaided eye that nothing has been going on with this project lately, but it will kick into higher gear after Things We Are Not is done. But now and over the next couple of weeks is probably prime time to make further comments on the first version of the guidelines/bible for it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Outer Alliance makes statement on queer-unfriendly markets

I ran the ad for Crossed Genres the other day (see previous post) as a display of solidarity with its editor who encountered some trouble trying to buy ad space for it in another webzine, due to non-acceptance of The Gay over there. I wasn't at liberty to explain it before since it was still being decided within the Alliance whether there would be an Alliance response to it and what it would be, if so. After a lot of discussion and debate, The Outer Alliance has taken the position that it will let members know when it discovers a publisher that is specifically opposed to the values of the Alliance. Here is the statement on that, with a link to the whole story, if you are interested. This is also what set me off on writing this Region Between post (warning: explicit language/sexual content--unlike Bart's ad for Crossed Genres), which I did before I knew specifically who the unsympathetic publisher is. It is also the subject of this rather more measured and thoughtful new post from Brandon Bell.

I have to say that this is all rather painful to me personally, because I have known the publisher who disappointed us on this subject for a while via Twitter and have always gotten along well with him, even if we do clash on political issues from time to time. This isn't just politics for me, however. It is deeply personal. It's not like discussing a compromise on what kind of health care reform bill or energy plan or tax policy we ought to do adopt. I don't have any space for compromise on this issue. And this does not mean that I want there to be animosity and rancor. I do not. There's too much on Earth already, and I don't want to have it with people who could otherwise be friends. But I need to make it clear where I stand on this, and that I stand with the Outer Alliance on it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

CROSSED GENRES to have queer issue

The magazine Crossed Genres is calling for submissions for its 12th issue, which will have a LGBTQ theme. Writers should move quickly, since the deadline is 9/30 for an issue that will be published in November. Crossed Genres, edited by Bart Leib and Kay Holt, is a monthly sf/f zine that presents a theme each month for its writers. I was pleased to meet Bart and learn of this zine by way of the Outer Alliance.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fiction excerpt at GreenPunk site

If anyone's interested, my new post at the GreenPunk website is another excerpt from my novel-in-progress (from a different section of the story than the one I included here in my Outer Alliance Pride Day post a few days ago). The site is still quite new and not exactly loaded with content yet, but it is starting to get interesting, with both non-fiction and fiction items appearing with some regularity. By the way, if any writers reading this have any story excerpts from new or in-progress (or even older work) that you think has a greenpunk sensibility, feel free to let me know about it. I'd be glad to get them posted over there and get some more voices in on it. It's fun.

M-BRANE 5 reviewed at Tangent

I forgot to mention that the June issue received a very nice review at Tangent Online. The reviewer Steve Fahnestalk, aside from having favorable things to say about most of the stories in the issue, also very graciously compared M-Brane to a prozine in its quality and production values, which I found gratifying. Of course, some things still need to change and improve before M-Brane SF is a prozine, but I'll gladly accept the compliments. It is a respectable piece of work.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I saw that F. Allen Farnham’s novel Angry Ghosts (Cadre One, 2009) was highlighted recently at Matt Staggs’ blog Enter the Octopus. Indeed, this novel, a micro-press published book, was the winner of a “One-Page Cage Match” defeating the big-time TOR-published Brandon Sanderson novel Warbreaker. I was intrigued by what the writer described as the story’s themes, things such as retaining one’s humanity when survival demands something else, and the concept of violence as a “generational institution.” Allen kindly showed me an electronic review copy of the book, with which I passed the time while doing laundry over the last couple of weeks.

Intended as the first in a series, it deals with the aftermath of the near-total annihilation of the human race after an alien invader devastates Earth. Set centuries after this calamity, the story follows the adventures of a cadre of genetically modified, cybernetically enhanced super-soldiers who are themselves the descendants of human colonists elsewhere in the galaxy who escaped the holocaust and managed to keep their existence hidden from the alien enemy.

We learn early on that these people live a rigidly regimented subsistence existence, based around keeping their own hidden colony alive by striking out in raids against the aliens to obtain more raw materials, spacecraft that they can salvage and the like. Their methods are stunningly lethal, made so by the absolute necessity of keeping secret the fact that humans still exist. We also get a glimpse of the conflict from the perspective of the alien race, some of whom evidently view what they did to the humans as an atrocity and have begun to suspect that the humans are returning (as the “angry ghosts” of the title) to have their revenge.

I’m not going to give away too much of the plot. I will say, however, that the story becomes both more complex and more interesting when a trio of these soldiers (with the rather amusing and pugnacious job descriptions of “Geek,” “Brick” and “Gun”), while conducting what they believe to be an attack on a huge enemy vessel, discover instead that it is a colony vessel carrying a large number of humans. Tragically, the revelation that they have found—for the first time ever—more human beings in the universe doesn’t come until they have killed seventeen of them in their initial bloody incursion into the ship. This event sets up the conflict around which the rest of the story revolves: can these disparate groups come to trust each other and find a way to reunify their long-separated branches of humanity and find a common home together? When we meet the human colonists, it becomes clear just how weird the military cadre has become over time as a result of their survivalist mode of existence. The newly discovered humans are more or less like what we would think of as normal: they eat food grown from plants and animals, they engage in sexual reproduction (rather than cloning), they have conventional family relationships, they value things like freedom of choice and freely express their emotions. All of these things have been either forgotten, suppressed as weaknesses or given up as impossible by the cadre. Together, these wildly different groups may find a way to attempt something previously unthinkable: return to Earth and discover whether the alien marauders are still there.

I like military sf generally. Or at least I think that’s generally true. I’m not actually hugely well read in the subgenre, but I have read the major classics of it (such as Starship Troopers, Dorsai!, The Forever War, Ender’s Game and a few others). I like it well enough that I’ve even chosen it as the mode for my own novel-in-progress, Shame. I think some of its appeal must lie in the way a fictional military unit, as a necessarily closed and cohesive system, can be a mirror for the larger society and provide an intimate space to act out some large-scale human drama. It’s an interesting way to put together a tight ensemble of characters and see what they do (ie. putting a bunch of weirdos together and making them all deal with the same situation). I’d judge Angry Ghosts to have succeeded in this regard. Indeed, the drama among the core characters becomes quite engaging emotionally and their apparent destiny by the end of the story is thrilling in a space-war adventure kind of way.

A couple of criticisms that I might make if I were approaching this book as its editor are probably rooted more in the fact that this is “book one” of a saga than that there is really much wrong with this story in itself. First, the premise of the aliens being aware that they are under attack and some of them fearing that it’s ghosts coming for their vengeance is dropped so early in the book and never really addressed again, that I was left wondering what we needed it for right then. I am certain that this will be picked up again as an important element in the sequel, but for this first volume I might have preferred that the aliens be left entirely “off camera” and the readers left to glean what they can about them from the point of view of the humans. Likewise, the book starts with a prologue that I might also have left out for the same reason, preferring that its information be parceled out in context as the story develops. That first segment, on the other hand, is quite interesting and it certainly didn’t slow me down. I think, however, that the author could have hidden the ball a bit longer and let the reader figure out what had happened in the past and what is happening now over the course of a few chapters. Another thing that I thought was going to bother me, but which ultimately did not, is the author’s choice of telling the entire story in a present tense style, like this:

“There, a young man stands relaxed, clothed only in a loose-fitting pair of nylon shorts. He is lean though deeply striated, and the silver contact terminals on his shaved head gleam. The colonists easily recognize the outline of a cadre Geek, but never have they seen one so free of scars.” (from “Specialist Beckert,” p. 187, a terrific chapter in which a new “Geek” is inducted into the corps)

For some reason, I never think I’m going to like that when I encounter it, but then after a while that feeling kind of goes away and it isn’t noticeable anymore. And it can contribute to a sense of cinematic immediacy, a “you are watching this unfold right now” kind of vibe. It works decently well for this particular story, which is in fact rather cinematic in its visuals and pacing.

Angry Ghosts is available from Amazon and B&N as well as directly from Cadre One. The electronic version is only $2.00, and the trade paperback is $11.99. [Note: When people buy books from small-press publishers, I tend to favor the option of buying directly from the publisher when possible so as to keep Amazon’s grubby paws off of some of the money—in my own case, I get almost literally nothing from M-Brane’s Amazon sales, and offer them only as a public service because I know people like the convenience.].

Private Worlds: Poetry by Scott E. Green

I recently received a copy of Private Worlds: A Revised Atlas, a collection of sf/f/h haiku and other short poetry by Scott E. Green, published by Abbott ePublishing. While I was certainly interested in reading it, I thought I'd find someone else to do a little review of it for this blog, since I don’t really consider poetry to be a form that I am particularly well suited to discuss. Despite having a B.A. in English, which included a great deal of study of English and American poetry in many forms and from every era, I don’t regularly read it in civilian life and my critical eye for it is rather un-nuanced and inarticulate, limited to: either 1) “I like it”; or 2) “yeah, whatever, it’s OK.” For example, I could not tell you what the difference is between haiku and senryu without looking it up, and even then would not get too exercised about it.

This little volume, however, I found perfectly accessible because its subject matter is authors of speculative fiction as well as a few creators in other related media. I took a peek inside to see what was there, and just kept reading it all the way through. Green has endeavored to capture in a few words the essence of the worlds that these writers created. Each poem is simply titled in the style of “Bester’s World,” “Heinlein’s World,” “Lovecraft’s World,” and so on. Each one could serve as a poetic, and sometimes enigmatic answer to the question “what made this author tick?” I’ll quote one of my favorites, this brief item titled “Vance’s World 2”: “A robot/ sipping motor oil/ from a bone china cup.”

Of course the topic of this collection fits into a decidedly small niche and would probably not be fully comprehensible to someone who is simply unfamiliar with all these writers and other creators, but for the reader of sf and fantasy, these short verses are a fine treat. In the introduction, the author says that he did not include a table of contents, wishing the reader to not skip around and instead just encounter each poem as it appears. I took this advice and read them in order, though I wouldn’t say that doing so necessarily enhances the reading experience since they are organized in a simple alphabetical fashion by subject from A to Zelazny rather than in any kind of special progression thematically or otherwise. The individual poems are so brief, however, that taking them in order at least insures against missing any of them as could easily happen if one were flipping randomly through the pages.

Private Worlds is published by Abbott ePublishing in PDF and Mobipocket formats, and sells for a mere $2.49. It is a revision of Private Worlds, originally published in 1985.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Outer Alliance Pride Day 9/1/09 WIN!

Check out this astonishing list of fantastic blog posts by Outer Alliance members. We went from a handful of us meeting up on Twitter two weeks ago to an alliance of 200 today. I will admit now that I was afraid, when we proposed the Pride Day, that only like four of us would do anything about it. There's already over 70 links on that page now.


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