Monday, May 31, 2010

M-BRANE #17 released today

The new issue went out moments ago with great new stories by Aaron Polson, Margaret Karmazin, Jason Sizemore, Edd Howarth, Charles Muir, Joe Jablonski and Lawrence Dagstine. It also contains some interesting news about M-Brane's exciting future, and I'll be posting more about that here on the blog within a few days.

The print version of the new issue is available in the Lulu store. Also, I updated the single-issue PDF order button on Page 2, but it only goes back as far as issue #9. A better storefront system is on the way soon, but in the meantime, if anyone wants a single issue predating #9, one can just order one of the later ones and specify in the Pay Pal note which one they really want.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New office, new color

Today Jeff and I repainted the room of our new home that I call alternately my office or my library, and which is the new M-Brane SF "World Headquarters." Previously it was, like most rooms in the place, a weird blueish gray that seemed to suck away all light and life. Gradually, Jeff has removed this color from the entire place, and today I assisted him with this room. It's a smaller room than the office in the old place, so all the book shelves don't fit into it, but there was plenty of room elsewhere in the place for some of them, and I think it's quite agreeably appointed and cozy now. These pics, taken a few minutes ago, show off my new room's lovely reddish glow:

I guess that's all I have to report right now!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Good review for CROSSED GENRES 18 (Eastern theme)

Philippine Online Chronicle has an overall very nice review of the recent "Eastern" issue of Crossed Genres, which included my story "I Will Come Home." I consider valid the one criticism of my story--that it seems to end too abruptly "as though it were simply an introduction to a longer narrative." In fact, the world in which it is set was mined from a "future history" that has been percolating in the back of my brain, occasionally spilling out into lots of mostly unfinished stories, for quite a number of years.

If I were to ever write all the stories that comprise this world, they would span many centuries and this particular one would be set very early in chronology. There exists an outline and some written chapters of a novel that I started several years ago which details an epic struggle for control of Earth and Mars waged among some of the descendants of the characters in "I Will Come Home." Then, set much later is the story that's closest to actual completion, my oft-mentioned novel Shame, which deals with a dying, post-apocalyptic Earth and a powerful human-inhabited Mars that rose to dominance over human affairs sometime centuries after the events of "Novel 1." Then, set even later in time, is an extensively outlined but unfinished space adventure epic that my friend Pat and I were intending to collaborate upon but have let sit idle for many months now. That project was not originally conceived as being part of this larger world, but as I developed characters and situations for it, it started to make sense to link it. So if the new story seems like a set-up for a bigger story, then that is probably an effect of me having all this other stuff churning around in my head.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weird Asimov dream

Of possible (though not probable) interest to M-Brane readers is a new post on my Live Journal where I describe a strange dream that I had about Isaac Asimov, and also recount the time when he sent me a note (in real life). In the dream, he looked much as he does in this picture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Announcing M-BRANE #17 writers and TOC

I am excited about the upcoming issue of the zine. Here's the cover image and the table of contents for #17:

Edd Howarth: "The Moon Man"
Aaron Polson: "One-Tenth of One Percent"
Margaret Karmazin: "I'll Be Leaving"
Charles A. Muir: "Smoke Nurse"
Lawrence R. Dagstine: "The Girl Who Dreamt Portals"
Joe Jablonksi: "Tremoik"
Jason Sizemore: "For the Sake of Pleasing"

With the exception of Dagstine, who returns to M-Brane's pages with his charming Orphan-Annie-meets-sf tale, all these writers are new to this zine. Edd Howarth (who claims to have written his first short story in crayon on his mother's kitchen age twenty-one) leads the issue with his thoughtful and amusing "The Moon Man." Aaron Polson, whom I suspect is well-known to a lot of this zine's followers as a result of his many appearances elsewhere, offers a grim item inspired by the films of The Thing and the Campbell story, "Who Goes There?" upon which they were based. Prolific writer Margaret Karmazin delivers a sensitive tale about a marriage and a husband's strange secret. Inspired by dreams and legends of ghostly bedside visitors, Charles Muir's "Smoke Nurse" fascinates and chills. A cult on an alien world and its inevitably lethal trajectory is the subject of Joe Jablonski's "Tremoik."  Stoker Award-nominated writer and editor Jason Sizemore of Apex Publications concludes this issue with his spectacular sf adventure novelette "For the Sake of Pleasing." It contains, among other things, exploding heads.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Second-Person POV/ Theodore Sturgeon

On Twitter, most of the people I follow have some kind of interest in or involvement with fiction writing and publishing, but I have gradually weeded out of the stream nearly all of the literary agents that I was monitoring during the early months of my Twitter era because I grew bored with the endless tips and advice on how to write queries and also the constant lists of "bad" things writers shouldn't ever NEVAR! do with their prose. The former is simply not interesting to me since I am not in the business of writing queries currently, nor do I require them as an editor. The latter is actually pretty annoying because it's obvious to anyone who reads a lot and with discernment that much of the best stuff that's been written and published contains one kind or another of never-do-it, top-ten-mistakes-of-writers rules breakage. 

A few months ago, I noticed a mini-trend of agents and editors tweeting about the use of second-person point-of-view on their lists of things they hate and that they never want to see again. You know, it's that POV where you are sitting here typing on your MacBook. You are working on a post for the M-Brane blog, which you have been neglecting. You want to write about Theodore Sturgeon, but you have gotten sidetracked, digressing about agents and  POV. You wonder if you ought to instead being posting the ToC for issue #17 (your fellow editor and comrade Jason Sizemore will have a story in it!). Your cat Maus sits atop your desk and shrills at you. You wonder if he is out of food. [He was not out of food.]

Granted, second-person is the least common narrative mode in literature in English (though it's all-pervasive in song lyrics for some reason) and possibly the most difficult to use effectively and perhaps the easiest with which to annoy someone, but I really dig an effective use of it when a writer manages it. Last month I published a novelette by new writer Bob Labar called "Wake," which is told principally in second-person and which also employs several other unconventional methods. When I started reading it for the first time, I wondered if the point-of-view was going to be a "good" use of it or a "bad" use of it, but then when I got deeply enough into the story to understand what was going on, I decided it was maybe a borderline-brilliant choice of POV, one where the technique itself helped illuminate the main character's situation in a way that would have felt very different in third-person.

Then, just a few days ago, I read for the first time Theodore Sturgeon's fantastic short story "The Man Who Lost the Sea," also told largely in second-person. I read it in a paper book, called The Golden Helix, that's been in my collection (mostly unread) for years but fortunately it is also online, recently reprinted here by Strange Horizons (originally in F&SF). It's just spectacular all the way through and especially at the very end when one "gets" what's going on. The copy on my shelf includes a foreword by Sturgeon in which he describes that it came out of period of low productivity, then turned into a 21,000-word novella which he then chopped down to a 5000-word short which was then hailed as one of the best stories of 1959. As I read Sturgeon now, with the perspective of time and the evolution of the sf genre, it's even more obvious what a fine writer he was. He not only told compelling stories, he did it with great style and literary panache in an era where a lot of sf was still pretty crude. A lot of less-well-remembered sf writers in the 1950s could have told this same story, but not many could have told it as well. 

Sturgeon is one of probably too many great sf writers that I have not read enough of, and I've been trying to correct that deficit lately. As a kid, I knew his name because he wrote the teleplays for a couple of memorable episodes of the original Star Trek series, "Amok Time" (the one where Spock succumbs to the Vulcan seven-year mating cycle) and "Shore Leave" (where an idyllic planet produces physical manifestations of one's fantasies as a sort of amusement park). He wrote a third unproduced episode called "The Joy Machine" which was later adapted by James Gunn as a novel with the same title for Pocket's Star Trek line. In my childish Trek fan way, I would often sample books and stories by writers whose names I recognized from the Star Trek credits thinking that they must be great if they wrote that show. With Sturgeon, I tried and failed with Godbody, his last book, posthumously published the year of his death. At fourteen or fifteen years old, I wasn't an experienced and sophisticated enough reader to get that book. I found that I didn't like it. It bored and confused me and I gave up on it less than halfway in (and it's not very long). I did hang on to my book Science Fiction Book Club edition of it over the years, however, and went back at it as an adult and got a lot more out of it. 

But since that book was Sturgeon's last and had an odd feeling of being a coda to his career, I wanted to find some other stories that were more typical. What I discovered is that none of his work was "typical" but a lot of it was very daring and transgressive. The tres creepy short novel Some of Your Blood, for example, told in epistolary style like Dracula, lingers in the back of the mind long after it's been read. Sturgeon's contribution to Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" probably offends more readers than it delights, but it is exemplary of Sturgeon's way of putting questions to readers and pushing them along toward interesting possible answers. Now I am working my way through the stories in a couple of neglected collections that have been sitting here waiting for me for years, and am enjoying them very much. Has anyone reading this page read Sturgeon, and if so, did you like his work? Are there other writers of that period that you like that don't seem to get enough attention anymore?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fan fiction?

spaceball.gifI haven't been very looped in on the discussion, but evidently a debate has been happening in the interwebs over the value--or not--of fan fiction. 

Here's an item by George R.R. Martin in which he denounces the idea of fan fic and basically says writers are dumb to let fans play in their sandbox. He cites as examples the famous case of Marion Zimmer Bradley getting threatened with a lawsuit by a fan who was writing Darkover fiction that Bradley had read and encouraged after Bradley wanted to write a novel using a premise similar to something in this fan's story. He also talks about Lovecraft and how he died a pauper supposedly because he didn't protect his copyrights, while Edgar Rice Burroughs made himself a millionaire off his Tarzan and Barsoom properties.

Here's an item by Nick Mamatas rebutting Martin's piece and contending that the comparison between Lovecraft and Burroughs is invalid, and making the case that the only reason Lovecraft has a legacy and is so well known and highly regarded now is that he encouraged his fellow writers and fans to play with the Cthulhu Mythos which, in turn, helped keep Lovecraft's own work alive so many decades after his death. 

This is an item by Corinne Duyvis in which she ascribes a lot of value to fan fiction as a way for writers to practice the craft and get feedback from readers. 

And there are many other such posts around the world dealing with this general topic. What do M-Brane readers think about it? Does anyone who reads this blog or who has written for the magazine read or write any fan fiction, or have you in the past? I used to when I was a kid and had a lot of fun with it, and I think it may have had some of the benefits that Corinne describes. I even self-published a lot of it in my Star Trek fanzine under a variety of pseudonyms. My co-editor and I probably wrote ourselves over half of all the content that we ever published over 21 monthly issues, so we certainly got some practice at writing a lot of stuff. That's not to say that any of it was any good, but it was probably a useful exercise for a young kid nonetheless.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Move completed; New story published!

I'll indulge in some bragging about the appearance of my short story "I Will Come Home"  in this month's issue of Crossed Genres. My pride in this publication comes not from satisfaction with my own work, but from the fact that Crossed Genres is such a fine publication and the fact that I appear alongside such talented people. As I have mentioned here before, I rarely finish any fiction and haven't gone so far as to submit any for a long time until this story, so it feels great to be back at it.

In other news: Jeff and I successfully completed our move to St. Louis Thursday afternoon. TV and internet was blessedly restored to us yesterday evening, and we are very happy with the new place. We do still, however, have a great deal of unpacking and setting up to do. This image will give you an idea of the current condition of the new M-Brane SF office.


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