Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Second Anniversary Notes and Acknowledgements

UPDATED 1/20: M-Brane SF #24 was just released to subscribers. As a gift to all of our supporters (and hopefully a bunch of new fans) on the occasion of our second anniversary, I am making available the PDF of the new issue for free here.

The following is from my editorial notes from M-Brane SF #24:

Some Second Anniversary acknowledgements:
I know I am about to forget to mention a lot of important names here, but I need to recognize at least a few of the people who were so helpful and wonderful to me and M-Brane Press during these first two years. First, thanks to all the many, many fellow editors and publishers who offered me so much help and moral support, particularly Kaolin Fire (GUD Magazine), Bart Leib and Kay Holt (Crossed Genres), Jason Sizemore (Apex), Caren Gussoff and Eden Robins (Brain Harvest). I want to also mention again my awesome collaborators Brandon Bell, Rick Novy, Jaym Gates, and Eric T. Reynolds (Hadley Rille Books). A lot of great writer-friends helped make all this worth doing, such as Dan Tannenbaum, Michael D. Griffiths, T.J. McIntyre, Derek J. Goodman, Jeff Kozzi, and Abby “Merc” Rustad, and many, many more. The writers as a group are really owed all the credit, and they are too many to list here, but I’ll throw out a few names that really stood out lately: Patty Jansen, Cate Gardner, Gustavo Bondoni, Aaron Polson, Shawn Scarber, Edward W. Robertson, Ian Sales, Sunny Moraine, Joyce Chng, Jason Heller, Therese Arkenberg, and, of course, the late Jamie Eyberg, whom so many of us knew for far too short a time. Though I have already heaped praise on them almost to the point of indecency elsewhere, let me single out again the incendiary talents of Cesar Torres and Alex Jeffers. Artist and writer Mari Kurisato merits the Red Star of Socialism (the M-Brane equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor) for her terrific artwork and her other work on General Awesomeness on Earth. And I’d be totally remiss if I forgot to mention as a group all my badass Twitter and Facebook and Live Journal followers and friends. Curmudgeons who still think that the social media are a stupid waste of time are dead wrong: I wouldn’t know anyone and M-Brane SF would be nowhere without it. This is and always has been a grass-roots operation, y’all. So thanks perhaps most of all to the masses of you who actually bother to read my little posts and my longer outbursts throughout the vasty spaces of the intertubes. Love radiates from me to you.

An assessment at the two-year point…

This does not suck
January 20, 2011: Two years ago today was a day of great significance. A new President of the United States was inaugurated, my cat Maus turned twelve years old, and I released M-Brane SF #1, the first volume of a new monthly magazine of science fiction short stories. It was a project years in the works. I had begun and then set aside various plans to launch a science fiction zine going all the way back to 1994. I needed the proper convergence of motivation and technology to make it real, and the time finally seemed right by late 2007. But M-Brane—then tentatively called Homeworld—stalled out again for a while when I realized that I still did not have adequate computing power nor adequate command of how to use the internet to make a new zine’s presence known. But a year later, I was ready to try it. I started the M-Brane blog, posted writer’s guidelines and started reading the surprising number of submissions that appeared almost immediately.

Issue #1 opened with a quirky and funny tale called “Time Enough for a Reuben” by the late Glenn Lewis Gillette. It continued with fantastic stories by a couple of writers very well known to M-Brane readers now, Brandon Bell and Rick Novy. The first issue also included great entries by Barton Paul Levenson, Frank Roger, Joshua Scribner, Mel Cartagena and Jason Earls. I am happy that I am able to look back on that very first issue and say, “This does not suck.”

Of quantity and quality
In the second year, from about issue #13 to the present, M-Brane changed in a number of ways. I simplified its design, making it less magazine-like in appearance in favor of a more book-like look. I also started publishing a lot less material per issue. These changes happened for a number of practical reasons, but also because of an evolution in my thinking on what M-Brane SF should be. During the heady early days, I wanted to have a cool, interesting, and unexpected sf zine with awesome writers and astounding stories, with a real proletarian, hand-made sensibility. But I also wanted to publish a huge quantity of material and make it as big a room as possible for all kinds of writers. While I still think this was achieved to some extent, it also resulted in some uneven issues with a fair amount of content that I liked for various reasons but which probably made the zine as a whole have more of an amateurish, fanziney character than what seemed good for the long-term future of it.

I still wanted the unexpected and brilliant stories, but I decided to severely limit the number of stories that could appear in an issue (six is generally the upper limit now, while some Year One issues had as many as thirteen). I decided that I could, by forcing myself to not exceed a certain amount of content, refine the quality of the zine’s content and better define its character. As the number of submissions to the magazine has steadily increased, I have found that I generally have more and more interesting stuff from which to choose. Sometimes this makes story selection extremely difficult. Since I strive to completely clear the slush pile every month, this means that I must pass on stories that I really like all the time. But there are always more where those came from. I also decided that while six stories per month is probably the upper limit, I don’t necessarily have to find six: when I was assembling issue #22, I only had four items that I considered to be proper M-Brane stories, and so that issue was our shortest to date. So while quantity has diminished a lot, quality has gone up, and it’s more apparent what kind of fiction this zine deals in. When I assembled the first Quarterly (the print compilation of electronic issues 19, 20 and 21) and looked at its table of contents, I got a clearer sense of my own concept for M-Brane than I think I’d ever had before.

Technologies like print-on-demand make it really easy to publish print books nowadays, and I decided to try that out for some dream projects. The ease of printing a book also invites a lot of really lousy work from well-meaning creators who don’t know how to design anything, as one can see from the surfeit of really ugly books that are floating around the indie press world now. So, very carefully, I selected some special projects for book publication and put a lot of effort into making them handsome objects. The first was Things We Are Not (2009), an anthology of GLBT short stories and novelettes. A few months ago, M-Brane SF was described incorrectly in a Locus online review as being billed as a gay-oriented magazine, but if it were in fact a gay-oriented magazine, then Things We Are Not gives one a good idea of what that would be like. I am very proud of it, especially as my first project as a book publisher. In 2010, I featured a couple of writers that I am very interested in by presenting collections of their work: Cesar Torres’ The 12 Burning Wheels and Derek J. Goodman’s Machina. These two lovely volumes are as different as two books could be in some regards: Cesar’s is a collection of very short items while Derek’s is a quartet of novelettes and novellas. But they are similar in that they both showcase in a very attractive way excellent writers from whom readers will be hearing a lot more in the near future. Then, late in 2010, we brought out a real stunner of an anthology, 2020 Visions, edited by Rick Novy. A collection of stories set in the year 2020, this is a must-read antho. Next, in a couple of months, we will bring out another beloved pet project, the “Double.” The date for this will be announced very soon.

2010 was a year of exciting collaborative projects. With the brilliant and lovely Jaym Gates, I co-edited the sexy little zine Little Death of Crossed Genres. This was intended to have been a quarterly periodical of erotic speculative fiction from Crossed Genres, but, alas, I think it ended up being a one-night stand. But even if there is never an issue #2 of it, I am quite pleased with the nice work we did on it. The biggest collaborative project of the year for me was, of course, the awesome and monumental The Aether Age. Co-edited by Brandon Bell and me and published in November 2010 by Hadley Rille Books, this was the realization of a terrific shared vision. Not only did two editors and two publishers collaborate on getting it done, but dozens of writers collaborated from afar to create a whole new fictional world that we have opened up for limitless future invention. The Aether Age has only just begun. But as exciting as publication of The Aether Age was, I am just as pleased about the newest addition to the family, Brandon Bell’s Fantastique Unfettered. Issue #1 of M-Brane SF’s new fantasy sibling was released just a few weeks ago as a very beautiful print publication. A quarterly “Periodical of Liberated Literature,” FU is based on the same Creative Commons philosophy as Aether Age, and I think it’s going to be a great big deal in the next year.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Issue #24 contents announced

The cover image is not ready yet, but I can announce the story selection for M-Brane SF #24, due out January 20 on time for the zine's second anniversary. There may be an addition to it later, haven't decided yet, but these five items are confirmed, and they are all heavy-hitters from some really good writers:

Alex Jeffers  "The Arab's Prayer"
Jude-Marie Green  "Sparrow and g.d:shrike"
Edward W. Robertson  "When We Were Mutants"
Mike Sauve  "Everything You Can Think of is True"
Jason Heller  "Other Gray Things"

Jason Heller has appeared twice previously in M-Brane SF. His stories are always interesting and surprising, but this one might be the best of his work that I have seen, including items of his that I've read elsewhere. It's a moving story with a seriously cool science fictional premise. Mike Sauve is new to me, though he has a number of credits in other publications of note. His item is a challenging and rather effed-up end-of-the-world tale that evokes Burroughs (William S., not E.R.) and some of the creepiest business from end-times culture.  Ed Robertson has appeared previously in M-Brane SF and also has two entries in The Aether Age anthology (three if you count title page art he drew for one of his stories). I always like his stories, but this one really rewards. Jude-Marie Green makes a first appearance in M-Brane with a really delightful and weird tale that will suck readers in from the moment they see the strange syntax of its title. This is  one those rare items that moved from directly from the slush folder to the "yes" folder without a layover in the "maybe" folder.  Alex Jeffers leads the set with a touching tale about a gay couple in near-future Israel. The author says he intended it for the 2020 Visions anthology, but it wasn't ready on time. While it would have been great in that book, I am delighted to have it for the new M-Brane. Jeffers has appeared previously in M-Brane SF as well as in our LGBT anthology Things We Are Not. His novella The New People is one half of the forthcoming "Double," and a piece of short fiction set in the New People universe was one of the bonus items in the recent M-Brane SF Quarterly #1.

I may or may not include a sixth story. These five are probably more than enough for any one issue, but we'll see. Other content will probably include a reflection by me upon the first two years of this zine.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

M-Brane #23 released

The PDF edition of the new (very belated) issue was released to subscribers tonight. i'm very glad to finally be able to share it. 

M-Brane SF #23
Seth S. Marlin "Era Solaris"
Erich William Bergmeier "The Miracle Cure"
Patrick Whittaker "The Skitterlings"
Jeff Kozzi "A Pediatrician in Wartime"
James Ward Kirk "Butterfly"
Margaret Karmazin "If Truth Be Told"

The 24th issue follows soon on 1/20, our second anniversary.

Readers unfamiliar with the zine may want to buy a copy of the PDF for $2.00. Money received from these sales supports future issues.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Announcing issue #23 contents

I don't have the cover image done yet, but I do have the stories ready to announce for M-Brane SF #23, which we are going to persist in calling the December 2010 issue even though it's already January. The issue will release in a couple days. Also, in a few days I will announce the contents of issue #24, set for January 20, our second anniversary.

M-Brane SF #23
Seth S. Marlin "Era Solaris"
Erich William Bergmeier "The Miracle Cure"
Patrick Whittaker "The Skitterlings"
Jeff Kozzi "A Pediatrician in Wartime"
James Ward Kirk "Butterfly"
Margaret Karmazin "If Truth Be Told"

Kozzi and Karmazin have appeared in our pages before. The rest of these writers are new to the Brane, and we welcome them. It's a very nice group of stories.

TWAN gets nice write-up at new Rise Reviews site

The new site, Rise Reviews has launched with a slew of reviews of indie press books, including our very own Things We Are Not (2009), the anthology of queer speculative fiction. Curated by managing editor Bart Leib (co-founder of Crossed Genres) and a staff of well-qualified reviewers, Rise Reviews' mission is to provide a review space for publications that pay writers less than pro rates but which pay at least something. This is welcome thing especially after Tangent Online moved recently to drop coverage of non-pro publications.

As the editor and publisher of Things We Are Not, I was very flattered that reviewer Kelly Jennings had a lot of good things to say about the stories and that she also really got where I was coming from philosophically with the project. Also, since we haven't sold any copies of it in recent memory, I admit that I hope this new attention on the book will attract some more readers--readers that I hope will also pick up from Amazon some of our other titles as well, like Cesar Torres' The 12 Burning Wheels, Derek J. Goodman's Machina, Rick Novy's 2020 Visions, and Hadley Rille Books' The Aether Age. All qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping on orders of $25 or more, you know!


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