From Mercury to a Distant Star: NYRSF Readings Feature Kressel and Rivera

David Rivera and Matt Kressel

By Mark L. Blackman: On the bitingly cold evening of Fat Tuesday (yes, it was Mardi Gras), March 5, 2019, at an event held at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series featured a joint reading from Matthew Kressel and Mercurio D. Rivera of their co-written story “The Walk to Distant Suns,” which appears in the March issue of Analog.

The evening kicked off as customary with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, a heads-up that we were on camera – the proceedings were streaming live via Livestream (they may be accessed by going to Livestream.com and searching for NYRSF) – and an announcement of scheduled upcoming readings.  April 2nd’s event will be guest-hosted by Mike Allen and feature Theodora Goss and Barbara Krasnoff.  May 7th readers are to be determined. June, being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, on the 4th will offer Katharine Duckett and another writer to be named; it will, said Freund, be “queer-oriented.”  He then introduced the evening’s two readers before ducking into the control booth; he was handling Tech.

Matthew Kresselis the author of the well-received novel King of Shards and of short fiction that has appeared in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Analog, Nightmare, and Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies, and been honored as a three-time Nebula Award Finalist and a Eugie Award Finalist. Additionally, as a coder, he created the Moksha submissions system currently in use by many of the largest SF publishers. Locally, with Ellen Datlow, he is the co-host of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series at the titular East Village bar.

Mercurio D. (for David) Rivera is the World Fantasy Award-nominated writer of short fiction that has appeared in markets such as Analog, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Interzone, and Space and Time, and been anthologized in several Year’s Best Science Fiction compilations as well as podcast. His most notable stories include “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us,” “Longing for Langalana,” “Tethered,” “Dance of the Kawkawroons,” and “Those Brighter Stars;” his own collection, Across the Even Horizon, was critically acclaimed. Like Kressel, he is a member of the Manhattan writing group Altered Fluid. 

After a silly attempt to read together, the duo took turns reading “The Walk to Distant Suns,” with Rivera leading off. The “walk” is along an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, called “the Lift,” which transmutes matter and transfers it, both objects and people, one quark at a time, through a wormhole, from Earth (more precisely L-5) to a world dubbed Iris in the Trappist-1 System 40 light years away; it is a one-way trip. Earth is in bleak shape, with 80% of the population living in poverty and many eking out by foraging through garbage, so a new life on the paradisiacal planet beckons. Among them are Shandi, an engineer at the Lift, who hopes to make the trip one day with her family (her mother is ill and her little sister is artistic). Alas, the corporation that operates the Lift keeps raising the cost, so only the rich can afford to go. Using the opportunity that her position affords, Shandi schemes to smuggle them all onto the Lift. To be continued.

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing (with Freund boothed, Amy Goldschlager was drafted to oversee it) with the prizes including the issue of Analog containing the story, The Best Science Fiction of the Year , and a signed copy of the manuscript from which they were reading.

Subsequently, with Kressel leading off, the reading continued through to the end of the story and its twist ending (no spoilers).

Goldschlager then moderated a Q&A, opening with a question from her about their collaborative process. They broke up scenes, characters and motivations, said Rivera, though Kressel wrote the first section, then they went back and forth. It was “a successful collaboration;” in the end, they each “feel like they wrote the whole thing.” Even outside of Altered Fluid, they’re used to criticizing each other. Asked by an audience member if they’d thought of expanding it, Kressel said that they’d thought that it would be a short story, but it grew to 8,600 words. Goldschlager also delivered the “outro.”

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and the Café saw to food, a coffee bar, beer and wine.

The crowd of about 25-30 included Karen Heuler, Raj Khanna, Barbara Krasnoff (House Manager), Lissanne Lake, and James Ryan and Susan Ratisher Ryan.  Afterward, there was schmoozing, and feasting.

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