Murders, Ghosts and Shadows at the KGB Bar

Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at KGB Reading. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at KGB Reading. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, December 21 — the first day of winter – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker at its longtime venue, the second-floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, and the Series for the quality of its readers (the Series might justifiably be called Fantastic Fiction and Where to Find It). Readings are always free (though attendees are exhorted to thank the Bar by buying drinks, hard or soft).

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the crowd (somewhat smaller, likely due to the holidays) and reported on upcoming readings. Next month’s (next year’s) readers:

  • January 18 — Holly Black and Fran Wilde will be reading;
  • February 15 — Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann;
  • March 15 — Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam;
  • April 19 — Seth Dickinson and Laura Anne Gilman
  • May 17 — Sam J. Miller and E.C. Myers.

(Details are available at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.)  All dates are the third Wednesday of the month.

Concluding, he introduced the first reader.

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker, reading here for the first time, is the author of the Nebula Award-winning novelette Our Lady of the Open Road and the Sturgeon Award-winning In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind. Her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a talented singer/songwriter (with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming). The story that she read, “Talking to Dead People,” ran in the fall in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Two college roommates start a business in which they recreate models of “murder houses.” One, the narrator, painstakingly builds the miniatures, reproducing both the exterior and the interior furnishings (down to working shutters), while the other – who’s had a longtime fascination with Lizzie Borden (who, for the record, was acquitted of the “whacks” – and, no, their enterprise is called House of Wax, not Whacks) – gives “voice to the voiceless” by programming into an AI box known details of the cases and approximations of the voices of those involved, thereby allowing people to question the victims and the “murderers and monsters.”  The AIs, however, seem to know too much, and one mystery is too close to home (literally) for one of the pair.

After an intermission, the Series’ senior co-host, Ellen Datlow, introduced the evening’s second reader.

livia-llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Year’s Best Weird Fiction and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors, received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations (for Best Collection and Best Novelette, “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story, and is the title story in her second collection, Furnace. The novella from whose first part she read, The One That Comes Before, appeared in an anthology with a small printing, but is due for republication (in English and Italian). In Obsidia, a city whose magical reality is open to question, suffering excessive heat and humidity, a woman (“she’s kind of a psychopath,” said Llewellyn) wakes in the night and imagines that shadows are impinging (her dishtowels are rearranged). It was beautifully atmospheric and haunting. (Her reading was interrupted by a straggler who wondered what was going on. He didn’t quite redeem himself by calling out when she finished “You rock!”)

Copies of Llewellyn’s books were for sale – as was the anthology Cyber World, which contains a story by Kressel – at the back of the room by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Prior to the reading, as usual, Datlow whirled through the audience, taking photos. Her photos of the event may be seen on Ellen Datlow’s Flickr page .

Wonder and Horror at the KGB Bar With Langan and Kressel

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors John Langan and Matthew Kressel, both very familiar faces, at its longtime venue, the distinctively décored 2nd-floor Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The Series is co-hosted by Kressel (for the past 8 years), however, as he was reading, David Mercurio Rivera ably filled in for him and welcomed the crowd. For over two decades, he noted, the Series, whose other co-host is Ellen Datlow, has presented readings (always free, and thank the Bar by buying drinks) both by luminaries and up-and-comers on the third Wednesday of the month. He announced that next month’s readers would be –

  • December 21 – Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker.
  • January 18, 2017 – Holly Black and Fran Wilde.
  • February 15 – Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann
  • March 15 – Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam.

(Details are available at here.)  Concluding, he introduced the first reader.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel

Aside from co-hosting, Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Nebula Award.  Additionally, he published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, and, for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional.

At the mike, he expressed his humility at reading here, which is a very different experience from hosting. He did not recite Blade Runner in its entirety from memory, but instead read “In Memory of a Summer’s Day,” a story that will be appearing in an as-yet-entitled Alice in Wonderland-themed anthology edited by Datlow. Wonderland has here become a tourist destination and its celebrated locales attractions – the Mad Tea Party, the Croquet Ground (where hedgehogs scream), the Queen’s Court (there are no actual beheadings), etc., and eateries offer Beautiful Soup and Lobster Quadrille. (There are warnings about the Drink Me bottles, and the Caterpillar has an illegal trade in psychedelic mushrooms. Before going down the Rabbit Hole, visitors must sign a waiver. There is also, by the way, a Through the Looking Glass Tour.) Narrated by a veteran tour guide, whose British accent Kressel happily did not attempt, the humor had a strong element of inherent horror (think about it – Wonderland is far from a fun place), and ultimately the question surfaces …where is Alice?

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

After a break, Datlow introduced John Langan. He is the author of the novels The Fisherman and House of Windows, and the collections The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters., as well as the co-editor of Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters. A forthcoming third collection of his stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press in February, and new stories will shortly appear in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki. This venue is one of the first places where he read, he said, and felt privileged to be back. The novella from whose beginning he read, “Hunger,” will be appearing in one of the Lovecraftian anthologies. The story, he revealed, is about two poets, though in the selection that he shared a boy and his father (who are into antique weaponry – they carry, respectively, a spear and a sword) confront an unearthly giant orange bear in their Upstate New York driveway who may be tied to a recent houseguest.

Copies of Langan’s and Kressel’s books were for sale at the back of the room by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Datlow’s photos of the event may be seen at the Series’ website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/ .

Undebatably Fantastic Fiction as KGB Readings Series Features Ketchum and Kiernan

By Mark L. Blackman: The “K” in KGB stood for Ketchum and Kiernan as, on the evening of Wednesday, October 19 – a record-breaking warm day and the night of the third and final Presidential Debate – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Jack Ketchum and Caitlin R. Kiernan at its venue, the 2nd floor Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The crowd in the room, distinctive for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, was smaller than usual, was ascribed by co-host Ellen Datlow to some regular attendees staying home to watch the Debate and she expected that part of the audience would dash out quickly to catch it. She encouraged those present not to “get your stomachs in a knot,” but to stay here “and have fun.” They could, she noted, always watch the Debate on YouTube.

Continuing, she announced that next month’s readers, on November 16 will be John Langan and Series co-host Matthew Kressel. On December 21, Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker will be reading; and on January 18, 2017, Holly Black and Fran Wilde will be featured. (Details are available at the Series website.) The Series, ongoing since the 1990s, is known for reliably offering an outstanding mix of writers and styles.

Caitlin R. Kiernan. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Caitlin R. Kiernan. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

The evening’s first reader, Caitlin R. Kiernan, is a four-time winner of the International Horror Guild Award and a two-time recipient of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and James Tiptree, Jr. Awards. Her work includes the novels The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, and the short fiction collections A is for Alien, The Ape’s Wife and Other Tales, and the forthcoming Dear Sweet Filthy World. She read from a novella due to be published in February by Tor, Agents of Dreamland, a marvelously descriptive, furiously stream of consciousness evocation of modern culture, with allusions ranging from Charles Manson to the mandatory supplanting of analog tv by digital.

kiernan-agents-of-dreamland

After a break, Matt Kressel took the podium and urged the crowd to support the Bar, whose generosity allows the Series’ readings to be free, by buying a drink or soft drink. He noted too that the Series nevertheless has expenses (such as treating the readers to dinner afterward) and that they planned a fundraising drive after the new year, offering nifty premiums like signed books.

 

Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum

Jack Ketchum, the second reader of the evening, is a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, most recently for Lifetime Achievement, and has been called “probably the scariest guy in America” by Stephen King. A wide-ranging talent, he is the author of thirty books, including novels – five of which have been filmed – novellas, collections, nonfiction and poetry. His most recent books are the novel The Secret Life of Souls (written with director Lucky McKee) and the collection Gorilla in My Room, both due out later this year. His offering, the mystery shocker “Bully,” was from the latter. A woman’s question to her third cousin about an old photo elicits uncomfortable reminiscences and slowly reveals a terrible family secret.

ketchum-cover

Copies of Ketchum’s and Kiernan’s books were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Datlow’s photos of the event may be seen at the Series website.

Pixel Scroll 10/7/16 You Keep Using That Pixel. I Do Not Thing It Scrolls How You Think It Does

.(1) NEW YORK COMIC CON. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach says fans packed the room to hear “You Can be Mythic!” Ta-Nehisi Coates, Steven Orlando, and Tee ‘Vixen’ Franklin Discuss Race, Sexuality, and Representation in Comics.

Gray kicked off by asking Coates about the reception of the Midnight Angels—Aneka and Ayo, two Dora Milaje warriors who have left their traditional roles and become fugitives together. While the crowd cheered at their mention, Coates self-deprecatingly joked, “If you see people on the internet who love it, you can’t tell if it’s the same 20 people.”

On why he was drawn to these characters, Coates said: “Many of the male figures in T’challa’s life had been killed. So the only people who were left in his life were women, like the Dora Milaje, and their story was told through his eyes. I was interested in what the perspective might be of a person who’d given up their entire life to protect one man—I mean, they address that man as “Beloved.” What about their love for themselves? What about their love for each other? Now that the social contract in Wakanda is fraying, what will happen to those feelings?” Coates further talked about Ayo and Aneka becoming lovers, and said “I think if you check yourself, you can open yourself to everybody’s worldview. You don’t have insert Black people, you don’t have to insert queer people, insert women—they’re already all around you.”

(2) TURNOVER AT WORLDCON 75. Dave Weingart is no longer running Music programming for Worldcon 75 for reasons he discusses at length at his LiveJournal.

(3) NORSTRILIAN VOICE. Walter Jon Williams expresses appreciation for “The What-He-Did: The Poetic Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith” at Tor.com.

She got the which of the what-she-did,
Hid the bell with a blot, she did,
But she fell in love with a hominid.
Where is the which of the what-she-did?

This cryptic verse opens “The Ballad of Lost C’mell,” by Cordwainer Smith, and may serve as emblematic both of some of the author’s persistent themes and his own rich and distinct strangeness. Smith was one of the Great Peculiars of science fiction, producing strong, intricate, highly-wrought, highly weird stories that will never be mistaken for the works of anyone else. No one else had a mind like Smith.

(4) BBC4 ART CONTEST. Get your crayons ready — “Competition – Draw Neil Gaiman’s Stardust for Radio 4”.

BBC4 will be coming out with a radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust in December. In conjunction with that, there’s a drawing contest open to 1) 16-and-unders, and 2) 17-and-olders. Winning images will be used as episode images. Deadline October 26th. More details here: Stardust – Competition – Draw Neil Gaiman’s Stardust for Radio 4 – BBC Radio 4

(5) NBA SHORTLIST. The finalists for the National Book Awards have been announced. One of them is one genre interest – Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railway. The winners will be announced November 16.

(6) IT GETS VERSE. Yesterday was National Poetry Day, prompting ULTRAGOTHA to revisit January’s epic post “Filers Destroy Poetry”.

(7) LAST HURRAH FOR PROF. X? CinemaBlend thinks this is the end, my friend – “New Wolverine 3 Image Reveals A Shocking Look At Professor X”.

Ever since it was announced that Patrick Stewart would be part of the last Wolverine film we’ve wondered exactly what his role would be. While the image doesn’t give us any hints toward answering that question, it does make us wonder if Hugh Jackman won’t be the only one saying goodbye to his famous role when the movie is over. With the Professor X role apparently in the capable hands of James McAvoy within the current X-Men timeline, there’s no specific need for Patrick Stewart going forward, and if Professor X were to pass away by the end of this movie, we wouldn’t be shocked.

(8) AUTHOR DISAVOWS GHOSTS IN POPULAR CULTURE. Richard Bleiler says to take his name off —

Some time ago I contributed essays to a work entitled “Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend,” ed. by June Pulliam and Anthony J. Fonseca (ABC-Clio, 2016).

When I received my copy I discovered that my encyclopedic contributions were rewritten, egregiously so. Paragraphs and sentences were rearranged and dropped, continuity was disrupted and destroyed, and — worst of all — sentences that I did not write were added without attribution. At no time was I asked if these changes were acceptable. Likewise, at no time was I given any indication that there were any issues with my contributions or asked if I could revise them.

I do not believe that I am being overly sensitive. I am used to being edited, but what was done to my contributions to Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend is beyond the pale. It is completely unacceptable.

I am therefore taking the (for me) unique step of disavowing the contributions in Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend that were published under my name. They do not represent my scholarship; they should not have my name attached to them. I have thus asked ABC-Clio:

1. Not to use my name in any advertisements for Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend;

2. To remove my name from any additional printings of Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend;

3. To remove my name from all electronic editions of Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend.

(9) THE MIGHTY KIRK. Matt Melia answers the question “Just How Heroic Is Star Trek’s ‘I Don’t Like to Lose’ James T. Kirk?” for PopMatters.

For this writer, Captain James T. Kirk, of the USS Enterprise, has always been the most iconic and quintessential of television heroes and furthermore, possibly the most recognisable and identifiable as such. From a casual perspective, Jim Kirk embodies the most normative of heroic values: bravery, romance, adventure, leadership, nobility, instinctiveness as well as a penchant for recklessness (in the Season 1 episode “The Corbomite Maneuvre” he is also shown to be something of a gambler, bluffing of the alien, Balok, that the Enterprise is loaded with the non-existent substance Corbomite). But how may we further understand and define “heroism” and unpack it in televisual terms? How does Star Trek, as a cultural text, frame and interrogate the problematic and often contradictory concept of heroism, filtering its inquisitions through the character of Captain Kirk?

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. At the next installment of the New York-based reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present: Jack Ketchum & Caitlín R. Kiernan, October 19th. Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

(11) WEEPING DEVILS. Joch McArthur delivers a rant about SF and “being political”.

… Or to clarify, to all the straight white cis dudes bitching and moaning about the blackness of Luke Cage or the PTSD discussion in Jessica Jones or Evan Rachel Wood talking about feminist aspects of Westworld or Wonder Woman’s queerness or any of the other white tears hot topics of the year that are constantly blowing up my social media feed (“why do they have to make everything political!!! It’s just a tv show!!!!!!!” *straight white cis male tears here*)

(12) HISTORIC COMICS APA SIGNING OFF. Capa-alpha, the oldest comics-fandom APA, started in October 1964, will close with its December mailing, #626. Fred Patten has the details.

CAPA-alpha, known as K-a for short, was one of the influences behind the startup of comics fandom in the early 1960s.  It’s been going for 52 years.  Some of the leading names in the comics industry began as comics fans in K-a.

Paper APAs are considered dinosaurs today, but the immediate cause of the APA’s cancellation is its long-running Central Mailer, Douglas Jones, having a foot amputated due to advancing diabetes.  Jones cannot continue as Central Mailer, and none of the current members (23, with a waiting list of 7) feel that they can replace him.

(13) STICK YOUR FOOT IN IT. Dangerous Minds knows where you can find Cthulhu Approved High-Heeled Tentacle Shoes.

chtulhu-high-heel

Totally insane-looking—and probably not practicable footwear—tentacle high-heeled shoes made by fashion designer, costume designer and shoe designer Kermit Tesoro. I can’t imagine walking in these. Hell, I can’t even walk in heels to begin with!

I just checked out Kermit Tesoro’s Facebook page to see if he had any other equally freaky high-heeled designs and it looks like he’s also got a Venus flytrap shoe.

[Thanks to Elusis, Fred Patten, Andrew Porter, Bruce D. Arthurs, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jameson Quinn.]

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series Presents Barron and Wong

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

Alyssa Wong and Laird Barron.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, September 21 – the last day of summer – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong at its venue, the Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Up a steep flight of stairs to the 2nd-floor, the Bar is made further distinctive by its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor. “It’s one of the truly great venues to read at,” said Barron. The Series, running since the late ’90s, reliably offers stellar lineups, often pairing established authors and up-and-coming newcomers, and readings are always free. (The Bar is a cordial and hospitable host, and the Series’ presenters duly exhort the audience to express gratitude by buying something to drink.)

As traditional, as the room filled, co-host Ellen Datlow swirled through the crowd, taking photos.  (They may be seen on the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.)

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, and reported on upcoming events in the Series.  Next month’s readers, on October 19th, are Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan.  Reading on November 16th will be John Langan (who was in attendance) and Kressel himself; on December 21st, Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker; and on January 18, 2017, Holly Black and Fran Wilde. Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

fist-of-permutatons-alyssa-wongAlyssa Wong’s story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and her work has been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Locus Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Clamor of Bones,” was set in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  A “dead-talker,” tasked by the underworld to look for a missing 9-year-old girl, consults the finger bone of a corrupt detective whom she had killed, chopped up and dumped into the Bay.  It seems that he had been retrieved and magically reanimated (though missing bits, rotting and tending to ruin carpets), and been the last one seen with the girl.  Oddly, he seems reluctant to cooperate with his murderer.  Despite its essential ickiness, the story’s macabre humor had the audience laughing.

swift-to-chase-laird-barronAfter a break, Datlow introduced the second reader of the night.  Hailing from Alaska (where he raced the Iditarod three times during the early 1990s, and against whose backdrop many of his stories are set), Laird Barron is the author of X’s for Eyes, The Imago Sequence, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, and the forthcoming (in two weeks) Swift to Chase.  The story that he shared, “The Cyclotron,” appeared in a Canadian anthology riffing on “a famous franchise character” (hint:  his first name is James and there are references to “Double-O” and the British Secret Service), so, for predictable reasons, “may never be reprinted in my lifetime.”  Written in the second-person, the story presents the world-saving agent, past retirement and ill, through his memories of car chases, pointless shootouts, “sequences of horror,” death traps, assassination attempts, and seduction of and betrayal by women (he has had “extensive serious difficulties with women”), under the shadow (or should that be spectre?) of the black-clad Dr. Hemlock.  Recognition of the familiar, hackneyed tropes and their flippant treatment provided chuckles.  (As far as we know, though, no one in the Bar ordered vodka martinis shaken, not stirred.)

Copies of Barron’s X’s for Eyes and The Imago Sequence were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, while, at the front of the room, Wong had copies of a short horror comic.

Mummies and Mars at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 20 — the 47th anniversary of the first Moon Landing – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors David D. Levine and Helen Marshall at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, and the Series for the excellence of its readers; readings are always free.

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, exhorted us to buy drinks (generously, there is no cover charge), and reported on upcoming events in the Series. Next month’s readers, on August 17, are Leanna Renee Hieber and Theodora Goss. Reading on September 21 will be Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong; on October 19 Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan; and on November 16 John Langan and Kressel himself. (Details are available at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.) Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

David D. Levine is the author of the novel Arabella of Mars and over fifty sf and fantasy stories, one of which “Tk’tk’tk,” won the Hugo Award.  Some of his stories have been anthologized in the Endeavour Award-winning collection Space Magic.  (Full disclosure:  years ago, we were in an apa, or fannish amateur press association, together.  He is, of course, not the New York gamer of that name – though, to their mutual consternation, that distinction was lost by one Worldcon’s “Voodoo Message Board” – nor the caricaturist at the New York Review of Books.)

Levine began with a well-received rap (“Ey girl, what’s your name?,” complete with background music) summarizing the plot of Arabella of Mars, then read from the Prologue, “The Last Straw.” The novel is set in an alternate cosmology (or alternate astrophysics) previously described as “Mars the way it used to be before science ruined it,” with canals, Martians and breathable atmosphere (Venus, of course, has swamps), a reality – a term here used loosely – in which further there is interplanetary atmosphere and airships voyage between worlds.  The heroine, Arabella Ashby, an 18th-century English colonist on Mars (the use of “Marsman,” to distinguish from Martians, was employed as well in a similarly titled novel about a girl named Podkayne), we learn, has been hauled off to Earth and urgently must return to Mars to save her family fortune.  In the final part of his presentation, Arabella is attempting to do just that, disguised as a boy among an airship’s crew as it lifts from London.  Venerable literary devices blend imaginatively and charmingly.

Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall

After a break, Series co-host much-honored editor Ellen Datlow introduced the second reader of the night. Helen Marshall’s first collection of fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, won the Sydney J. Bounds Award in 2013, and her second, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Embalmer,” appears in The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, though, as she described it, it’s “the least mummy-like” story that she could write.  It was nonetheless quirky and amusing.  The boy Henry has a penchant and talent for digging up and mummifying neighbors’ dead and buried pets, including the girl next door’s (Dalia), late Labradane, which he’s anonymously gifted to her and which she smuggles to school.  (We must count it as fortunate that her little brother was not buried in the backyard.)

Copies of Arabella of Mars and Gifts for the One Who Comes After were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Afterward, the crowd headed out to dinner.

Fantastic Fiction at the KGB Bar Opens the Year With Readings by Delia Sherman and Ilana C. Meyer

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, January 20, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Delia Sherman and Ilana C. Myer in the Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The room, up a steep set of stairs to the 2nd floor, filled up quickly.

The Series, co-hosted by Mathew Kressel (author of King of Shards) and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, has, for over a decade, on the third Wednesday of the month, presented readings (always free) both by established science fiction and fantasy writers and by new voices in the genre.

After flitting around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted here), Ellen welcomed the audience, then sadly reported the news that Tor senior editor David Hartwell had fallen the day before, suffering massive head injuries and a brain hemorrhage from which he was not expected to recover. (Soon after, he did pass.) This month’s readings are dedicated to him, she said. She then announced upcoming readings in the Series: On February 17, the readers will be Carola Dibbell and Gemma Files; on March 16, Rio Youers and David Nickle; and on April 20, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. She then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Ilana C. Myer is the author of the just-published Last Song Before Night, an epic fantasy about poets and dark enchantments. She read from the still-in-progress sequel to her debut novel, tentatively titled Fire Dance. In the scene offered, Ned (Lord Alterra), a court poet, has come to a neighboring kingdom to investigate dark magic. An audience with the queen leads to an assignation where they play “the game of kings” – no, not that, chess. (He’s surprised too.) Unfortunately, while it was engaging, her selection was brief and did not allow us a sense of who the main character was or a glimpse of the story’s larger plot.

After a break, Matt thanked the Bar, and urged the crowd to support it (there’s no cover charge, he reminded) by buying drinks, even soft drinks, then introduced the evening’s concluding reader.

Delia Sherman is the author – or “the cause” – of numerous short stories and novels, including the Norton Award-winning The Freedom Maze and the upcoming novel, The Evil Wizard Smallbone (from which I heard her read at December’s NY Review of SF reading).  She entertained us with an excerpt from her novella “The Great Detective,” which is coming out from Tor.com in February, reading “with a Welsh accent, where warranted.” “The game is afoot” in a foggy, steampunk London, as Welsh baronet and inventor Sir Arthur Cwmlech, accompanied by his apprentice Tacy Gof and Angharad Cwmlech, a literal “ghost in the machine” (an English Civil War era spirit inhabiting an automaton), consults Mycroft Holmes about the theft of his “illogic engine,” which would imbue mechanicals with more humanlike qualities. Holmes has his own automaton, a “reasoning machine” that resembles him closely enough “almost” to be his younger brother, though, of course, is thinner. (We know his methods.)

At the back of the room, copies of Last Song Before Night and books by Sherman were for sale by the Word bookstore of Brooklyn and (this is new) Jersey City. Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then headed out for dinner.

Inventive Ford and Edison Read Fantastic Fiction at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 15, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Jeffrey Ford and David Edison in the Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.  (It was probably coincidental that both authors share surnames with famous inventors — and capitalists, ironic in view of the Bar’s Soviet era-themed décor.)  So it was up the steep and very narrow stairway to the 2nd floor (a bit daunting to me just a month after open-heart surgery).

The Series (http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/), co-hosted by Mathew Kressel and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, has, for over a decade on the third Wednesday of the month, presented readings (always free) both by veteran speculative fiction writers and rising stars.

Customarily, as the audience settled in (readings are commonly SRO), Datlow whirled around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted on the website).  The event opened with Kressel welcoming the audience, thanking the Bar (urging the crowd to buy drinks, even soft drinks – “Hydrate!”) and announcing upcoming readers:  On August 19 the readers will be N.K. Jemisin and A.C. Wise (the theme must be initials); on September 16, Lawrence Connolly and Tom Monteleone; on October 21, Nathan Ballingrud and Fran Wilde; on November 18, Kathe Koja and Robert Levy; on December 16, C.S.E. Cooney and Elizabeth Hand; and looking ahead to 2016, on January 20, Ilana C. Myer and Delia Sherman. He then introduced the first reader of the evening.

David Edison

David Edison

David Edison’s first novel, The Waking Engine, was published by Tor in 2014, and earned Debut of the Month from the Library Journal.  His next novel, The Noonday Plague, will be published in 2016, and it is from the middle of that work that he read.  (It is apparently inspired – very, very loosely – by an old Scottish ballad, Tam Lin. The Waking Engine was the first book in a planned quartet – “I was tired of trilogies,” he’s said elsewhere – and, whereas it was “thematically-aligned with the morning,” this book is “aligned with the day.”)  In the first selection, Tam Lin (aka Tamlin aka Tamlane) is in the Seelie Court, in the clutches of the faerie queen, Lallowe, even for a villainess, a nasty piece of work.   He jumped ahead to a scene of Tam Lin and his lover, Cooper (“a queer dude from Earth”), outside a burning city. (Two bits jumped out: “[She was] murdered for her own protection” and “[a] magic crack pipe”.) Edison has a fine reading voice and held the audience rapt.

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford

After an intermission, Datlow introduced the second and final reader.  Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Shadow Year and The Cosmology of the Wider World, and the story collections The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, The Drowned Life and Crackpot Palace.  (He has a new story collection coming out in 2016, A Natural History of Autumn.)  His fiction has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Nebula, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and Gran Prix de l’Imaginaire.  He likes to sit.  His chosen story, “The Thousand Eyes,” was set in South Jersey in the 1960s and centered on the titular lounge’s singer, Ronnie Dunn, “the Voice of Death.”  (Decrepit and barnacle-covered, he was “well-Dunn.”  Ford’s descriptive turns of phrase, a couple alluding to the vicinity’s stench, had the audience chuckling through much of the piece.)  No one dies there, it’s said, but people do seem to vanish forever, called by Dunn’s vocal summons.  When Merle, a local artist, smuggles in a camera (a Polaroid Swinger – I still remember its jingle) and uses a photo of Ronnie as the basis of a painting, one may guess what happens.  (Credulity is strained by Merle having two brilliant ideas.)

Edison’s The Waking Engine and several books by Ford were for sale at the back of the room by the Word bookstore in Brooklyn.  (Datlow exhorted the audience to buy books so that there wouldn’t be any leftovers for them to have to carry back.)  Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then an expedition headed out for dinner.

Alternate Tortoises and Taxes at the KGB Bar with James Morrow and Ken Liu

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, April 15, 2015 – Income Tax Day – the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series presented readings by acclaimed fantasy authors James Morrow and Ken Liu. So it was up the steep and narrow stairway to the second floor and the KGB Bar, the monthly Series’ longtime venue in Manhattan’s East Village, and its familiar red walls and Soviet era-themed décor. The crowd – a mix of writers, editors and sf fans – is always interesting, drinks are reasonable, and readings are always free.

The event opened with co-host Mathew Kressel, welcoming the audience, reporting that co-host Ellen Datlow was vacationing in China, and announcing upcoming readers: On May 20, Wesley Chu and Nicole Kornher-Stace; on June 17, Dale Bailey and Simon Strantzas; and on July 15, Jeffrey Ford and David Edison. He then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Ken Liu

Ken Liu

Ken Liu is a rising star in the field, already a winner of the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. He offered two excerpts from his debut novel The Grace of Kings (Saga Press), an epic fantasy (640 pages) which he described as steampunk with an East Asian flavor, or “silkpunk.” (Airships are silk-draped and battle kites engage in aerial duels.) His first selection introduced the protagonist, Kuni Garu, a charming street punk and bandit, in a land – not exactly historical China – which has been conquered by an empire forcibly unifying its region. Later he ends up in a rebellion against the emperor and becomes a duke. The second passage read was particularly appropriate for the day as it concerned a tax scheme, and was grounded in Liu’s particular expertise – he used to be a tax lawyer. The novel is Book I of the “Dandelion Dynasty” series.

James Morrow

James Morrow

After a recess, David Mercurio Rivera, filling in for Datlow, introduced the second and final reader. James Morrow is a two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards, as well as a winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and the Prix Utopia, and has been hailed by the New York Times as “a wildly imaginative and generous novelist who plays hilarious games with grand ideas.” He read a later section from his most recent effort, Galápagos Regained (St. Martin’s Press) (not, as he’d joked, the entire novel, though, at “only” 496 pages, it was shorter than Liu’s opus). This choice was appreciated, as a few of us had heard him read from an earlier chapter at a NYRSF reading back in October.

Chloe Bathurst, an actress turned governess for Darwin’s menagerie of strange creatures from the Galápagos Islands turned explorer posing as a seer named Lady Omega, has set out to win the ?10,000 prize in the Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Great God Contest by disproving the existence of God, has set out for the archipelago. Along the way she learns of a plot by a rogue Church of England faction that has sent out a team of convicts to cleanse the Galápagos of any fauna, such as the giant tortoises, that might prove Darwinism. If that doesn’t sound loopy enough, in the selection that Morrow read, she encounters a colony of American polygamists that has set up a “Duntopia,” a very imperfect utopia based on mediocrity and its own peculiar (and riotously irreverent) take on the Book of Mormon. The audience was convulsed in laughter throughout.

Books by both readers were for sale at the back of the room from the Word bookstore in Brooklyn. Afterward, an expedition headed out for dinner.

Holiday Cheers! at the KGB Bar with Steven Gould and Rajan Khanna

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, December 17, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Steven Gould and Rajan Khanna in the Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar, up a steep and very narrow stairway, known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, seemed incongruously bedecked with Christmas wreaths and lights, making perhaps an even more fitting venue for sf readings.  The Series, co-hosted monthly by award-winning editor Ellen Datlow and Mathew Kressel, presents readings (always free) both by well-known speculative fiction writers and up-and-coming future luminaries, nicely epitomized in the night’s double bill.

Customarily, as the audience settled in, Datlow whirled around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted on the website). The event opened with Kressel welcoming the audience, thanking the Bar and announcing upcoming readers: On January 21, 2015, Gregory Frost and Andy Duncan; on February 18, Mike Allen and Ben Loory; on March 18, Caitlin Kiernan and Lisa Manetti; and on April 15, James Morrow and Ken Liu. (It was reported that Kiernan would soon after be moving from the area to Georgia. “Which one?” In a place named KGB one couldn’t make an assumption.) He then introduced the first reader of the evening, a personal pleasure, as Rajan Khanna is also a friend.

Khanna’s short fiction has been published in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and several anthologies, his articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com, and his podcast narrations may be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. It was easy to see why, as his soft voice is, as we heard, well-suited for narrating.

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna

He presented several scenes from his first novel, Falling Sky, which was released in October. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future where fuel is so expensive that airships have come back, and, if that weren’t cataclysmic enough, there’s a global pandemic, the Bug, that regresses people to a violent, animalistic (and, of course, hungry) state; they are called Ferals, and their blood splashing on one is enough to spread the infection. The first scene that he read was set on the Cherub, the protagonist’s, Ben Gold, airship; his companion, Miranda, is among those trying to cure the Bug, taking what he views as unacceptable risks. In a later scene, he is driven from the ship, his only home. The final scene read was selected, because, as Khanna noted, Ben is Jewish and “it’s Hanukkah” (for the record, it was the second night). Ben, settled on an island refuge, encounters a rabbi and his makeshift synagogue, and reminisces about his father and his cursory education in his religion during what was already the era called the Sick. (Understandably, and already living in the Cherub, he identified with the story of Noah.) Reinvigorated, he resolves to regain his airship. (As a “token Jew,” said Kressel, “I approve this message.”)

Steven Gould

Steven Gould

After an intermission, Datlow introduced the second and final reader. Gould – not to be confused with the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould – the author of 10 science fiction novels including Jumper, has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Compton Crook, Locus and Prometheus Awards, and the recipient of the Hal Clement award for Young Adult SF as well as having his novels cited by the American Library Association as best books for young adults. During the 1990s, Jumper – which, by the way, I heard him read from way back at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings when they were at Dixon Place – was one of the most banned books in the U.S., which, he has mused, “only shows that most people should read past page nine.” He read from his latest novel, Exo, the fourth official book in the Jumper series.

(There is a fifth book, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, that is a tie-in to the 2008 movie Jumper, which only cursorily resembled the novel.) The series begins with someone, Davy Rice, who can teleport, and, as it proceeds through Reflex and Impulse, we find out that others can as well. “The real secret to teleportation,” says Gould, “is reading. Be transported, imagine!”

In Exo, from which he read, Davy’s now-teenage daughter Cent (short for Millicent), who shares the ability, uses it to go into space (in a pressure suit). The selection began slow, with techno-jargon about adding velocity to a teleport, then became amusing as Cent’s satellite phone company intercepts her conversation with her father, baffled as to how and why her handset is orbiting west to east some 210 miles up, moving at 45 miles per second. (That’s not in her family’s plan’s Terms of Service!) Unfortunately, Gould’s reading was briefly interrupted by sirens outside; there arose such a clatter, that people flew to the window to see what was the matter.

Books by both readers were for sale at the back of the room from the Word bookstore in Brooklyn. Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then an expedition headed out for dinner.