James Patrick Kelly & Jennifer Marie Brissett Read at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the lovely autumn evening of Wednesday, October 18 (and as the Yankees were winning in the Bronx), the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at its longtime venue, the doubly-aptly-named Red Room at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The gathering again seemed smaller than usual.

KGB Bar

The Series is characterized by its mix of well-established authors and newer writers quickly making a name for themselves, but the evening’s readers shared a noteworthy connection, aside from each having triple-barreled names. It turns out that Kelly was Brissett’s graduate mentor. “She passed,” he hastened to add.

The event opened, as customary, with Series co-host Matthew Kressel’s exhortation to support the Bar by buying a drink or two (and tip the bartenders) – “Support the Bar, support the Series” – and announcing upcoming readers:

  • November 15: Grady Hendrix and David Rice
  • December 20: N.K. Jemisin and Chris N. Brown
  • January 17: Joseph Helmreich
  • February 21: Cassandra Khaw and Peternelle van Arsdale

(All dates – other than December’s, which is a Saturday – are the third Wednesday of the month. Details and lineup well into 2018 are available at the Series website. He concluded by introducing the evening’s first reader.

Jennifer Marie Brissett, a Jamaican-British-American, is the author of Elysium, or The World After. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. She read from her next novel, Eleusis, the upcoming sequel to Elysium (she had just handed it in to her agent). The myth of Persephone and Demeter is “at the heart of the story,” she explained, before cautioning the audience about the ugly violence in her selection. In a post-apocalyptic future, the activities of a group of children, one of whom, Cora, has visions, is interrupted by the invasion of a rebel army. The boys, he declares, are now child soldiers, and the girls, including Cora, are raped; those resisting are summarily shot.

During the intermission, Kelly circulated, handing out print copies of his newsletter, Strangeways. Afterward, Series co-host Ellen Datlow assumed the podium and introduced Kelly, the second reader of the night.

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for his works, among which are . Planet of Whispers, Look Into the Sun, Wildlife, Burn, “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1.” Additionally, he has edited several reprint anthologies with John Kessel, among them The Secret History of Science Fiction. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go (“my first novel in twenty-something years”), an audiobook original from Audible (and an audio exclusive – there’s “no print edition for the foreseeable future”), and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. He also writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.

“I love to read aloud,” he began, and “this is my favorite place to read.” Though he should have been “flogging” Mother Go (his editor was in the audience), he instead read “Yukui!” (pronounced U-Q-E), an (the) original story from his new collection (forthcoming in February from Prime), The Promise of Space. (“I used up my yearly allotment of exclamation points,” he quipped.) The titular character is a DI, directed intelligence, or sidekick, who calls herself Sprite for her avatar’s fairy body, in unrequited lust with her owner. As a result, she is, to her great dismay, transferred into a sexless shell or chassis, deprived of what she considered her destiny and given another. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, he said that it’s “my Blade Runner story.”)

Copies of Brissett’s Elysium were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (and Jersey City). (As it happens, “once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years,” she herself owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books, which I confess apologetically never having visited.)

Prior to the readings, as usual, Datlow snapped photos of the readers and the audience. Her photos of the event may be seen at the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.

James Patrick Kelly and Mark Blackman

Pixel Scroll 9/4/17 Little Miss Muffet Sat On A Pixel. Along  Came A Scroll.

(1) YOUR 1962 HUGO WINNERS. The Traveler at Galactic Journey spent Labor Day Weekend in Chicago engaged in fandom’s favorite pastime of complaining about the Hugo winners, like that gosh-darned Heinlein novel, Stranger in a Strange Land: “[Sep. 4, 1962] Differences of opinion (the 1962 Hugo Awards!)”

This line-up shouldn’t shock me, given the pre-convention buzz, and yet it does.  Stranger has gotten a lot of attention, particularly from the mainstream edges of our fandom (probably because it dares to mention sex).  It has also earned its fair share of scorn.  It’s a lousy, preachy book, but if we’re judging by the sales, then it’s won its trophy, fair and square.

He hates Brian Aldiss’ winning works too! (Quick, the fainting cloths!)

I did give a Star to the first story in the Hothouse series, but the quality of the tales went down over the course of the publication.  I understand they were novelized early this year, so Aldiss may get another bite at the apple.  He doesn’t deserve it, though (the reviewer for UK sf digest, New Worlds, agrees with me).

(2) HANDMAID REX. Mari Mancusi saw something strange:

The handmaids were at the DragonCon parade. I’m a little concerned by the look of one of them…

(3) MORE SURPRISES. Here’s Atlanta Loop’s photos of the rest of the parade. Wait a minute – Jane Yolen was there?!?

Literary Guest of Honor and author of “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” Jane Yolen, waves to the crowd as she rides in the annual Dragon Con Parade. Photo: Jonathan Phillips

(4) SORRY, SON. Did you remember Indiana Jones has a son? Me neither. And no need to start remembering — Entertainment Weekly says “Indiana Jones 5 won’t feature Shia LaBeouf’s character”.

Will an Indiana Jones protege soon snatch the iconic wide-brimmed fedora from atop Harrison Ford’s head? Perhaps, but it won’t be Mutt Williams — a.k.a. Indy’s son, Henry Jones III — the character Shia LaBeouf played in 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

“Harrison plays Indiana Jones, that I can certainly say,” screenwriter David Koepp, who has penned a script for the fifth film in the storied Indiana Jones franchise, tells EW. “And the Shia LaBeouf character is not in the film.”

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Chow down on Tortellini Carbonara with James Patrick Kelly” in Episode 46 of Eating the Fantastic.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer who recently published a career short story retrospective as part of the Centipede Press Masters of Science Fiction series. And had I not been turned down by the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1974, I might have shared a dorm room with him! (But don’t worry. I was accepted in 1979.)

We discussed the reason he needed to attend the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop twice—and why the rules were then changed so no one could do it again, the suggestion Kate Wilhelm made that saved one of his short stories, why his reaction to comics as a kid was “Marvel, yes, DC, feh,” how the science fiction field survived the Cyberpunk/Humanist wars of the ‘80s, why he takes an expansive view of fanfic, how Cory Doctorow inspired him to enter the world of podcasting early, what allows him and frequent collaborator John Kessel to work together so well, his advice for how writing 10 endings to a story in progress will help writers find the right ending, and more.

(6) GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano returns with the second podcast in his GeekWire special series on science fiction, pop culture and the arts.

This time, I interview SFWA President Cat Rambo about the new game writer’s Nebula Award, consider the importance of awards in a crowd-sourced recommendation landscape, revisit the Puppies controversy in light of last month’s Hugo results (you’ll recall I wrote about the Puppies for GeekWire two years ago), and get some advice for wanna be writers.

The story (focused on the game writing Nebula) with a link to the full podcast is here: “Game writers to be honored with Nebula Award in first for professional science fiction and fantasy org”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo says the organization began admitting game writers as members last year, and announced a Best Game Writing award category for 2018 to cover works published this year.

“I would think that one of the things a Nebula imprimatur would mean for a game is that it is a game that really has some story to it,” Rambo said. “That it’s a game that can achieve that sort of immersive wonderful experience that only text can bring.”

Rambo, a Seattle writer who is in her second term as SFWA president, sat down with GeekWire for this episode of our new podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Rambo has written more than 200 short stories and been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Her stories are most recently collected in Neither Here Nor There (Hydra House) and Altered America: Steampunk Stories (Plunkett Press)….

Catalano says, “I have to admit, I’m enjoying mining my science fiction writing background. (And I do provide a full disclosure disclaimer early in the podcast interview that I am a former officer of SFWA, and still-active member.)”

(7) NO BUCK ROGERS, NO BUCKS. The iconic sf character is only making money for lawyers right now: “‘Buck Rogers’ Ownership at Center of Coming Trial”. Two rival estates want those bucks for their own.

The lawsuit is between descendants of author Philip Francis Nowlan, who created the fictional space explorer in the 1920s, and descendants of John Flint Dille, whose newspaper company once syndicated a Buck Rogers comic strip. On Friday, a Pennsylvania federal judge wrote the latest chapter in a long-running contest over rights with a decision that sets up a forthcoming trial over ownership….

“Although the question of whether the commercial success of Buck Rogers owes more to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan is surely of great interest to the parties, and to Buck Rogers fans, it is simply irrelevant to the trademark questions that the trier of fact must answer here,” writes the judge.

The first big trademark question is who had priority on “Buck Rogers.” Who came first to claim “Buck Rogers” as their own? Not Nowlan or Dille, but rather their respective trusts. The Dilles no longer have a valid federal registration, so they must establish prior use of the mark in a way sufficiently public to be identifiable in the minds of the public.

Beetlestone writes that “there is a genuine issue as to whether Plaintiff can establish priority of use in the BUCK ROGERS mark. It must be noted that it is not necessary for Plaintiff to trace its claim to the BUCK ROGERS mark back to John F. Dille or Philip F. Nowlan. Instead, Plaintiff need only point to evidence from which a trier of fact could conclude that it developed trademark rights in the mark prior to January 15, 2009.”

That’s the date the Nowlans filed an intent-to-use trademark application.

The judge notes that the Dilles held registrations on “Buck Rogers” in the 1980s and had licensed those rights for games, comics and books.

(8) CANDID GIZZARD. The BBC reports “Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body”.

Scientists have developed a camera that can see through the human body.

The device has been designed to help doctors track medical tools, known as endoscopes, during internal examinations.

Until now, medics have had to rely on expensive scans, such as X-rays, to trace their progress.

The new camera works by detecting light sources inside the body, such as the illuminated tip of the endoscope’s long flexible tube.

(9) BREW HAULER. A true fan: “German waiter smashes beer carrying record – again”. Video at the link.

Oliver Struempfel spent months of training to carry as many full one-litre mugs as possible for a distance of 40m.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 4, 1966 – Gene Roddenberry showed Star Trek’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Tricon, the Worldcon in Cleveland, OH.
  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered in the U.S.

(11) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian will remember why he recommended this one in a moment: Speedbump.

(12) SECOND VICTIM IDENTIFIED. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published the name of the second woman injured by chairs thrown from the Atlanta Marriott early Sunday morning during Dragon Con:

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador, who was dressed as Jessica Rabbit from the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was rushed to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Hospital, friend Jennifer Matteson told The AJC.

Both women have been released from their hospitals.

Mattheson said she and Amador drove from Louisiana for their first Dragon Con.

All in all, Matteson said their experience was still positive from the “phenomenal” hotel hospitality to the community.

“The love and support from the Dragon Con family is heart warming to say the least,” Matteson said. “We can’t wait to return for an even better experience, and reconnect with our new Atlanta family!”

Jamie Temple-Thompson Amador

(13) DRAGON AWARDS. At Women Write About Comics, Doris V. Sutherland says “2017 Dragon Awards Are No Longer Puppy Awards”. My mileage may vary.

Despite its recent vintage, the Dragon Awards already have a rocky history. Last year, the awards largely reflected the tastes of a very specific voting bloc: namely, supporters of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns that formed to counter perceived left-wing bias at Worldcon’s Hugo Awards.

This led to such ludicrous situations as Brian Niemeier, a Puppy-aligned author, campaigning for his little-known space opera Souldancer to be voted into the Best Horror category for tactical reasons — and winning. L. Jagi Lamplighter, who edited Souldancer and became a finalist this year for her YA novel Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamlandacknowledged the Puppies’ influence on the Dragon Awards results in 2016: “Puppy fans were eager to vote in a new award and may have been more vigilant than general fans who didn’t necessarily know about the Dragon Awards ahead of time.” Other authors from the Puppysphere, meanwhile, insisted that the Dragons were evidence of their mass popularity with the wider fandom.

However, it seems the farce of the 2016 Dragon Awards can now be consigned to the dustbin of fandom history. The 2017 Dragons have received a much higher turnout of voters and, all in all, they have done a considerably better job of living up to their stated aim of offering “a true reflection of the works that are genuinely most beloved by the core audience.”

This year, the one victory from the Puppy circles was earned by Larry Correia and John Ringo’s Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge, which won Best Fantasy Novel. Correia was the founder of the Sad Puppies campaign and is almost certainly the most popular author to be aligned with the movement, so his success here should not come as too much of a surprise.

(14) NIEMEIER ON DRAGON AWARDS. It’s kind of like watching a dog take a victory lap with one leg lifted.

(15) LOOK OUT. Kevin Standlee got splashed – uh, with vitriol, that is: “They Doth Protest Too Much Methinks”.

I (probably unwisely) tried to ask some of the people crowing over how the recent Dragon Awards are the Best Awards Evar and that The Hugo Awards are dead, dead, dead because of course the only Real Awards are the Dragons, etc., asking why they thought an award that allowed someone with a bit of internet savvy the ability to vote potentially hundreds of times was a good thing, and the amount of vitriol sent my way was, well, not surprising, really. I’m sort of wondering if these people simply assume that everything is corrupt and everyone is on the take. They assumed, after all, that the Hugo Award results were rigged by a Secret Cabal. They don’t care of their pet system is rigged or flawed, as long as they Get What They Want. It’s sort of like the people who were quoted as saying they didn’t care if the last American Presidential election was corrupted, because Their Guy Won, and that’s all that matters.

(16) BACK FROM HELSINKI. Susanna Shore adds to the legion of Worldcon 75 reports in “My #worldcon75 experience”:

The first panel was called Bad Romance. I’d chosen it because I write romance and I don’t want to write it badly, but also because Max Gladstone was on it. He doesn’t strike me as a romance writer, but I like his Craft Sequence fantasy series and wanted to hear him. He turned out to be worth the queuing.

The panel had a hiccupy start as the chair didn’t show up, but a member of the audience volunteered to moderate. She turned out to be Julia Rios, who had won a Hugo Award the previous night for Uncanny Magazine and had partied till four in the morning, but she still managed to be a great moderator. Not only did she keep the conversation flowing, she also managed to live tweet the panel. As a whole, the panel was good and funny, though I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t known before.

(17) MARVEL’S INHUMANS. Sneak peek.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark-kitteh, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

2015 Clarion Writers’ Workshop

2015 Clarion Writers WorkshopApplications are now being accepted for the famous Clarion Writers’ Workshop which has been training and encouraging aspiring science fiction writers since 1968.

Writers in residence for the 2015 workshop will be Christopher Barzak, Saladin Ahmed, James Patrick Kelly, Karen Joy Fowler, Maureen McHugh, and Margo Lanagan.

Held on the UC San Diego campus, Clarion is an intensive six-week summer program focused on fundamentals of writing sf and fantasy short stories. There is a long list of distinguished Clarion alumni.

A different professional writer or editor conducts the workshop during each of the first four weeks. The last two weeks are run by a two-writer anchor team. Workshoppers are housed in college apartments, and classes are held in seminar facilities. The resident writers live nearby and are continuously available to students. Mornings are devoted to critiquing manuscripts in a workshop setting. Afternoons, evenings, and weekends are devoted to individual writing, conferences with the current writer-in-residence, social activities, and the completion of class assignments.

There also are two other independently-run workshops with the Clarion name: Clarion South in Australia and Clarion West in Seattle, Washington.

Electrocuting the Hugos

James Patrick Kelly, since you have so generously tried to give us a clue, it’s only fair to offer you three in return.

First

Don’t just sit home smiling at your own cleverness as you write condescending crap like:
“Is there anyone out there who considers the world wide web ‘an exceptional circumstance?’ In my twenty-first century, it has become as commonplace as sliced bread and infomercials.” This is the kind of blogly “argument” now presented everywhere in counterfeit of real political debate. Why waste time on the merits when there are straw men to set ablaze? Really, no active sf fan thinks the Web is anything less than one of the most important media distributing science fiction and fanac. Why even go there? You damage your credibility when you don’t write the truth.

Second

Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that somebody has to vote for the changes you want?

“While I agree in principle with the need for conservation of Hugos, my solution would be to cut some of the soon-to-be-obsolete print categories in order to make room for digital replacements.”

I’m guessing it won’t help to pass your rule changes to douse yourself with political gasoline by championing the elimination of Hugo categories regularly won by (a) the #1 trade magazine in the sf field and (b) fanzines that are popular with folks who actually show up to vote at Worldcon Business Meetings. If somebody has a problem with the number of categories, make them waste their political capital shortening the list. That’s a distraction from your real issue.

You also might want to reread your comments about Emerald City’s Fanzine Hugo – if you think the voters awarded the Hugo to a website (rather than a fanzine delivered by a website), why would you want to kill an example of a category that already delivers the result you want?

Third

“It is that the Hugo awards are now seriously flawed and will become increasingly irrelevant until they are regularly given for websites….

“If I were elected Supreme Being, I would decree that there be no less than five digital Hugos: Best Fiction Site, Best Non-Fiction Site, Best E-zine, Best Opinion Site, and Best Blog.”

Expanding the Hugos to cover web-delivered subject matter is the right thing to do, but your current proposal makes about as much sense as adding five magazine categories. The Web is just a delivery technology, like a household appliance. Nobody gives Hugos to radios, we give them to people whose stories inspire our imagination.

Harlan Ellison convinced the 1972 Business Meeting to put back the fourth fiction Hugo – at the time, Best Novella and Best Novellette were merged in the Best Short Fiction category. His most powerful argument was that fan recognition helped the careers of good writers. Because of the unique interaction of sf fans and writers, he wasn’t talking about being nice to strangers but asking us to help people who are part of our own sf community. He felt another Hugo would marginally improve their chances to make a living by increasing the recognition of their work. Years have passed since Harlan won that vote, but fans haven’t changed that much. Helping people is still the most potent argument you could make.

So what people are getting shortchanged because their web-delivered content doesn’t have its own Hugos?

Not fiction writers – you may not know that the verb used in the general rule for Hugos is “appearing,” not published:

“3.2.1: Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.”

The four fiction categories are defined by word lengths alone, not by the medium used to deliver those words. And Worldcon committees already collaborate with story publishers to make Hugo nominated fiction from any medium available on the Web during the voting period.

Nonfiction, opinion and blog writers? You’re not going to want to hear this, but your column in Asimov’s is no different animal than what we call sercon fanwriting. The Best Fanwriter category is already open to people whose writing appeared “in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year.” Congratulations — you’re eligible to compete against Dave Langford! (Psst – I’ve tried it. It isn’t easy!)

Websites, then? Maybe, but is that all you’re really trying to reward? Fandom stopped giving Hugos exclusively to pro magazines when we realized we wanted to give Hugos to great fiction editors more than to a particular magazine or publisher. Since Best Prozine morphed into Best Professional Editor, the rule has included a minimum “press run,” but the existing category could easily be made web friendly by redefining it to cover anyone who edits any science fiction that appears in a year.

You probably would still want a Best Website Hugo, for some of the same reasons we created art and drama categories — at least my own view is that websites are a mass artform. But see, you don’t need five webzine Hugos.

P.S.

Nobody can replace you in democratic processes. If you believe in a revolutionary approach to the Hugo Awards, simply walk into the Business Meeting and make the motion. It doesn’t take anything more than that. It also can’t be done any other way.

Hugo categories are not passed by Congress or announced by the Pope, Worldcon members vote them into the constitution of the World Science Fiction Society. They can be added, subtracted and changed by a vote at any year’s Worldcon business meeting (with changes taking effect after a ratifying vote at the following year’s meeting.) Business meetings are run by democratic process, like a town meeting. Any member can come and submit motions or cast a vote. And by virtue of the respect you enjoy as a leading writer in the field, your voice will find a receptive audience.

This does not mean your ideas will automatically be passed. Just don’t assume any resistance to website Hugos comes solely from traditionalists. There are also plenty of people who simply feel “We don’t need another Hugo to give to Locus every year….”