Pixel Scroll 1/19/17 She’s Got Electric Trolls, A Pixel Scroll

(1) READING ROPEMAKER IRONMONGER. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has turned the panel loose on Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell”

Smith’s best known work is set several thousand years in the future, when humans have colonized the galaxy under the benevolent or at least firm hand of the Instrumentality. For humans, it’s a utopia. For the artificial Underpeople, created to serve humans and without any rights at all, it is not. “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell” was deemed worthy of inclusion in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, which honored noteworthy stories denied a shot at the Nebula Award because they predated that award. How does it stand up in the eyes of my young readers?

Here’s your first clue – I say, “Fire the panelists!”

(2) WRITING BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch analyzes the summary business reports for 2016 and extracts the nuggets for indie writers. This is just one of many —

Readers still go to bookstores, yes, and some readers will go to the brick-and-mortar store first. But most readers go online first, even if they choose not to order the book there.

There’s an interesting piece from The International Council of Shopping Centers (which I found through the Marketing Land article). On January 3, the International Council of Shopping Centers released the results of a survey conducted after the holiday season ended. The survey had a relatively small sample size (1030 adults) , but the findings seemed to be backed up by the other data that’s coming in.

The survey found that 70% of the shoppers surveyed preferred shopping at a place with an online and a physical presence. That number was even higher for Millennials—81%. Part of the reason was the ability to compare prices, but some of it was—again—convenience. Since most shoppers waited until the last minute in 2016 to shop, they ended up looking online to see if what they wanted was at a store, and then they went to the store to pick it up.

Sixty-one percent of the people who went to the store to pick up the item they purchased online bought something else at that store (75% of Millennials.) Why am I harping on Millennials? Because they are the future of the next decade or so of retailing.

(And, like it or not, writers, you’re in the retailing business when it comes to getting your books in the hands of consumers.)

This, my friends, is why Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar bookstores. Because they’re seeing similar statistics, and they understand, perhaps better than any of us, that the consumer wants a blended experience.

(3) GAINING FAME. Matthew Kressel of Fantastic Fiction at KGB reveals “How to Run a (Successful) Reading Series” at Tor.com.

Give the Authors Something for Their Time

Let’s face it, even though the author is getting lots of free promotion by reading at your series, they still have to make the effort to travel to your city, book a hotel, and get to the event on the day itself. The absolute least you can do is give them something for their time. (Simply “allowing” them to read for you is not enough). Give them a stipend/honorarium. Buy them drinks and/or dinner. Give your guests something to show them that you appreciate their time and effort.

Promote the S**t Out Of Your Events

It goes without saying that in today’s glut of media, you have to rise above the noise to be heard, especially if you’re just starting out. Establish a social media presence. Make a website. Tweet, Facebook, Tumblr, and G+ the s**t out of your readings. Create an email list. Make a Facebook event. Ask the bar/venue to put it up on their website. Leave no promotional stone unturned. It will be really hard for people to come to your reading if they don’t know about it.

(4) HEAD FOR THE BORDERLANDS. Two signings coming up at Borderlands Books in San Francisco:

  • Laura Anne Gilman, THE COLD EYE (Hardcover, Saga Press, $27.99) on Sunday, January 22nd at 3:00pm
  • Ellen Klages, PASSING STRANGE (Trade Paperback, Tor.com, $14.99) on Saturday, January 28th at 3:00pm

(5) LITERARY HISTORY. You can bid on eBay for a copy of the issue of Mademoiselle containing Ray Bradbury’s first mainstream publication. And the story gets even better —

I believe that this will be one of the rarest and coolest Ray Bradbury collectibles you will see on ebay this year. In 1946, a year before the publication of Bradbury’s first book, Ray was just starting to break out of publishing only in the pulps and weird fantasy magazines and gain some traction with more highly respected mainstream publications. He submitted his classic story Homecoming to Mademoiselle magazine but it sat in their offices for months without being read. Truman Capote, then working at the magazine as an editorial apprentice, came across the story, loved it, and passed it along to his editor. This was not a typical story for Mademoiselle. So, amazingly enough, Bradbury found himself working closely with the magazine’s staff as the story became the centerpiece for a supernatural Halloween themed issue. Even the fashion spreads reflect the ghoulish theme. It is slightly bizarre. The story is accompanied with a double page Charles Addams illustration, the same picture that is ultimately used as the Cover of From The Dust Returned. Although the image there was flipped to accommodate the book jacket, so the picture in the magazine is as the artist originally intended….

So why do you almost never see one of these come up for sale? Keep in mind that this came out the year before Ray’s first book was published. Even if you were an avid Bradbury fan (and at this time there were few of them) and were on the lookout for Ray stories you are not going to look at Mademoiselle magazine, especially since Ray’s name is not on the cover. And who is going to hold onto this for 70 years? At 325 pages it is a tome. Women do not generally collect things like this, so most of these were probably discarded early on. These magazines are almost the definition of disposable. Try to find this anywhere at any price.

(6) THOSE WEREN’T THE DAYS MY FRIEND. The Traveler at Galactic Journey warns against reading the February 1962 Analog – advice most of you should find easy to follow: “[January 19, 1962] Killing the Messenger (February 1962 Analog)”

The problem is Analog’s editor, Mr. John W. Campbell.  Once a luminary in the field, really hatching an entire genre back in the late 30’s, Campbell has degenerated into the crankiest of cranks.  And since he offers 3 cents a word for folks to stroke his ego, he necessarily gets a steady stream of bespoke stories guaranteed to be published.

Want to know the secret to getting printed in Analog?  Just include psi powers and a healthy dose of anti-establishment pseudo-scientific contrarianism, and you’re in like Flynn.

Case in point: this issue’s lead story, The Great Gray Plague, by Raymond F. Jones.  Never have I seen such a cast of straw men this side of a cornfield.  The setup is that the snooty head of a government agency that oversees science grants refuses to consider the bucolic Clearwater College as a candidate because they rank so low on the “Index.”  Said “Index” comprises a set of qualifications, some reasonable like the ratio of doctorates to students and published papers per year, to the ridiculous like ratio of tuxedoes to sport coats owned by the faculty and the genetic pedigree of the staff.  Thus, the “Index” serves as a sort of Poll Tax for institutions, making sure only the right kind remain moneyed.  The Dean of Clearwater makes an impassioned argument to the government employee that such a narrow protocol means thousands of worthy scientists and their inventions get snubbed every year in favor of established science.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 19, 1990 — Natives of a small isolated town defend themselves against strange underground creatures in Tremors, seen for the first time on this date. The official scientific name of the Graboid worm is “Caederus mexicana“.
  • January 19, 1996  — Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up for From Dusk Till Dawn.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(9) GREAT NEWS ABOUT GOOD OMENS. Coming to Amazon Video, SciFiNow reports “Good Omens TV series confirmed, Neil Gaiman will write every episode”.

It was confirmed last year that Neil Gaiman was working on a TV adaptation of his and the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s classic novel Good Omens, and now there’s some big news to get excited about.

Variety reports that Amazon has greenlit a six-episode series, and that Gaiman himself has written every script and will serve as showrunner.

So, that’s pretty brilliant.

Because of the tragic logistics of how long things actually take to get made, we won’t see Good Omens until 2018, but this is truly wonderful news.

Good Omens will be a co-production with the BBC and Rhianna Pratchett’s production company Narrativia, and it will air on the BBC after launching on Amazon Video.

This adaptation will be “set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But follies ensue — Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist.”

(10) PATROLLING THE BEAT. Hey there, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down: “So Long, Mall Cop! Enter Silicon Valley Start-Up’s Robot Guards”.

The mall cop is going to have some company. Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope believes its security robots can help take a bite out of the crime that costs the American economy $1 trillion every year. Knightscope CEO William Santana Li says his robots are already on duty in several key California locations including the Sacramento Kings arena, the Microsoft campus and Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. The robots are designed to detect and report anomalies, which help existing human security personnel perform better and stay safer.

Francis Hamit comments: “This will actually make human security officers more effective since it will increase their range. They have several accounts now in California and are raising additional funds through a Regulation A+ offering on their website. I bought some shares myself Yeah, it still looks like a Dalek. but they are not weaponized. They come in peace…”

(11) NO, I WON’T JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY IT. Kate Paulk repeats a favorite talking point in “Making History is Messier than you Thought” at Mad Genius Club.

The forces that have dominated civil (or uncivil) discourse of late are in the process of losing what was once a near-absolute grip on public expression, and they don’t like it. This is showing up in the Big 5 versus Amazon rolling arguments, the repeated attempts to delegitimize and other all things Indie, the Sad Puppies campaigns (and yes, the Rabids as well. Had the reaction to Sad Puppies 2 been less vitriolic, the whole thing would have likely faded off and been forgotten by now. Instead, well… Take note, folks. If you don’t like something, the best way to deal with it is to politely ignore it and let it rise or fall on its own merits. If it really is as bad as you think, it will sink. Of course, if there’s manipulation behind the scenes that’s a whole nother argument).

(12) ANIMATED LOVECRAFT. “Mark Hamill, Christopher Plummer Lead Voice Cast of ‘Lovecraft’ Feature”Deadline has the story.

Mark Hamill, the beloved Star Wars actor, is taking a little time out to voice an animated Lovecraft feature. He, along with Jeffrey Combs (Transformers Prime), Christopher Plumme and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) have been set for the voice cast in the upcoming animated feature Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom from Shout! Factory and Arcana Studios. Written, directed and produced by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, the film is the adaption of Bruce Brown and Dwight L. MacPherson’s bestselling graphic novel of the same name, and marks the second installment of Howard Lovecraft animated film series.

(13) THE PLOTS HATCH. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter, in “Disney All But Confirms Shared-Universe Fan Theories With Pixar Easter Eggs Video”, explains why you should watch it.

That is, by going super granular—freeze-framing and then panning over to a background character (or image) that you may not have noticed on first viewing, then jumping over to the movie it references. From Inside Out‘s Riley peering into the aquarium in Finding Dory to the shadow of Up‘s Dug chasing Remy in Ratatouille two years before the former came out… or even Skinner’s bright red moped showing up in the scrap pile in WALL-E… this is an Easter egg video to the nth degree.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/17 And Someday, If I Can, I’m Gonna Be A Pixel Scroller Just Like My Old Man

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group is voting on the winners of The 2016 Best of r/Fantasy Stabby Awards through January 11. You’re invited.

For 2016, we need you to vote!

The eligible candidates below were set by the 2016 r/Fantasy Nomination Thread and populated by r/Fantasy members. The list was locked in place this past Wednesday at 10PM Pacific.

To vote, please click the upvote arrow next to your choice or choices for ‘best of’ in each category. Yes, you can upvote more than one.

(2) STICKS THE LANDING. The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger reviews Emerald City in “Toto, You’re Not a Basket-Size Terrier Anymore”

Dorothy, the Wizard and the rest of the Oz gang get the “Grimm” treatment as well as the grim treatment in “Emerald City,” a series beginning Friday on NBC, one that’s addictive if you allow it to be. That may, however, require some effort on your part.

emerald-city-nbc

You may not be conscious of just how deeply imprinted the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” is on your psyche until you watch a bit of this show, which initially seems so very wrong in every possible way. Where is the singing? Where are the psychedelic colors? So here’s what you do: At the first commercial break, pause and marvel all over again at what a spectacular achievement in artistry and cross-generational endurance the 1939 Judy Garland film is, and then let it go.

“Emerald City” has its Dorothy, engagingly played by Adria Arjona, but it draws on the full canon of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books (a series that continued after his death in 1919). It is partial to the dark and unsettling aspects of those tales, which it teases out and enhances with flourishes of its own. When this Dorothy lands in Oz, she’s armed, and that dog alongside her is no basket-size terrier.

The result is decidedly not a fairy tale for young children. This version of Oz has bloodshed, charred bodies, a very disturbing multiple suicide and much more. Friday’s premiere consists of two episodes, which is good, because two hours is about how long it takes you to acclimate to the tone and intent. In the third episode, a doozy, the show’s grip on you really tightens.

(3) NOT SINBAD AND NOT SHAZAAM. Kenneth R. Johnson emailed his theory about the misremembered genie movie debated in comments on yesterday’s Scroll:

I think I may have the answer to what the mysterious genie movie is that various people are mis-remembering as “Shazaam.”  I distinctly remember watching a movie on TV back in the 1990s in which the genie was played by a tall black guy with dreadlocks;  he also had some kind of British accent.  After extensive googling I’ve identified it as “Bernard and the Genie,” a TV movie from 1991.  The genie was played by British actor/comedian Lenny Henry.  He may have been doing a Jamaican accent to make the genie appear pseudo-Rastafarian.  The movie also has Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson in it.  It’s very strange.

(4) BUG JACQUES BARRON. French citizens are now automatic organ donors under the law.

All French citizens are now automatic organ donors, unless they officially opt out of the program.

A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 makes everyone an organ and tissue donor. People can opt out of the program, but they must enroll in something called the National Rejection Register in order to do so.

A low number of organ donations prompted the new rule, according to news reports.

France’s biomedicine agency said in a statement on its website that “in the name of national solidarity, the principle of presumed consent was chosen,” The World Post reported.

(5) REMEMBER THE ALICORN. Rick Riordan putting his foot down —

(6) FATE OF THE FRANCHISE. What would you do? HuffPo says “’Star Wars’ Team Grappling With How Leia Will Live On After Carrie Fisher’s Death”.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death, the team responsible for future “Star Wars” projects is reportedly reconsidering the place of her character, Leia Organa, in the franchise’s ever-expanding universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. …

Fisher, who first played the iconic princess in 1977, brought Leia back to the big screen as a general in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. The actress has apparently already filmed her scenes for the second installment in the latest trilogy, but was rumored to have an even larger role in the following film….

The team is reportedly concerned with two key scenes featuring Fisher that would bring her character and the film’s plot full circle: a much belated reunion between Leia and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a faceoff with her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who killed his father and her lover, Han Solo, in “The Force Awakens.”

Shooting for “Star Wars: Episode IX” isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2018, so until then, those at the helm are pursuing a variety of options on how to proceed. Resurrecting Fisher with CGI effects is apparently one alternative in play, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Technological advances have allowed for actors like the late Peter Cushing to return to the screen in the latest “Star Wars” offering, “Rogue One,” so Fisher could continue to have a similar presence, however limited, in future films.

The braintrust is also reportedly discussing writing the character out all together and reshooting certain scenes to lay the groundwork for her eventual exit from the franchise.

(7) BRINGING ATWOOD TO TV. The Daily Mail brings the showbiz news: “Not quite Stars Hollow! Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel set to star in dystopian Handmaid’s Tale as subversive lesbian”. She’s best known for her role as Rory Gilmore in the idyllic Gilmore Girls.

But it seems Alexis Bledel’s next role will be significantly darker, as it was announced she’ll be joining Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, according to TV Line.

The 35-year-old actress will play the role of Ofglen in the 10 episode series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1977:  Michael Winner’s The Sentinel premieres in New York City.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 7, 1903 — Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) is born in Birmingham, England.
  • Born January 7, 1928 – William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist).

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On January 18 the hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Holly Black and Fran Wilde. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY — just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Holly Black is a writer of bestselling contemporary dark fantasy. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor.

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series, came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017. Her novella, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” was published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016. Fran’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

(11) BE YOUR OWN TIME LORD. Cat Rambo tells Risingshadow readers the importance to writers of “Daily rituals”.

The thing I have learned more than anything else is that a writer must defend their time. That everyone assumes that you’re ready to take a break, come down to the coffee shop and kill a couple of hours. A friend complained to my husband that he felt as though I was timing our encounters, and I was. At the hour mark, I needed to get back to work, because otherwise I’d sit there nattering for far too long. Because you must defend that time not just from others, but from yourself and your own human tendencies toward procrastination and farting around on the Internet, while still being mindful that you do deserve a break every once in a while. You become your own manager, and that is a more difficult task than it might seem.

(12) SURVIVAL TACTICS. John Scalzi’s “10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump” is easier to understand than Christopher Priest’s.

Scalzi’s plan, published in the Los Angeles Times, was introduced to Whatever readers in these terms:

First, and in case you missed me talking about it on Twitter yesterday, I have a piece up at the LA Times site (a version of it is also in the Sunday newspaper) about getting creative work done in the Trump years — some advice about how to keep focus when it’s likely to be a challenging time for the creative class. Note that this advice generally probably also works for people working in professions generally considered “non-creative” as well, but I’m working with what I know here. Also, of course, if you’re neutral or positive on the idea of the incoming Trump administration, then this particular piece is probably unnecessary for you. Carry on, then.

One of Scalzi’s ten points is —

  1. Reconnect (judiciously). When you go back to the news of the world, and to social media, it’s perfectly all right to ask yourself: Is this making me happy? Is it giving me useful information? Is it inspiring me to engage in the world or does it make me want to run from it?

If it’s not helping you, let it go. Unfollow that Facebook friend passing along fake news, and block those fake news sites outright. Mute that person on Twitter who is apparently always angry. Evaluate the news sources you read and keep the ones that offer news accurately and truthfully (spin is spin, even if it’s spin you like). Design your media intake to be useful, truthful and less stressful.

As for Christopher Priest, he posted on New Year’s Eve that he’ll be moving 500 miles from Devon, England (he didn’t identify where). He spends nearly the entire post pouring out his fear and loathing of Donald Trump, yet never managing to establish any connection between the move and Trump’s election. Did he just want to insure an audience for his farewell address?

(13) LIVING IN STAR TREK TIMES. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama, in “The Big Takeaway From This Year’s CES”, concludes:

There has been no killer gadget at this year’s International CES technology show. Instead, something more subtle has emerged as the keystone of the tech world.

I’m talking about the smart, central voice assistant. Yes, even that may sound a bit old hat for those who’ve been paying attention….

Virtual assistants can now understand what you say and even interpret the many ways you may say it. Shawn DuBravac, an economist for the Consumer Technology Association, said that machines now have the same word error rate — that is, the batting average of understanding what we’ve actually said — as humans. That’s up from a 23 percent error rate in 2013, meaning that the tech is getting better, and quickly.

That fact has made the dreams of a STAR TREK-like computer come even closer to reality.  The hope is that these assistants will move even beyond our sci-fi dreams and learn our habits and needs well enough to anticipate them.

David K.M. Klaus comments, “I think it’s clear that nobody connected with the program at the time thought it likely that voice-controlled devices would come into mass use in just a half-century — yet the program itself has accelerated technology design in its own direction. I started writing letters to local newspapers pointing out the inspiration when they published articles about new technology thirty years ago.  (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, et al. predated that, of course, but Star Trek in particular has been responsible for how it looks.)  Glad to see that mundane reporters have finally caught up with me.”

(14) WATCH YOUR INTAKE. Cat Rambo shares a second bit of writerly advice at GeekMom in “Artificial inspiration”.

This phenomenon underscores the fact that authors need to pay attention to what they’re putting into their mental buckets, particularly whenever they’re working on a project. The old computer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out,” comes into play. Or turn it around and aim it in another direction: put marvelous things in, get marvelous things out.

In some ways, I think of it like learning a language. We all speak storytelling, we’ve heard it spoken around and to us in fairytales, myths, fables, and a kerjilliion other texts, down to the format of many ads. And just as, when you’re around a number of people all speaking with the same accent, that accent begins to creep into your own speech. So if you’re only hearing one kind of storytelling, all that you speak in that language of storytelling will have that accent–or flavor, or texture, or however you choose to conceptualize it.

Want to create something wonderful? Then you must read wonderful things and not just read them but study them. Take the sentences apart as carefully as a pathologist dissecting an organ and figure out how they work–and then apply that knowledge so you know you’ve got the tool down and have added it to your writerly toolkit.

(15) I’LL BE BACK. At the BBC, Frank Swain tells “Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man”.

The vision of 2017 depicted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 30-year-old dystopian action movie captures how our world is changing today.

In a world beset by a collapsing economy, the US media conspires with the government to keep the population in check with a combination of heavy-handed policing and a steady stream of vapid reality TV shows. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful men in the world is the host of a reality TV show.

Sound familiar? That was 2017 conjured by campy action thriller The Running Man when it was released 30 years ago.

Sci-fi commonly reveals hidden truths about society. So, it makes you wonder: what else could this dystopian vision say about the world we live in today? If we look at where we are in 2017, what can The Running Man tell us about our changing politics, media and technology?

Chip Hitchcock urges, “Note the photo of Erland van Lidth de Jeude partway through; when he was in the MIT Musical Theatre Guild we used to say that he might be the first Olympic victor to sing his own national anthem. The movies typecast him as a hulk, losing the singing voice that he used in roles ranging from Roderick Murgatroyd to Richard Henry Lee.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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/ .

Pixel Scroll 11/12/16 Like A Scroll On A Wire; Like A Pixel In A Midnight Choir

(1) ROBOTIC PREDICTION OR CAMPAIGN PROMISE? “Meet Sofia, the Humanoid Robot That Looks, Thinks and Talks Like a Human”.

Right now, artificially intelligent robots are part of the workforce, from hotel butlers to factory workers. But this is just the beginning.

According to Ben Goertzel, AI researcher and entrepreneur who spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon this week, intelligent robots in human-like forms will surpass human intelligence and help free the human race of work. They will also, he says, start fixing problems like hunger, poverty and even help humans beat death by curing us of all disease. Artificially intelligent robots will help usher in a new utopian era never before seen in the history of the human race, he claims.

“The human condition is deeply problematic,” says Goertzel. “But as super-human intelligent AIs become one billion-times smarter than humans, they will help us solve the world’s biggest problems. Resources will be plentiful for all humans, work will be unnecessary and we will be forced to accept a universal basic income. All the status hierarchies will disappear and humans will be free from work and be able move on up to a more meaningful existence.”

(2) FAN FICTION. In an article called Full-body reading” on the website Aeon (aeon.co), University of Toronto English lecturer Anna Wilson talks about how her dissertation on medieval mystic Margery Kempe inspired her to deepen her appreciation of fan fiction and make her a more committed lesbian.

Fanfiction makes its source texts richer for its loving readers. It amplifies allusions and hidden currents, pulls out notes of characterisation and subtleties of plot, and spends time with them. After reading fanfiction, I return to texts I love with a new eye – sometimes a more critical one. For example, I read hundreds of stories embroidering the relationship between the Harry Potter characters Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, which – fanfiction writers suggested – was the real reason Sirius’s family had thrown him out. Thanks to fanfiction, I was wondering ‘Where are all the gay people at Hogwarts?’ long before J K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay (but his first crush was an evil wizard, and he apparently never loved again – thanks, JK).

Fanfiction can fill gaps in the world of the story, or tease out elements forbidden or unspeakable in the original text and bring them to the surface. These might be erotic; Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) began life as a hugely popular erotic fanfiction of the Twilight series that reimagined its characters Bella and Edward in an office BDSM setting. E L James brought out an element of Twilight that many readers found appealing – the erotic power dynamics between Edward and Bella – and rewrote those dynamics for a commercial audience. Another example is slash fiction – fanfiction that imagines a gay romance into a straight narrative, like those Remus/Sirius stories I binged on (the name ‘slash’ comes from the /).

Slash is particularly powerful for me as a queer woman because it subverts some fundamental assumptions in media narratives about who is watching, and what they want. When I read slash, I feel recognised and loved as a reader in a way I almost never do when I watch TV. In fact, fanfiction gave me something I’d been craving; it was literature for me. Though I’ve always loved science fiction, I felt obscurely unwanted by books in which the female characters were unsatisfying and marginalised: women are barely imagined as part of the science fiction audience, let alone catered to. By the same token, romance novels (one of the few genres that almost exclusively caters to women) were overwhelmingly heterosexual, with male and female characters I found boring and unrelatable, moving through prescribed motions that always ended with marriage and babies. Reading romance novels felt like forcing myself into a too-tight corset: reading fanfiction was like taking a deep breath.

(3) INDIVIDUAL PROTESTS. Two comics creators will quit attending shows in states that voted for Trump reports Bleeding Cool — “George Perez To Fulfill Current Commitments, Then Stop Attending Shows In Trump States”

Yesterday, Humberto Ramos, the Mexican comic book creator, currently topping the charts with Champions #1 for Marvel declared that he had chosen not to attend comic book shows in the US, in states that had voted to elect President-Elect Trump.

He was, today, joined in that by American creator George Pérez, co-creator of the New Teen Titans, also joined that number.

(4) SEFTON OBIT CORRECTION. While other details in the November 10 Pixel Scroll about the late Amelia (Amy) Sefton were correct, I was mistaken in identifying her as working for Tor. That is a different Amy Sefton. Thanks to Andrew Porter for the correction.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 12, 1982Creepshow opens in theaters nationwide.

(6) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also 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. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(7) CROSSOVER SEASON. The CW has released a promo for upcoming DC crossover between Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, a sequence of episodes that begins November 28.

During a press event earlier this week, executive producer Marc Guggenheim offered up a few details on the crossover, which will actually begin at the end of an episode of Supergirl as Kara is enlisted by Barry (Grant Gustin) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to help battle the threat of the extraterrestrial Dominators.

“Some people call it a four-way crossover because it involves four shows; my ulcer requires me to call it a three-part crossover,” states Guggenheim explains. “The story that’s being told has a beginning, middle, and end: a beginning in Flash, a middle in Arrow, and an end in Legends.

 

(8) BRING OUT YOUR UNDEAD. Fox has ordered a pilot for a drama series based on bestselling vampire novel The Passage.

Sink your teeth into this news, vampire fans: Fox is adapting the popular book trilogy The Passage into a drama series.

The network has ordered a pilot for a TV adaptation of Justin Cronin’s book series, per our sister site Deadline. Friday Night Lights writer Liz Heldens will pen the pilot, with Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves attached to direct.

The 2010 novel The Passage, a New York Times bestseller, envisions a post-apocalyptic future where virus-infected vampires roam the earth, with human colonies banding together to survive. (That book was followed by 2012’s The Twelve and this year’s The City of Mirrors.) Fox bought the film rights to The Passage before it was even published, and a Twilight-like film series was planned for years, but now they’re opting to bring it to the small screen.

(9) MUSEUM GETS TAKEI COLLECTION. George Takei is giving 70 years of his belongings to a museum. The LA Times gives you a viewing.

The donation itself was announced in September.

Actor and activist George Takei is donating a trove of art and artifacts from his life and career to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

The museum announced the gift Wednesday and said the collection will be featured in an exhibition next year. “New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei” is set to open March 12, 2017.

Takei’s collection includes photos, sculptures, scripts and other memorabilia from his “Star Trek” days, as well as his run for Los Angeles City Council in 1973 and the Olympic torch he carried ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

(10) MR. SCI-FI IS BACK. Sci-Fi Writer-Director-Producer Marc Zicree talks about politics in science fiction, as relates to Trump, alternate worlds with different Presidents, how science fiction reaches across all political beliefs, and more.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

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.

Kressel and Bolander Headline NYRSF Readings on October 6

Brooke Bolander

Brooke Bolander

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings 25th Anniversary Season continues with Brooke Bolander and Matthew Kressel as guests. The location is The Commons Café at 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Doors open 6:30 p.m. $7 suggested donation.

Brooke Bolander writes weird things of indeterminate genre, most of them leaning rather heavily towards fantasy. Her work has been featured in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons. Nightmare, and the upcoming anthologies Aliens: Recent Encounters and Help Fund My Robot Army.

Matt Kressel

Matt Kressel

Matthew Kressel is a multiple Nebula Award finalist and World Fantasy Award finalist. His first novel, King of Shards, debuts October 13. His fiction has or will soon appear in such markets as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, io9.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Apex Magazine, and the anthologies After, Naked City, The People of the Book, Launch Pad, and many other markets. Alongside veteran editor Ellen Datlow, he co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan.

Amy Goldschlager

Amy Goldschlager

Guest curator Amy Goldschlager is an editor, proofreader, and book/audiobook reviewer. She has worked for several major publishers, and has also contributed reviews and features to the Los Angeles Review of Books, Locus, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, ComicMix, and AudioFile magazine.

The full press release follows the jump.

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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.

Otherworldly Interface at the KGB Bar With Nancy Kress and Jack Skillingstead

KGB Bar

KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the bone-chilling evening of Wednesday, November 19 the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Nancy Kress and Jack Skillingstead (who, despite having a similar-sounding name, is not the guy from The Nightmare Before Christmas). (For those who don’t know, in addition to sharing this reading, the two share a life; they have been married since 2011.)

The Series, co-hosted by award-winning editor Ellen Datlow and Mathew Kressel, monthly presents readings both by eminent speculative fiction writers and up-and-coming future luminaries of the field, though it has a different feel from the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings.  Its venue, the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor.  (To the New York Dept. of State it’s the Kraine Gallery Bar.) Up a steep and very narrow stairway, dark and dimly-lit, depending on one’s leanings, the bar is cramped – the room (cleverly called the Red Room) is usually SRO within minutes of opening – or cozy. But the crowd is always fascinating, drinks are reasonable, and readings are always free. (As it happened, I shared a table with Nancy’s sister Kate, and, for a brief time, at the next table was a non-sf fan/reader who had just stopped into the bar for a drink and was somewhat mystified by our gathering.)

The event opened with Datlow, taking a break from photographing the crowd, welcoming the audience and announcing upcoming readers:  On December 17, the readers will be Rajan Khanna and Steven Gould, on January 21, 2015 Gregory Frost and Andy Duncan, on February 18 Mike Allen and Ben Loory, on March 18 Caitlin Kiernan, and on April 15 James Morrow and Ken Liu. She then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is the author of 33 books, including 26 novels (The Sleepless Trilogy among them), four collections of short stories and three books on writing, work for which she has won five Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her most recent book, Yesterday’s Kin, a standalone novel from which she read, is about genetic inheritance, a common theme in her fiction.  Genetic engineering, she observed in prefatory remarks, is the wave of the future, as well as fascinating to her personally.  (For the novel, she researched mitochondrial DNA.) In her selection, an evolutionary biologist is drafted by the FBI to join a UN team of specialists to analyze an expedition of aliens whose ship, or “Embassy,” is floating in New York Harbor. The aliens, called Denebs, even though they are not from that star (perhaps it’s analogous to Columbus dubbing the natives Indians), are reclusive, not emerging and communicating only by radio that they’ve come in peace to contact humanity. (One hopes that their mission is not to serve Man; the title might be a clue to their identity.)

Jack Skillingstead

Jack Skillingstead

After a short intermission, Kressel took the podium to introduce the second and final reader. Jack Skillingstead has published more than thirty stories (among them a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist), which have appeared in various magazines, Year’s Best volumes and original anthologies, and two novels; one, Life on the Preservation, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. He read from his collection of short fiction, Are You There and Other Stories, “the best story that can be read in 20 minutes,” “Everyone Bleeds Through.” No one timed him; he held the audience rapt with the enthralling story of a driver whose hitchhiker turns out to be otherworldly, from a reality that has “bled through” to ours.

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 Szechuan dinner.