Hot Serial:  NYRSF Readings Series Presents an Evening with Serial Box Authors

L to R: Joel Derfner, Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Matthew Cody, Lindsay Smith, Ellen Kushner, Amy Goldschlager.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the spring evening of Tuesday, May 2, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event, showcased Serial Box, a publisher of serialized fiction in text and audio delivered in weekly episodes; it currently runs five ongoing series. In this innovative – or perhaps retrograde – publishing platform, as with television, the serials are collaboratively written by author teams. Representing four of the serials, and reading from their projects, were authors Michael Swanwick, Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Matthew Cody, and Joel Derfner. (Ellen Kushner participated in the events, though did not read.) The stories were as diverse as the “writers rooms,” touching upon Urban Fantasy, Mannerpunk, Magical Espionage, and Young Adult Science Fiction.

Welcoming the audience to the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons in transit-accessible Brooklyn, executive curator Jim Freund, host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, shared the sad news of the death of Ama Patterson, who had been an integral part of Andrea Hairston’s performance at the Series. He thanked members of his own team, hinted at a possible special event later in the month, and announced that the 26th Season would likely close on Tuesday, June 6 with readings by Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly. He then turned the stage over to the evening’s guest host/guest curator (and curator emerita) Amy Goldschlager.

Amy Goldschlager, an editor, proofreader and book/audiobook reviewer, related that serialized fiction began in the 19th century (notably with Dickens), and shared worlds with Thieves World and Wild Cards; Serial Box, she saw as “a wonderful confluence of it all.” With that, she introduced the first reader of the night, Joel Derfner, representing the Mannerpunk Tremontaine.

Joel Derfner

Joel Derfner is the author of Gay Haiku, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead, and Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family. (Indeed, he does live, “alas, in Brooklyn, along with his husband and their small, fluffy dog.” He never did explain that “alas,” however.) His selection, from the prequel to – set 15 years before – Swordspoint, and preceding the writing of On the Causes of Nature (which figures in that novel), was characterized by Goldschlager as a “delightfully snarky bit of foreshadowing,” and contained many double entendres – intentional and not – about sausages. (His sex scenes, he said, were too long.)

Lindsay Smith

Next to read was Lindsay Smith, who offered a scene from the “urban fantasy Cold War thriller” (Goldschlager) The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. There are, Smith explained, two factions of witches, the Fire and the Ice (so “the Cold” is not just the Cold War), fighting a war (here in 1970s Prague) alongside the one with American, British and Soviet spies.

Matthew Cody

Like Smith, Matthew Cody is a YA author; his published works include the award-winning Powerless and the Supers of Noble’s Green series, the Robin Hood re-imagining Will in Scarlet, and his current series The Secrets of the Pied Piper. His Serial Box series, ReMade, is about resurrected teens who are kidnapped and sent to the future; the action takes place in the future and in flashbacks (the present), and the scene that he chose was one of the latter. The boy, Holden (yes, named after you-know-who), who played a fairy (the only boy one) with no lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, nervously offers a ride to the cast party to its star (Titania), which does not end as he might have hoped.

During the intermission, a raffle drawing was held for donors in the audience, and two won a season of the Serial Box serial of their choice.

Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone, co-creator of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and creator of Bookburners, describes himself as having “been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drunk almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat.” He is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards­, Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Last First Snow., and the forthcoming Ruin of Angels (which doesn’t have a number in the title!). Bookburners is, he explained, a “supernatural procedural” about secret agents from the Vatican who pursue demons and black magic. For his reading, he offered the audience a choice between the first season and a preview of the third, which is launching in June, and the latter won out (the vote was not “rigged”). (What happened in Belfast?)

Back on stage, Goldschlager said that she and Freund had asserted that there can’t be a NYRSF Readings season without a reading by Michael Swanwick, and he writes for Serial Box. Swanwick has written nine novels – the latest of which is Chasing the Phoenix – 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions, and has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He returned us to The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, prefacing his reading by noting that, as if there aren’t already too many characters in it, he had brought in two more, the Russian general Bitovsky and the Norwegian Magnus. (They must be spies – they’re meeting in “a spy bar.”)

There was a recess as the stage was reset with all of the readers – joined by Kushner – for an interview by Goldschlager. She opened by asking about the process of collaboration, which Gladstone called “a Frankenstein process.” There are a lot of story breakdowns. (As on tv, the editor/publisher equivalent is a “showrunner.”) Smith said that Witch is “more puzzle-piecey,” with people gravitating toward their own characters. Derfner disagreed, and jokingly called her a liar. There are a lot of personal meetings over Tremontaine. Gladstone noted his writers retreats. What struck him, said Swanwick, was how many times a story goes through the editorial process, somewhere between six and 123 (he cited a debate over whether it’s duct tape or duck tape – as in a film or tv show, there has to be consistency, or continuity). There is a “house voice.” Derfner said that he liked “having structure, and not having to make things up.” In Season 1, he said, he had trouble getting Diane’s (the Duchess Tremontaine) voice right and asked Kushner to revise him. She said that she was doing Joel doing herself; the process was “metaphysical” (I offered the word). They had to invent a new way of doing a narrative.

Cody said with his background in theater (he holds a Master’s Degree in Theater, with a focus on Shakespeare), he enjoyed the collaborative process. People would fight for their idea, but only up to a point. Alluding to ReMade, Goldschlager noted that we figure things out (that they’re in the future) before the characters do, and wondered about how “genre-savvy” the readers are, particularly in YA. Whatever the genre, replied Cody, soap opera is the “underpinning” of YA. Finally, she asked Gladstone if The Witch Who Came in From the Cold and Bookburners take place in the same universe. “Stay tuned,” he intoned, providing a perfect conclusion to the interviews.

In the Q&A that followed, an audience member asked how they select people to be “in their zone.” Gladstone looks for writers “who are going to jump on and run with it” and had a “willingness to speak the same language.” Kushner said that she had it easier, had the advantage of everyone being a Swordspoint fan, knowing and loving the Riverside books, and knowing that they can “play well with others.” The writers, she continued, “have to be flexible, open to their ideas being changed.” There are gay men in the story, and so she has “an actual gay man” writing episodes. His theatrical background also helps. (Derfner has, as his biography states, composed the score to musicals that “have played in New York, London, and various cities in between [going counterclockwise].”) Her Tremontaine team, she observed, was “queer or writers of color, or both.”

The next questioner asked if the long form was easier to play with than a shorter form. Gladstone said that it made it easier to “compartmentalize.” Smith said that they have to create an “atmosphere;” she can tell which writer wrote which episode, yet the story unifies and flows. The final questioner asked about how much work goes into the “Series Bible” (again, a tv term). Cody said that it gave “everyone a level playing field,” but, as Gladstone agreed, it changed quickly and almost immediately as everyone gave input.

The customary Jenna Felice Freebie Table returned and there were copies of Tremontaine offered for sale. The audience, which approached 70, included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ “official photographer”), Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (the House Manager and a Nebula Award nominee), John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Marianne Porter, James Ryan, Terence Taylor (Tech Director), Paul Witcover, and Serial Box co-founders Molly Barton and Julian Yap. Throughout the course of the evening and afterward, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s fare.

A Diamond Chip: NYRSF Readings Celebrate Delany’s 75th (No April Fool’s Joke)

Samuel R. Delany

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Saturday, April 1, 2017 (yes, Saturday, and not an April Fool’s joke), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series commemorated the 75th birthday – the diamond jubilee – of one of speculative fiction’s most important writers and significant figures, Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, with a celebration at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn. The extravaganza featured an essay by Terence Taylor on Dhalgren and an interview with Delany by Jim Freund; and culminated with Delany reading a new nonfiction piece. Plus, it being a party, there was cake!

Over the course of his career, which began in the 1960s, Delany has won four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, the Stonewall Book Award, and the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, been named Grand Master by SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and invited to be Guest of Honor at innumerable science fiction conventions. Outside of sf and fantasy, his work includes fiction, memoir, criticism, radio drama, and essays on sexuality and society, and, moreover, he has been a mentor and role model to a generation of writers, particularly those who are people of color.

The evening opened with a welcome from Freund, the Series’ Executive Curator, who confessed that he had been planning this event for a long time, ever since he realized that Delany’s next birthday would be his 75th, and proclaimed this as one of the Series’ largest gatherings. He then announced upcoming events in the Series: May 2 will feature an evening with the Serial Box podcasters, including Matthew Cody, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, Lindsay Smith and Michael Swanwick, with Amy Goldschlager as guest-host. On June 6, the readers will be Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly.

Terence Taylor

Introducing Taylor (the Series’ Technical Director and the author of the Vampire Testament series), Freund related that Terence had been recruited onto a panel at Readercon about the 40th anniversary of Dhalgren. Taylor, it turned out, had never read the iconic novel; he began reading it on the train up, read it straight through (all 879 pages), and finished it (supplied Taylor) about an hour before the panel. His impressions grew to a 1,500-word analytical essay, “Doing Dhalgren,” which he shared. Taylor prefaced his reading by reminiscing about moving to Chip’s neighborhood, but, having not yet read Dhalgren (which was, by the way, and to our surprise, a bestseller), mercifully not “pestering” him. Delany’s literary legacy was, beyond his work, his inspiration to writers of color. (Terence treasures, and is trying to restore, a photo of himself with Delany and the late Octavia Butler.)

Taylor examined the novel’s protagonist, the “Candide-like naïf” Kid, who enters and ultimately leaves “the autumnal city,” Bellona (the name of the Roman war goddess), which seems real and is believable. Dhalgren, said Taylor, “takes root, blossoms and plants ideas in the minds of readers.” It is “an epic tale of the rite of passage that every writer takes” – Kid can only leave Bellona after he records stories, becomes a writer – so is “essential reading for every writer.” It displays “the infinite power of the written word.” Taylor concluded that Delany was a personal inspiration and encouraged him that he could do it too. Thanking Terence, Freund confessed that his first reading of Dhalgren was hard-going, but breezed through his third, and urged everyone to read the classic.

Promoting the event, Freund had written, “It is no small honor for us that we can host a jubilee for one of speculative fiction’s most important writers – one with whom we have had a long, happy association, both personal and professional. Chip Delany was one of the very first readers at this reading series some 25+ years ago. He has been a correspondent to NYRSF — the magazine whose name this series bears – throughout its existence. Samuel R. Delany’s contributions to science fiction — nay, to literature and culture — are incalculable. He has been a role model to a great many people; a highly-esteemed critic and teacher; a writer whose fiction will be studied long after we’re all forgotten; and simply a wonderful, loving human being.”

At the microphone, though, Jim’s introduction was extemporaneous. “Nova, Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, The Star-Pit, Dhalgren, the Nevèrÿon series – books in my pocket like grains of sand.” His body of work would be an achievement for any writer, but that he did it beginning in the 1960s as a gay black man is awe-inspiring. He’s inspired millions, and particularly many of today’s foremost sf writers. Jim reminisced about the radio play of The Star-Pit, 50 years ago on WBAI (he noted that May 1 marks his own 50th anniversary on WBAI, whose studio is now two flights up from the Café) – and whose 40th anniversary was celebrated at a NYRSF reading (I reported on it at the time for SFScope), then brought up Delany for a chat.

Delany interviewed by Jim Freund

Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. was born in Harlem on April 1, 1942, the son of a funeral director, the nephew of the Delany sisters (civil rights pioneers Sadie and Bessie), and the grandson of a slave who had been taught to read and write (which was illegal) by a bored master, and who later became the head of a black Episcopal school in Raleigh, NC. Freund asked him about the first books that he read. Probably, he said, like all kids, Mother Goose, some stories in which were “problematic,” notably “Little Black Sambo.” Because his name was Sam, his cousins teased him as Sambo. Then, at a summer camp, a counselor asked him what name everyone called him. “I lied through my teeth,” and came up with “Chip.” “To this day, I prefer Chip to Samuel or Sam” (though Jeff Greenfield once called him Sammy). To the audience he said that it was “warming and humbling that so many have come out for” him.

He then did his own introduction, noting that he has been called a “sexual radical,” an Afro-Futurist” and a “Grand Master of Science Fiction.” He opined that Katherine MacLean, now in her 90s, should be named a Grand Master, and spoke up for the auxiliary literary genre of letters and journals.

A Q-&-A session opened with a question about masturbation. Unfazed, he answered and said that he doesn’t lose any dignity by telling people that he has a sex life. A former student concurred, adding that, as a professor, he talked openly about safer sex during the AIDS epidemic. The next questioner said that he thought of “the autumnal city” as New York, but what city had Delany had in mind? He responded that the exteriors were based on New York (the park is Central Park and there’s some of the Lower East Side) and the interiors on San Francisco because he started the book in New York, then moved to San Francisco. Jim Ryan asked how he felt that those two cities that he had written about had changed so much, in effect, were no longer there. “Things change,” he shrugged. Ellen Kushner said that Babel-17 and Nova were “enormous” influences, and asked why he had started writing sf. He replied because he read it and liked it. “You enter the writing world where you can,” and his then-wife (“my only wife”), Marilyn Hacker, was a slushpile reader at Ace. His first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, was submitted pseudonymously, till Don Wollheim bought it.

During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for two copies of the audiobook of Dhalgren from Skyboat Media, read by Stefan Rudnicki. (Freund thought it “amazing” how they turned Dhalgren into an audiobook.)

Freund briefly plugged Lunacon (April 7-9 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY), for which he had curated a program of readings, “a damned good reading program. You should go if you can.”

Delany then read “Ash Wednesday,” after the day that he had conceived writing it (in it he alludes, at one point, to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), a memoir about coming up to New York from Philadelphia for a sex party for older gay men (the “Prime-Timers”) at a Doubletree, and continuing from there upstate to the mobile home of two friends in a town near Brewster, NY. The essay ranges wide, from backstories of the other men to the events (in detail) of the respective visits, and to observations about how he has changed from a monogamous heterosexual to a white-bearded “daddy” having sex with strange men, and how society-at-large has changed – same-sex marriage, protecting abortion rights (barely), and one “phallic” tower replacing “the Tuning Fork in the Sky.” Citing his introductory description, he said that there were others more sexually radical, more socially aware and into things far more marginal than science fiction. He received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Terence returned to the microphone to toast Delany and, as Freund brought out a cake (apple), the gathering sang “Happy birthday, dear Chip.” Some in the audience got a slice (I had one; it was very tasty), though the birthday boy, being diabetic, passed on it, and for the rest, as Jim said, “we’re in a lovely café.”

The (over)capacity crowd of some 130 (people were turned away from the door, and there was no space for the Jenna Felice Freebie Table) included Melissa C. Beckman, EXO Books, Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door and newly a Nebula Award finalist), Ellen Kushner, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Kevin Maroney, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Delia Sherman, Henry Wessels, plus the Kestenbaums (Delany’s hosts) and his partner Dennis. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and, if they hadn’t already, grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café.

At NYRSF Readings We Get Older and Older

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, March 7, 2017, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series offered a twist on its Family Night series-within-a-series by presenting siblings Malka Older and (the elder Older) Daniel José Older (and mercifully laying to rest jokes that for months have been getting older and older). The event, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Greater Downtown Brooklyn, was guest-hosted by former Series curator Amy Goldschlager.

The evening opened differently from usual, with a welcome from Goldschlager rather the Series’ Executive Curator, Jim Freund; he was, we were told, home dealing with basement flooding and would be arriving later. While Freund has been “flogging” the event with wordplays on “getting Older and Older,” she preferred to call it by the theme that united the two readers, “Inform and Resist.” She had long been a fan of Daniel’s work and Twitter feed (@djolder) and had subsequently become one of Malka’s, whose Infomocracy “scared the crap out of me.” The format too would be different, with both Olders reading in the first part of the evening, then sharing a discussion and Q-&-A.

Malka Older

Malka Older’s science fiction political thriller Infomocracy was named one of 2016’s best books by both Kirkus and BookRiot. Her reading was from its forthcoming (September) sequel, Null States. Providing background, the books, she explained, were set some 60 years in the future; the nation-state system has largely resolved into a system of “microdemocracy,” units of 100,000 people called “sentinels,” the whole overseen by a massive bureaucracy, Information. Her protagonist, Mishima, is on a secret mission to a formerly prominent sentinel called Heritage to bug its offices in the former headquarters of the UN in Geneva. (Bugging has suddenly become topical, it was remarked.) Her reading, we must note, was punctuated by the participation of her small and adorable daughter. Returning to the microphone, Goldschlager introduced the other Older.

Daniel J. Older

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the collection Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper, a New York Times Notable Book of 2015, which additionally won the International Latino Book Award, was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus Award and the Mythopoeic Award, and was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. (He was also active in the successful effort to retire H.P. Lovecraft’s caricatured likeness from the World Fantasy Award owing to his vigorous partaking of the racism of his times.) Taking his place at the mike, he quipped that he’d always suspected that his sister was a spy, and recalled that this Series was the first venue where he ever read. Reading from Battle Hill Bolero, the final installment of his Bone Street Rumba series, he warned about spoilers. His protagonist, Carlos, is a “halfie,” half-dead and half-alive, and a clean-up man for the Council of the Dead. He and his partner have been dispatched to the Manhattan Bridge to kill a giant river demon; however, many humorous lines later, he winds up sharing his life (or half-life) story about his ex-girl friend (the one who half-killed him) as they chummily share Malagueño cigars.

Amy Goldschlager

He then read a briefer excerpt about Chris, dead, invisible, on fire and rebelling against the Council. His reading style, observed Goldschlager, is “almost a musical experience.” (You may hear his music at danieljoseolder.net, on YouTube and @djolder on Twitter.) Spotting Freund, who had since arrived (dry), she cautioned the gathering that the readings were being Livestreamed.

Freund then announced upcoming events in the Series. On April 1st – which most think of as April Fool’s Day, but which, since 1967, he thinks of as Samuel R. Delany’s birthday – the Series would be hosting a 75th Birthday Party for Delany. On May 2nd, Goldschlager returns as guest-host for an evening with the Serial Box podcasters (Leah Withers, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, et al.). June 6th readers will be Sam J. Miller (whose first novel is being published in July) and Lara Elena Donnelly. Finally, he congratulated Barbara Krasnoff on her Nebula Award nomination (for “Sabbath Wine,” a story that she read here.)

During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for copies of Infomocracy donated by Tor.com.

Resuming hosting, Goldschlager brought the Olders up to the stage to interview each other “because apparently they don’t know each other much.” He had come up with a game in which they guess each other’s literary influences from their favorite books and movies from childhood.  His guess for her was Anne of Green Gables and hers for him All the President’s Men. This soon evolved into a discussion of their favorite books and movies, not necessarily influences. She loved Lord of the Rings and McCaffrey; he didn’t care for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and she thought that the middle Narnia books were more interesting; he loved Sweet Valley Twins (but it didn’t influence him) and Catch-22; Blade Runner, Star Wars and Snow Crash were “huge” for both, and both loved Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October and Lord of Light. When he decided in 2009 to become a writer, he was watching a lot of animé (notably Cowboy Bebop). She never read horror “that much.”

The audience kind of being left out, a Q-&-A followed. One audience member called Malka’s debut novel, Infomocracy, one of the year’s best and said that it reminded him of Sterling’s Islands in the Net; it turns out, though, she’s never read it, but noted that Infomocracy had been called “post-cyberpunk” (adding that she didn’t regard cyberpunk as being ready for “post-”). The next questioner asked Daniel what percentage of his work was drawn directly from his experience with EMS (he’s had a decade-long career as a New York City paramedic). A lot, he said – the dealing with a bureaucracy (the FDNY), the banality. The next two questions to Malka were what had happened in her future with the military (her editor, she noted, had been curious about all the nukes) and about the economic instrument that allowed exchange between governments. The militaries formed military governments with their economies based on renting out their services to small sentinels, and that there was an electronically-based currency.

Changing gears, the following question from the audience wondered if sf writers now are better at extrapolation than the previous generation (Asimov, Clarke) was and if it’s “more integral.” Malka said that her books are less about prediction than saying something, and cited the adage that sf is less predictive (of the future) and more descriptive (of the present). Daniel was asked where his stationary bike monsters (the “ngk”) came from. He joked that it was a comment on gentrification, then replied that in his world of ghosts, he wanted something small, powerful and unkillable.

A question about the importance of setting to them both highlighted both what they had in common (their settings are “dynamic” and place has an important role in their books) and their differences. His experiences are rooted (he moved to NYC years ago, and, although most of his readers may not, he “cares where Bedford Avenue is”), while she has lived over the world, rarely in one place for long, and has a geopolitical perspective. Yet their work involves each in compassion; she has more than a decade of experience in humanitarian aid and development, whereas he’s been more hands-on as an EMT. Something else they have in common, asked how they plot out their books, if, for example, they use index cards, both responded that they don’t painstakingly plot out their books.

Capping the evening perfectly, and eradicating the pun for good, asked which Older is older, Malka pointed to her daughter and quipped that it was her – “she’s a little Older.”

The crowd of about 50 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron (running tech), Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door), John Kwok, Gordon Linzner, James Ryan, Terence Taylor. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café. Owing to Freund’s delay, there was no Jenna Felice Freebie Table this month (though I had Lunacon 2017 flyers with me to distribute).

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Tradition! Tradition! NYRSF Readings’ Annual Family Night Again Features Kushner & Sherman

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Monday, December 12, 2016, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series continued its tradition of celebrating the December Holidays Season with “Family Night,” featuring one of its favorite families, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (in their eighth, by my count, December appearance). Also traditional was the December guest host. (Her anonymity here is due to her outside professional concerns.)

The event, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café (in the outskirts of Downtown Brooklyn – dare we call it “Bordertown?”), opened with a welcome from its Executive Curator, Jim Freund, who is otherwise the longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (the show broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 a.m.) He cautioned the gathering that the readings were being Livestreamed (this later surprised Kushner, who’d expected only to be “seen” on radio), and thanked those who had donated (the readings are nominally free, with a suggested donation of $7) as they help the Series continue (there is a rental fee for the space).

Moving into 2017, upcoming readers will be:

  • Tuesday, January 10th, Phenderson Djeli Clark and Shan Chakraborty, with guest curator Rob Cameron (who was running the cameras and whose nom de video-wiz is Cam Rob);
  • Friday, February 10th, James Morrow and Jack Womack;
  • Tuesday, March 7th, we’ll all be getting Older, siblings Malka Older and (the elder Older) Daniel José Older (also getting older, these jokes; guest curator Amy Goldschlager had earlier called it Family Night II);
  • Saturday, April 1st (despite the date, not an April Fool’s joke), the Series will host a 75th birthday gathering for Samuel R. (Chip) Delany
  • May 2nd, Goldschlager returns as host for an evening with the Serial Box podcasters (Max Gladstone, et al.).

Family Night came about, said the evening’s guest host, because December is traditionally a family time; since then, the theme has grown from the readers to encompass the audience regulars, who have become a family of sorts (Kushner soon after referred to “the NYRSF Holiday Reading family”), and stated that it was “an honor to be part of it.”  Tonight’s readers, she concluded, were “a very special pair of writers, spouses and people,” and introduced the first reader.

delia-sherman

Delia Sherman

Delia Sherman is the author of, among other works, the Prometheus and Andre Norton Award-winning The Freedom Maze, The Evil Wizard Smallbone and The Fall of the Kings (written with Kushner). Prefacing her reading, she promised a selection that wouldn’t “bring blushes to young cheeks.”  (Ellen’s offering, however, “will bring blushes to many cheeks.”) With that caveat, she read from Chapter 2 of The Evil Wizard Smallbone. On a cold December night in Maine, Nick, a runaway lost in the woods, stumbles into the Victorian mansion of the titular evil wizard – it even says “Evil Wizard” on his business card, and moreover he is the proprietor of Evil Wizard Books. Smallbone declares that Nick (whom he calls Foxkin) is his apprentice and promptly puts him to work around his house, farm and shop. The boy finds it magically impossible to run off, and, when he talks back, discovers to his dismay that he has, it seems, spent most of a week (and missed Christmas) turned into a spider. The evil wizard’s brusqueness was a source of much humor.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who’d donated), with the prizes being a “rare” set of press-on tattoos from the online serial program Tremontaine (pronounced, we learned, “Trem-on-ten,” not “-taine”), a “Live, Laugh and Love” mug, and the copy of The Evil Wizard Smallbone from which Sherman had just read; all raffle winners also received a pencil commemorating Ellen’s and Delia’s 20th anniversary. (That the tickets drawn were consecutive, and one winner was the guest curator, might have prompted cries of “rigged” from someone who shall not be named.)

ellen-kushner

Ellen Kushner

The second reader of the evening, Ellen Kushner, is the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning Thomas the Rhymer, the children’s book The Golden Dreydl (adapted by her) as The Klezmer Nutcracker), and the much-loved novels and related short stories in the Riverside series, which has been called a “fantasy of manners” and “mannerpunk,” alternating wit, intrigue, sex, swordplay and chocolate. Swordspoint (an audiobook of which won an Audie Award) introduced readers to the setting, and was visited again in The Privilege of the Sword, The Fall of the Kings (written with Sherman), and an online collaborative prequel to Swordspoint, called Tremontaine, with the e-publisher Serial Box (SerialBox.com; season two premiered this past October). In addition, Kushner co-edited (with Holly Black) Welcome to Bordertown, a revival of the original urban fantasy shared world series created by Terri Windling.

The story from which she read, “When I was a Highwayman,” is brand new and slated to appear in The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois. Set in Riverside, 4-5 years before Swordspoint and 12 years after Tremontaine, it is a standalone that she hoped is comprehensible to non-readers of the Riverside series. (The series is not written in order, and Kushner has gone back to prequels and sequels to fill in and expand on incidents; at times this may be limiting.) Here the young swordsman-for-hire Richard St. Vier (who serves as narrator) is in partnership with the grifter Jessamyn. When work for them dries up – she’s recovering from a terminated pregnancy and the nobles for whom he performs in demonstration bouts of swordplay or as a bodyguard at weddings are in the country for the summer – and they’re running out of things to pawn or sell, he’s talked into accompanying two lowlife acquaintances as they waylay traveling nobles. (His sword is to be the incentive to “stand and deliver.”) Unfortunately, he foregoes a mask and their very first robbery victim turns out to be a young nobleman with whom he’s quite intimately acquainted. Laughter was frequent and out loud (I’m uncertain about occurrences of cheeks blushing).

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, while at another table, books by Sherman and Kushner were for sale and autograph.

The capacity crowd of about 60 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron (running tech), Randee Dawn (whose Christmas lights skirt was appropriate as well for the Festival of Lights), Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door), Josh Kronengold, Lisa Padol, James Ryan, Terence Taylor, Gay Terry, Leah Withers and Claire Wolf Smith. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite at the Café.

Poetry and Prose at NYRSF Readings With Kij Johnson and Sonya Taaffe

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, November 15, 2016 – an otherwise dreary day – the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series presented Kij Johnson and Sonya Taaffe  at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn.

The evening opened as ever with executive curator Jim Freund welcoming the audience, cautioning that we were on Livestream (go to livestream.com’s Look At tab, then nyrsf or, for that night, Kij or Taafe), and, after briefly reporting that he broke his phone, announcing future readers:

  • Monday, December 12th, Annual Family Night (a traditional sub-series) with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman;
  • January 10, 2017, Phenderson Djeli Clark and Shan Chakraborty; with guest curator Rob Cameron (aka Cam);
  • Friday, February 10th, James Morrow and Jack Womack;
  • Tuesday, March 7th, we’ll all be getting Older, siblings Malka Older and Daniel José Older (guest curator Amy Goldschlager called it Family Night II).
  • Saturday, April 1st, the Series will host a 75th birthday gathering for Samuel R. (Chip) Delany.

Finally, he introduced the first of the “two really cool readers,” Sonya Taaffe, whose most recently collected fiction and poetry (her poem “Matlacihuatl’s Gift” won the Rhysling Award) are found in Ghost Signs.

Sonya Taaffe

Sonya Taaffe

Taaffe (her name rhymes with “strafe”) began by expanding on a tidbit in her bio. When she was in high school, with her father’s help, she built a radio telescope to determine if one could map a small part of the Milky Way galaxy from 42°N (the Boston area); ultimately, this led to her naming a Kuiper Belt Object (trans-Neptunian), Vanth, forthe moon of dwarf planet Orcus. The name comes from Etruscan myth – she “reads dead languages for fun” – a winged deity who guides the souls of the dead to the underworld and who is akin to Charon, and, with that, read a poem, “The Etruscan Prince,” inspired by the discovery of a tomb in Tarquinia and told from the perspective of his consort. Her next poem, “After the Red Sea,” was based on the figure of Lilith, who ran away from Adam to the Red Sea, where she became the consort of the demon Ashmedai. She followed with “When Can a Broken Glass Mend?,” “a story I’m very proud of.” From childhood, a woman encounters a demon in a mirror and a bond forms.

She continued with a series of “ghost poems,” invocations to historical figures, among them Kafka (“The Process”), Alan Turing (“The Clock House”) and a number of ancient Greeks; the first, though, “About Building,” was dedicated to her late grandparents. Addressing the current political climate (the next President was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan), she brought her “most radical” poetry, describing herself as “a queer Jew, with a uterus, and also a brain.” She invoked Axiothea, a woman who had attended Plato’s Academy (at first disguised as a male), the Sirens, Sappho (in her Aeolic dialect Tsap’pho), the Carthaginians (Carthage’s destruction displeased her – Rome had practices no less barbaric) and Catullus (whose poetry was “seriously filthy,” as was her poem).

On her blog, she related, she frequently writes about film. Her poem “The Ghost Marriage” was loosely based on Black Angel, a 1946 film noir (which featured Dan Duryea, another of her focuses of interest). Not every woman in a noir is a femme fatale or damsel in distress, she pointed out; in some, they are protagonists, independent, even anti-heroes. “Mercury Retrograde Theatre” was for her husband, who writes radio drama (and who was present to be embarrassed). She concluded with “Post-Millennial Augury Blues,” a poem written three nights earlier, after the Election results, expressing her frustration with people who draw parallels between now and the past, imagining themselves into it, often imposing their present-day perspectives and second-guessing (for instance, everyone says that if they lived before the Civil War, they’d “definitely have been an Abolitionist”). (In that vein, she lauded Ernst Lubitch’s To Be or Not to Be, a comic anti-Hitler film which was courageously made before the War’s outcome was certain.)

In a postscript, Freund reminded the audience that they could hear Taaffe another story (“The Trinitite Golem”) as part of the Clockwork Phoenix 5 anthology launch at the NYRSF Readings on April 5th.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of

Ghost Signs and The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe. (There was no drawing for an abandoned umbrella.) Freund then introduced the second reader, who was appearing here for the first time.

Kij Johnson. Photo by Anthony Hildebrandt.

Kij Johnson. Photo by Anthony Hildebrandt.

Kij Johnson (from her initials K.I.J., pronounced “Kidge”) has won the Theodore Sturgeon Award (for “Fox Magic”), the IAFA’s Crawford Award (for best new fantasist, for The Fox Woman), the World Fantasy Award (for “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”), the Nebula Award (for “Spar,” “Ponies” and “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”) and the Hugo Award (as well for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”). Her latest books are The River Bank, “a sly response to The Wind in the Willows” and The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe (Tor.com), from which she read two selections.

Vellitt, a 55-year-old professor (Johnson said that she was “tired of stories about spunky girls” or “17-year-olds with impulse control changing the world”; she herself teaches at a college and is close to that age) at a women’s college in the Dreamlands, having in her youth been a “far traveler” or adventurer, is sent by her dean to bring back a student who has run off to the Waking World with her lover (the girl’s father is a trustee). There’s also a small black cat (who’s not anthropomorphic and doesn’t talk) and strange things in the seas; the novella, she said, “twists H.P. Lovecraft around.”

Freund reminded that we could make “this fabulous evening relive” on Livestream.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered books. The audience of about 40 included Melissa C. Beckman (who, in addition, as usual, to photographing the event, brought brownies), Rob Cameron, Barbara Krasnoff, John Ordover (showing off his new, hard-won svelteness), Brad Parks, Mark W. Richards and Sam Schrieber (who was running the controls).

Afterward, the readers and some audience members enjoyed the Café’s fare.

NYRSF Day of the Dead Readings Remember Margot Adler

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, November 1, Samhain (rhymes with “how-when”), All Saints’ Day/All Hallows’ Day (following October 31, All Hallows’ Eve, and preceding November 2, All Souls’ Day) and the Day of the Dead (a three-day festival) – the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series launched (or “conjured”) a “pop-up sub-series” within that Series, the Margot Adler Memorial Readings. This inaugural edition, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Downtownish Brooklyn, featured Terence Taylor (who served also as guest curator and semi-retired Tech Director) and Sabrina Vourvoulias.

Margot Adler in 2004.

Margot Adler in 2004.

The evening opened as ever with executive curator Jim Freund welcoming the audience, cautioning that we were on Livestream. After briefly reporting upcoming happenings at the Café, including a pre-Election gathering and a visit by Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, Freund announced future readers:

  • November 15, Kij Johnson and Sonya Taaffe;
  • December 12, Annual Family Night (another sub-series) with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman;
  • January 10, 2017, Phenderson Djeli Clark and Shan Chakraborty; with guest curator Rob Cameron (aka Cam, who was engineering this evening’s event);
  • February 10, James Morrow and Jack Womack;
  • March 7, siblings Malka Older and Daniel José Older (guest curator Amy Goldschlager called it Family Night II).
  • April 1, the Series will host a 75th birthday gathering for Samuel R. (Chip) Delany.

Moving along to the theme of the night’s readings, Freund observed that it was an appropriate day to initiate the Margot Adler Memorial Readings. On Samhain, like the Latino Christian Day of the Dead, he enlightened us, the veil between those who’ve passed on and our plane of existence is thinnest. He spoke at length, and with deeply heartfelt sentiments, about how Margot Adler had been a big part of his life for nearly five decades, far beyond originating in 1972 the radio program on sf and fantasy that he inherited and still hosts, Hour of the Wolf. (The live program, which took its name from the iconic Ingmar Bergman film, broadcasts and streams every Thursday morning – or, for those who haven’t yet gone to bed, Wednesday night – from 1:30-3 am on WBAI, 99.5 FM.)

He only had time to touch on her remarkable career and achievements:  broadcast journalist (on KPFA, the original Pacifica radio station, on WBAI, and on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition), Wiccan (he suggested that he may have introduced her to Neo-Paganism and called her “the Queen of Wicca of North America”), political activist, reviewer and author (Drawing Down the Moon and Vampires Are Us). It is fitting that the Series remembers her as Adler had been a speaker and guest host at a number of NYRSF readings, particularly if they involved one of her more recently acquired passions, vampire stories. In her latter years, she had become “obsessed” with vampires and vampire novels, reading and writing capsule reviews of some 300 (culminating in her aforementioned book), and how their popularity in different eras reflects (even if vampires can’t cast reflections) society. Summing up, he said, “her interests ranged far and wide, and any of these diverse interests will be the subject(s) of these readings.” He regretted that he (ironically) had forgotten to bring rosemary to pass around (“rosemary for remembrance”). “Blessed be,” he intoned.

TT-Head 2

Terence Taylor

With that, he turned emceeing duties over to the guest host and first reader, Terence Taylor, a familiar face at NYRSF readings, and an award-winning children’s television writer who has joked that “after a career of comforting young kids, [is] now equally dedicated to scaring their parents.”  His offering came from his work-back-in-progress Past Life, the conclusion of his trilogy “The Vampire Testaments,” which began with Bite Marks and continued with Blood Pressure. (Margot, he noted, had lauded the novels and was looking forward to the next volume; he regretted that he hadn’t completed the trilogy in time for her to have read it.)

In the selection that he read, vampire Turner has, after witnessing Germany’s horrors, become an unofficial agent for the OSS (the World War II predecessor of the CIA) and has trailed two Nazi agents back to America and, following an altercation with them on a train (they ejected him from it, which they should not have been able to do), turns up on the 1941 Hollywood doorstep of writer (and folklorist/anthropologist) Zora Neale Hurston on the night of October 31, seeking advice. (The Nazis’ plot, he let slip during the intermission, is rooted in magic – more than that I won’t give away – and they find common cause with the Klan; Taylor found following real-world connections fascinating.) The prospect of having the two (Zora and Turner) meet up again (she had been present the night that he turned) had inspired Taylor to go back to working on the third book. In an aside, he noted that he had listened to recordings of her and reported that he would be lecturing on Hurston and voodoo at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy in Brooklyn on February 2.

Taylor additionally read five pages (“that’s all you get for free”) from his story that ran in the anthology (edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen) What the #@&% Is That? (the title is pronounced as “What the Gravlax?” – the symbols used in comics to indicate cursing have been dubbed “gravlax,” like the Scandinavian sushi). The story, “The Catch,” he said, turns from horror to sf, as a mad vivisectionist who cuts up couples (“catch” is as in “the catch of the day”) finds something alien in a victim.

During the intermission, a raffle was held for those who donated to the Series (admission is free, with a suggested donation of $7, which is very likely to be rising as the Series pays to rent the space and to treat its guests at the Café). The prizes were identical flash drives featuring Hour of the Wolf broadcasts with Freund and Adler. Taylor then introduced the evening’s second reader.

sabrina-vourvouliasSabrina Vourvoulias is the author of Ink, a parallel universe/near-future novel set in a fictional city and rural town in the U.S. that draws on her memories of Guatemala’s armed internal conflict and of the Latina/Latino experience in the United States (she is an American citizen by birth but grew up in Guatemala), and of stories that have appeared at Tor.com and in Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres and a number of anthologies (including The Best YA Speculative Fiction of 2015 and Latino/a Rising), as well as articles in various Pennsylvania periodicals and posts on her blog Following the Lede.

The piece that she read, “Flying With the Dead,” was the first speculative fiction story that she ever sold (it appeared in Crossed Genres), was about magic circles. (In another “magic circle,” she noted that the term “illegal immigrant,” which had been renamed “undocumented immigrant,” had, in the current political climate, sadly gone back to “illegal immigrant.”) In keeping with the evening’s theme, the story was set on the Day of the Dead and centered on an assimilated Latino (his feelings about his heritage are symbolized by a box from his late mother that he carts around but has never opened) who works for the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and uses his background to help round up “illegal immigrants” (he’s “good at it”), a job which becomes complicated when he’s drawn to a Guatemalan girl. We were introduced to Día de Muertos customs and festivities (cemeteries become picnic grounds, “barrios of the dead,” food is left at graves and kids fly kites), and it is implied that the immigrants’ migration north reflects that of the Monarch butterfly and in turn the flight of the souls of the dead.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table of books and magazines also offered a variety of Hallowe’en candy. The audience of about 25-30 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron, Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok and James Ryan.

Afterward, the readers and some audience members availed themselves of the Café’s menu.

Season of the Witch at NYRSF Readings, Featuring N.K. Jemisin and Kai Ashante Wilson

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 27 at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series skirted the haunting season of Hallowe’en, presenting fantasy writers N.K. Jemisin and Kai Ashante Wilson.

The event opened as usual with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (the show broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 am and worldwide at wbai.org, and for a time afterwards may be heard on-demand as well as an RSS feed for podcasts), and a tongue-in-cheek caution that we were on Livestream (video and audio).  Admission to the readings are always free, but, to fund the Series (which pays to rent its current space), the suggested donation (currently $7) may be raised; crowdfunding plans are in the thinking stage.

He then announced upcoming readings:  November 1st (All Saints’ Day – not All Souls’ Day) will be the inaugural Margot Adler Memorial Reading; on November 15th, readers will be Kij Johnson and Sonya Taaffe; and Monday, December 12th, will be the traditional Family Night with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.  Looking ahead to 2017, take note that April 1st will be Samuel R. Delany’s 75th birthday.

The first reader, Kai Ashante Wilson, is a rising star of fantastic fiction, the author of the stories “Super Bass” (pronounced like the musical instrument, not the fish), “The Devil in America” (nominated for both the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards) and “Kaiju maximus®,” the novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey.  His offering was a selection from his novelette, “Légendaire,” which appeared in the anthology, Stories for Chip (which celebrates the legacy of the aforementioned science fiction grandmaster Samuel R. Delany). Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.  Dedicated to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, and subsequently Prince, the fable, set in a sort of fantasy New Orleans, concerns a small boy whose prodigious dancing has attracted the attention of the local witches, or racosi (spelling uncertain).  One counsels him to “get in some trouble” because the best dancers all have broken hearts.  The imagery was beautiful.

Kai Ashanti Wilson performing for New York Review of Science Fiction Readings.

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During the break, a raffle was held, the prizes a copy of “The Devil in America” and what Freund described as the Kai Ashante Wilson Chapstick, and access at the $50 level to N.K. Jemisin’s Pantheon blog, Epiphany 2.0, along with a print out of part of her blog.

The evening’s second reader, N.K. (the “N” stands for Nora)  Jemisin, has been nominated multiple times for the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards; shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar and the Tiptree Awards.  In addition, she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice Award, and, last month, won the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season.  (She is, noted Freund, the first black writer to win the Hugo Award in that category, Delany and Octavia Butler having received it in other categories.)  Seven of her novels, a novella and a short story collection are out now from Orbit Books (the most recent is The Obelisk Gate, a follow-up to The Fifth Season and the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy).  Besides all that, she is the New York Times’ science fiction reviewer.

She shared “Red Dirt Witch,” a story that is not finished (this was its second draft), though it has already been sold, and that she is “not entirely happy with.”  In Deep South Alabama in the still-segregated early ’60s, a poverty-stricken black herbalist is confronted both in this world and in dreams by a White Lady (the capitals soon became clear), a Celtic fae who steals (and taps) children of Power, and wants her newly adolescent daughter.  In return, she offers an unsavory deal, that one life for the family’s prosperity and safety.  (The Civil Rights movement would involve great struggle and lead to triumphant progress.)  By audience demand, Jemisin read to the story’s (as it stood) conclusion.

In a Q&A, a woman asked “How are you not happy with that?”  Another even said that she cried.  Jemisin was “not sure” about why, and what was off.  (The first draft was longer.)  In response to another question, Jemisin revealed that it was based in part on her father’s side of the family; he was from the named town outside Birmingham, that her great-grandmother made a living healing and working magic for people, and that her grandmother was named Pauline, like the daughter in the story.  (Perhaps the deeply personal connection to the story is why she was dissatisfied?)  Wilson reported that he has other stories in that universe, and was urged to write a full novel.  A photo session followed.

N. K. Jemisin reads for NYRSF Readings.

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As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and, for food and beverages, the Café was a few steps away.

The capacity crowd of about at least 70 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Catelynn Cunningham, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff, Matt Kressel, John Kwok, Mark Richards and Terence Taylor, the Series’ Technical Director, plus a cheering section of members of the Altered Fluid writing group and a brief walk-in from WBAI’s Max Schmid.  Schmoozing and more partaking of the Café’s wares ensued.

Pixel Scroll 9/24/16 The Scroll Glows White On The Mountain Tonight, Not A Pixel To Be Seen

(1) INTERNMENT DRAMA. Courtesy of Fathom Events, “Broadway Musical ‘Allegiance’ Starring George Takei to Screen in Cinemas”.

Allegiance,” the Broadway musical that starred George Takei in a four-month run last season, will come to movie theaters around the country in a one-night-only December screening presented by Fathom Events, the distributor of alternative cinema content.

“Allegiance” tackles the serious historical subject of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, in a story loosely inspired by Takei’s childhood. Also starring Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung, the musical has songs by Jay Kuo with a book by Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. Stafford Arima directed the production.

(2) HOLLYWOOD POWER COUPLE SPLITS. Did you wonder why Leia and Han broke up? Now we know: “Carrie Fisher’s Hilarious Reasons Why Leia and Han Solo Broke Up” from CInemaBlend.

Carrie Fisher was the guest of honor at the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo (via NB), and in front of a crowd of Star Wars fans she revealed why Han and Leia put an end to their relationship. Apparently, Han spent too much time smuggling with the “hairy guy” and not enough at home with his wife. While hyperspace is a pretty good metaphor for a breakup, I’m not sure that it’s a particularly flattering one with regards to Han’s powers as a husband (hyperspace is awfully fast). Of course, it’s pretty safe to say that this is non-canonical, but it’s always nice to hear from Fisher. She’s typically hilarious and sarcastic about everything, and hearing her version of Star Wars events is almost always entertaining.

(3) PYTHON MEDICAL UPDATE. Monty Python’s Flying Circus member Terry Jones has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, the BBC reports.

The news was confirmed as Bafta Cymru announced the Welsh-born comedian is to be honoured with an outstanding contribution award….

Jones, who is from Colwyn Bay in north Wales, was a member of the legendary comedy troupe with Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and the late Graham Chapman.

He directed Monty Python’s Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life and co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Gilliam.

The surviving members reunited for 10 reunion performances at the O2 Arena in London in 2014.

(4) FRAUGHT WITHOUT MEANING. Joshua Rivera ponders the meaning of Bill Hader being cast as Alpha 5 in the Power Rangers movie for GQ readers.

No upcoming movie confounds me more thaJoshn 2017’s Power Rangers remake. In an era of Hollywood where every studio needs a franchise, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that the Teenagers With Attitude would get another at-bat sooner or later, but it’s hard to figure out who this movie is going to be for. Is it something chill enough for modern teens, like this super cool Instagram-ready group shot suggests? Is it going for pure outrageous spectacle, like those goofy-ass costumes and giant CGI robots suggest? Or is it somehow trying to get even our attention, by casting Bryan Cranston as Zordon the floating space wizard head and Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa.

Oh, and Bill Hader’s here now too….

(5) TECH APPLICATION. Motherboard suggests “Google Glass Could Be a Social Gamechanger For Kids on the Autism Spectrum”.

“While reading facial expressions is difficult for all of us at times (Was that a smile or a grimace?), for people with ASD, social interactions and friendships can be especially nerve-wracking. People on the spectrum may avoid eye contact and therefore fail to recognize and interpret facial expressions, challenges that also have far-reaching repercussions in school or at work.”

JJ noted, “Several Filers have said that they have to deal with prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces). I have to wonder if this would have positive applications for that, as well.”

(6) IN NO TIME. ”Quantum Teleportation Just Happened For Real”, Gizmodo tells us.

Quantum teleportation is the mystical, far-off in the future idea where quantum information encoded into particles of light can be transferred from one place to another remotely. Except it’s not far-off in the future — it just happened. Teleportation is real and it is here.

The teleportation occurred over several kilometres of optical fibre networks in the cities of Hefei in China and Calgary in Canada.

The two independent studies show that quantum teleportation across metropolitan networks is technologically feasible, and pave the way towards future city-scale quantum technologies and communications networks, such as a quantum internet.

(7) UNKNOWN CONTRIBUTORS TO SPACE AGE. Tor.com invites fans to “Meet the Hidden Figures of NASA in New Trailer”.

While the first trailer for the forthcoming NASA biopic Hidden Figures takes a wide look at how three black female mathematicians launched John Glenn into space, the second trailer tightens its scope, reintroducing you to Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

Called the “colored computers” and tucked into a corner of NASA’s offices, these women weren’t given their due—neither within nor outside of NASA’s walls, as everyone from engineers to the police cannot fathom women of color working in the space program

.

(8) NYRSF FALL SCHEDULE. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings announces its schedule for the beginning of its 26th season — http://www.hourwolf.com/nyrsf/.

(9) SOMEWHERE IN TIME TRIVIA. The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is hosting a “Somewhere in Time” Weekend on October 28-30.

Somewhere in Time Weekend is one of our most popular and special weekends at Grand Hotel. The movie Somewhere In Time was filmed at Grand Hotel and on Mackinac Island in 1979 and the movie was released in 1980

Movie Trivia from the Wikipedia:  Richard Matheson, who wrote the original novel and screenplay, appears in a cameo role as a 1912 hotel guest. He is shocked by Richard’s (Christopher Reeve) having cut himself shaving with a straight razor.

A then-unknown William H. Macy has a bit role as a critic in the 1972 scene before Elise hands the watch to Richard. George Wendt is credited as a student during this same scene, but his appearance was omitted from the final cut of the film. Richard Matheson’s daughter, Ali, is similarly credited as a student.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 24, 2004 Shaun of the Dead is released in theaters in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 24, 1936 – Jim Henson

(12) HELP DRAFT WORLDCON 75 PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 open for programming suggestions.

Do you know somebody who would be a perfect programme participant for Worldcon 75?

We want suggestions on everything and anything SF-related: books, movies, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, urban fantasy, translations, science, fandom, dance, music, writing, authors, graphic novels, plays, cosplay, anime etc.

The theme of Worldcon 75 is WORLD in all its many, many meanings! We are especially interested in programming items which fall under that theme, as well as those covering “Erilaisuus” (difference/diversity/alien – this word does not translate well into English), “Music” and “100 years of Finland”.

(13) INTERIOR DECORATION. N. K. Jemisin found a happy place to park her Hugo.

(14) ONLINE AND OFFLINE. How John Scalzi strikes the balance: “Who We Are Online, Who We Are Offline, How They’re Different and How They’re the Same”.

Over on Facebook, a person who claims to have met and interacted with me (and he may have! I meet and interact with a lot of people) suggests that he wouldn’t want to associate with me because, among other things, there’s a difference between how I present myself online and how I present myself offline, which this fellow takes to mean that I say things here, that I wouldn’t say there. Which means, apparently, that I’m false/dissembling/a coward and so on.

This is interesting to me! I have thoughts on this! I am going to share them with you now!

One: Of course, and I think obviously, people who don’t want to associate with me should not associate with me. Whatever reason you have for not wanting to associate with me — including having no reason at all! — is perfectly acceptable. It’s your life, and life is too short to associate with people with whom you have no desire to spend time, even if that person is me. Maybe I’ll be sad about that, if you are someone I like or admire or thought I might one day like to get to know. But I’ll just have to be sad about that. If you don’t want to associate with me, I celebrate your choice. Go! Be associative with others who are not me….

(15) THE LASAGNA STRATEGY. Why is Lou Antonelli “Staying at Home”? Well, he wasn’t invited to be a guest of FenCon this weekend. To avoid this happening too often, he offers this incentive —

Those of you who attended Conquest in Kansas City may recall I brought home-made lasagna for the reception held in the con suite for the debut of the “Decision Points” anthology. That was on a Friday night; I’ve been told that for the rest of the convention people kept coming into the con suite asking “Is there any more lasagna?” I will bring lasagna to any con I go to next year – unless I fly – so there is an incentive to invite me right there. If you have never tasted my lasagna, it’s universally conceded to be the best in the world.

As we say in Texas, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Kyra.]

NYRSF Readings Celebrate 50 Years of Star Trek

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

Keith DeCandido in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi..

By Mark Blackman: On the evening of Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 (or Star Date [-27] 04610.00), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series boldly commemorated the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on NBC-tv with a stellar crew of writers reading from their or others’ Trek-related works and performing a comedic skit about Trek Fandom.  (Fittingly, the day was as hot as Vulcan.)  The event, opening the Reading Series’ 26th season, and held at its current venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, located in the Alpha Quadrant near the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Barclays Center, was guest-curated by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the author of 16 Trek novels (several of them best-sellers), 13 novellas, seven short stories, six comic books, and the coffee-table book The Klingon Art of War, as well as articles, reviews and overviews on Star Trek.

The voyage began with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, and giving a rundown of upcoming readings:  On Sept. 27th (the last Tuesday of the month), readers will be N.K. Jemisin (“the award-winning N.K. Jemisin,” he beamed) and Kai Ashanti Wilson.  Nov. 1st – all Souls Day, the day after Hallowe’en – will debut the Margot Adler Memorial NYRSF Readings Series, with Terence Taylor its first guest curator.  (Margot was the original host of Hour of the Wolf; the Series’ topics might range from vampires – in her later years, she became addicted to the genre, reading 325 vampire novels, and, in fact, once guest-curated a NYRSF Reading spotlighting the creatures of the night – to Faerie to Wicca and psychology.)  One of the readers on Tuesday, Nov. 15th will be Kij Johnson.  Also reading in November will be Matthew Kressel, Alyssa Wong and Madeline Ashby.  December will, as traditional, feature a Family Night, with readings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.

Continuing, Freund plugged a variety of CDs from Skyboat Media for sale, including a 13-volume set of his interviews over the years, and, marking Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Harlan Ellison’s full-cast original teleplay of “The City on the Edge of Forever” (which is not what aired on tv).  He also noted that, as it happens, Gordon Van Gelder, the first curator of the NYRSF Readings Series, was born on the very date that Star Trek broadcast its premiere episode, “The Man Trap” (aka “The Salt Monster”).

(Curiously, there was, I observed, what might be called a generation gap, with some in the audience – and even of the readers – having never seen the show in its original run and had watched it only in its syndication on local stations, demonstrating Trek’s enduring appeal.  The other generation gap – between the classic and the subsequent series – never really arose.)

In due course, Freund turned the podium over to guest host Keith DeCandido, who described himself as “a Star Trek fan since birth, having grown up watching the show in reruns on Channel 11.”  (Coincidentally, he remarked, it was also the 47th anniversary of the premiere of the underrated animated series.)  Star Trek, he extolled, gave us “a wonderful future,” where Earth – where humanity – had come together and was working together in space.  It was the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, and here were an African-American, an Asian and a Russian (not to mention an alien) as part of the crew.

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes

That diversity was an apt introduction to his pre-recorded interview with Steven Barnes. Barnes is a New York Times bestselling author who has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts – from Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits and Andromeda to Baywatch (that’s a fantasy, right?) – and three million words of published fiction (including the novelization of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” the alternate history Lion’s Blood, and collaborations with Niven and Pournelle), and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, and received the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards.  Regrettably, the recording was badly glitched (Keith probably forgot to open hailing frequencies before Skyping), and DeCandido was obliged (with profuse apologies to us and to Barnes) summarize his talk about writing and about race on ’60s tv.  Barnes respected the intent of “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (Frank Gorshin and Lou Antonio in split black/whiteface), what they were trying to do, though it looks ridiculous now.  (Isn’t that a satisfying sign of progress since?)  He also discussed the importance of black characters equal with and alongside whites on Trek, Mission: Impossible and I Spy, and of having Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) as a nonwhite lead on a genre show.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

David Mack in 2010. Photo by Luigi Novi.

There being fewer technical glitches in a live reading, DeCandido introduced the first reader, David Mack, a New York Times bestselling author of roughly 30 sf, fantasy and adventure novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies, and the forthcoming Star Trek: Legacies, Book II: Best Defense, part of a new trilogy celebrating the franchise’s 50th anniversary.  Mack’s offering departed from The Original Series as it was set in the Next Generation era several years after Nemesis.  The Enterprise follows clues to a planet where someone has been cranking out copies of Lore – Dr. Noonian Soong, they learn, who has uploaded his consciousness into an android body.  Soong is soon laboring to resurrect Data (B-4 may have Data’s memories, but not his “soul” or his emotion chip), even at the cost of his own existence.  (Mack did a delightful Worf, by the way.)

Emily Asher-Perrin

Emily Asher-Perrin

Next up was Emily Asher-Perrin, who described herself as a kid as “a great big geek who preferred to talk about robots and aliens and lightsabers and magic,” and who works on the internet, notably on Tor.com, “talk[ing] and get[ting] excited about all the science fiction and fantasy that she loves most.”  She read a couple of scenes from Jean Lorrah’s The Vulcan Academy Murders; in the first, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are on Vulcan, and have joined Sarek and Amanda’s healer for dinner at an Italian restaurant (meatless, of course – vegan Vulcans, you know); and in the second, they are at a funeral (spoiler:  no, not Amanda’s), where they encounter T’Pau, the Vulcan matriarch from “Amok Time.”

During the intermission, people grabbed a bite (happily, the Commons Café did not offer gakh) and a raffle was held for a flash drive that might be called a mix tape, including miscellany like Shatner’s rendering of “Rocket Man” and bridge sound effects, and for two tickets to an astronomy lecture at the Intrepid on Saturday the 10th.

The second half of the program opened with a comedic skit by another New York Times bestselling Trek novelist, Dayton Ward (who was not present).  Set in a movie theater “somewhere in the U.S.” on June 9, 1989 where Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is about to begin, a group of Trek fans (the word “Trekkie” was never, never uttered all evening), played by Keith, David, Emily and Jim (typecasting) schmooze about – and one persistently pans – the year’s sf movies, and Batman.  (Some ironic humor was derived from what we know about subsequent films.)  Plus ça change …

Finally, DeCandido, drawing from his “Federation version of The West Wing,” delivered the Federation President’s commencement address to Starfleet Academy in the wake of the events of Nemesis.

The crowd of about 40 included Melissa C. Beckman, Catelynn Cunningham, Melissa Ennin (the landlady), Nora (NK) Jemisin, Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Nora Larker, Mark W. Richards, Wrenn Simms, Ian Randal Strock, and Bill Wagner.  As customary at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and copies of Trek books and stories by DeCandido and Mack were available for sale and autographs.  As the evening concluded, various audience members hung around or adjourned to the Café.