2019 Clarion Workshop Marked by Special Events and Activities

The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop begins June 23. The intensive six-week summer program at UC San Diego focuses on fundamentals particular to the writing of science fiction and fantasy short stories.

Clarion Faculty Reading Series: While the workshop itself is behind closed doors, the Clarion Faculty Reading Series hosted by San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, is open to the public.

Click on the above for more information about each of the faculty via the Mysterious Galaxy event pages.

Clarion Write-a-Thon: Every year, the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop holds a six-week Write-a-thon to coincide with the workshop. Like a walk-a-thon, participants write to raise money for scholarships to support future students.

This year, the Write-a-thon will begin June 23, the same day that the workshop begins. Participants commit to achieving their writing goals for the summer, whether that’s a daily word count, number of chapters, stories or submissions, or just butt-in-chair writing time.

You can either sign up to do the Write-a-thon yourself, donate to individual participants, or just make a general donation to the workshop. Everything helps achieve Clarion’s goal of $15,000 to support the workshop and future students. The majority of the Thon funds goes to scholarships for incoming students. Check it out and sign-up or back a writer today!

[Based on a press release.]

2019 SFWA Officer Election Results

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America posted the outcome of its 2019 officer elections.

President: Mary Robinette Kowal (unopposed)

Secretary: Curtis Chen (unopposed)

Director-at-Large: 3 Open Positions 

  • Andy Duncan
  • Jeffe Kennedy
  • Sarah Pinsker

Runners-up: James Beamon, Tobias Buckell, John Chu, Walter L. Fisher, Kevin McLaughlin, Peng Shepherd, Eric James Stone, William Alan Webb

Board vacancy also filled: Tobias Buckell has been asked to fill the position left vacant by Lawrence Schoen’s resignation.  

The SFWA Board and staff also thanked the volunteers who make up the Elections Committee: Fran Wilde (Chair), Matthew Johnson (Member), Laura Anne Gilman (Member), Maurice Broaddus (Member), and Kate Baker (Executive Director & Adviser).

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Imagining Deep Past: A Guest Post by Eugene Linden

By Eugene Linden: My novel, Deep Past, is a hybrid of sorts, with feet (if books can be said to have feet) in both the science fiction and thriller genres. The novel grew out of a thought experiment, which in turn grew out of decades of writing about the evolution of intelligence, and a variety of topics that relate to the nature and evolution of intelligence. Over the years I’ve come to believe that intelligence/awareness is far more widely shared as an adaptive strategy than was previously believed. We look around the world and we can see problem-solving abilities in a host of animals, ranging in creatures ranging from octopus to crows and parrots, to the great apes, elephants, and dolphins. True, as of yet, there has been no evidence of a sentient creature that possesses quantitative and symbolic abilities on our scale.

But – and this is where the thought experiment begins – the great flowering of human abilities occurred in a span of just a few hundred thousand years, and through most of that span humans had very little in the way of material culture. If we had died out fifty thousand years ago, our ancestors would have left few traces to show that an intelligent species ever inhabited the planet. So, given that organized brains date back over 750 million years, who is to say that over that immense sweep of time, some other creature with intelligence on our scale hasn’t come and gone?

Certainly not me.

In Deep Past, I try to imagine the discovery of just such a long-gone, intelligent animal. Creating such a creature entailed developing a credible set of circumstances that might give rise to the runaway growth of brain power in the distant past, as well as the circumstances that would have hustled it off the evolutionary stage.  

Eugene Linden

Though I was writing science fiction, I wanted the story to be credible, and a plausible outgrowth of what we know about evolution.  A theoretician of artificial life named Christopher Langton who used to work at the Santa Fe Institute developed a broad framework to explain how adaptations become maladaptive. He focused on how simple organisms evolved into more complex systems. In this work he discovered a see-saw between stability and instability as different organisms try different strategies to exploit any given system. Eventually, one organism comes out on top and proliferates until it destabilizes the system and it crashes, leading to a new cycle. The lesson is that your best adaptive strategy may ultimately hustle you off the evolutionary stage.

I also needed to envision what external circumstances might both foster the rapid growth of intelligence in a species, but then ultimately do the species in. Here I had an obvious candidate: climate change, though in the deep past the climate change would have been part of natural cycles, and not the self-inflicted wound we’re in the process of perpetrating. 

In a previous non-fiction book, Winds of Change; Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, I had explored research in the role past, natural episodes of rapid climate change had played in the development of human brain power. That role turns out to be major. Starting about 1.85 million years ago, a series of violent weather upheavals that lasted about 100,000 years coincided with periods of rapid evolutionary change in which the more specialized of our ancestors tended to die out and the generalists (read brainier) survived. And now that there are 7.3 billion of us, it’s open to question whether we could survive the weather chaos that occurred in the past. It’s bears noting that during the past 8,000 years, a truly goldilocks period of weather for humans, our numbers increased more than 1,000 fold.

My research for Winds of Change had given me a good road map of past extreme episodes of climate change going way back in geologic time, and I set the period of my imagined intelligent species (I’m not going to be a spoiler and name the species it here) well back in the past, at a time when our hominid technological prowess consisted of little more than throwing rocks.

I needed one more thing for my evolutionary recipe for intelligence: isolation. One of the more fascinating byways of evolutionary biology is E.O Wilson’s theory entitled island Biogeography, and its precursor in eco-geography, the Island Rule, first proposed by J. Bristol Foster. In vastly simplified form, these formulations explain why islands tend to be less diverse than mainland ecosystems, and why, in these less diverse situations, evolution tends to run wild, producing giants and dwarf species as well as other exaggerated traits, perhaps even traits like intelligence. In my case, I chose to situate my long-gone species on a virtual island, a stretch of land isolated by inhospitable terrain, rather than a real island, like the Skull Island of King Kong.

Once I had the recipe for how to create a super intelligent being, I needed to decide what type of intelligence that would be. Here I drew upon two more big ideas. In my book, The Octopus and the Orangutan, I explore the question of whether convergent evolution – the notion that nature tends to optimize a creature for its particular ecological niche so that even unrelated species tend to converge on the same shape if they face similar life challenges – might apply in the realm of higher mental abilities as well as physical shape. For example, humans and dolphins might live in utterly different circumstances, but they both live in large, highly complex social groups, a situation that rewards those members with enhanced abilities to understand and manipulate what their peers are thinking and doing.

The fact that humans and dolphins both have large, complex brains connects to another concept that helps explain how intelligence might have evolved. This is the idea of “ecologically surplus abilities.” Simply put, this means that a capability that evolved in response to one set of challenges might turn out to carry with it other benefits. In terms of intelligence, the evolutionary pressures that produced the dolphin’s big brain had to do with the survival benefits of using sonar to “see” surroundings and prey in the relatively opaque underwater environment. But, in equipping dolphins to precisely decode the signals its sonar produced, nature also might have been equipping the dolphin to think symbolically. This idea allows us to see how higher intelligence might have been a byproduct of practically driven, prosaic abilities.

All of these factors drove me to think of an intelligence similar in some respects to ours, but coming from very different circumstances and building on a very different base. We humans like to manipulate particles and objects, but what if our past evolutionary history had oriented us towards waves and interconnections; what is our intelligence had more in common with the strange qualities of quantum mechanics rather than Newtonian laws? That was a fun, but daunting avenue to explore.

While I had some experience trying to understand many of the sciences I drew upon in writing Deep Past, I also had to dive into disciplines with which I was much less conversant such as geology and remote sensing. Even though Deep Past centers on the discovery of something widely viewed as impossible, the story is built on solid science. If there’s any overarching belief that informs my book, it’s that, over time, the ordinary workings of nature can compose magical creations out of the most mundane materials.


Author’s Website: http://www.eugenelinden.com/

Deep Past will be released May 14, 2019. Preorder from any of these sellers:

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
BOOKS-A-MILLION
INDIEBOUND

Q&A With Jason Heller About Strange Stars

ROB THORNTON: Would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?

JASON HELLER: I’m a writer, editor, and musician from Denver. I do lots of writing about music and books, including reviews and essay for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and NPR. I’m also the former nonfiction editor for Clarkesworld, and I won a Hugo as part of that editing team in 2013.

Since then, I’ve edited a couple of fiction anthologies, most recently Mechanical Animals with Selena Chambers. I’ve been playing in bands for many years, and my current band is called Weathered Statues. We just toured Europe last fall, and it was pretty amazing to get up from behind the writing desk and hit the road with my guitar!

ROB THORNTON: What inspired you to write a book about the relationship between SF/F and popular music?

JASON HELLER: My first concert was seeing David Bowie in 1987, and at that point, I was already a huge fan of science fiction. I devoured books and music as a kid, and the deeper I got into Bowie, the more I began to pick up on these hints and fragments of futurism and science fiction in the music I heard on the radio, including bands like Rush, Devo, and Parliament.

Years later, after becoming a professional music journalist, I began writing lots of essays about the crossover between my two biggest loves, and in 2015 I started shopping around a book proposal for a history of this crossover. When Bowie died in 2016, I was already in the midst of writing Strange Stars. He was always going to be the central figure in the book, so that heartbreaking loss lit an extra fire under me.

Basically, I’ve always thought that music has never been given due credit for being one of the most fertile and inventive vessels for science fiction concepts and storytelling. In a nutshell, I wanted to set the record straight and show how so many works of popular music should be considered part of the science fiction canon.

Jason Heller

ROB THORNTON: What kind of audience do you envision for the book?

JASON HELLER: I hope that anyone remotely interested in the realms of science fiction or popular music would find something to float their boat in Strange Stars. I tried to walk the pathway between the two as sensitively as I could; I didn’t want to assume that all science fiction lovers are huge music nerds or vice versa (although, of course, many are, myself included).

Of course, I hoped my fellow Bowie fans would be particularly intrigued, but the book is not about Bowie only. Everything from obscure disco to underground punk is covered in Strange Stars, along with the huge artists you might automatically expect, such as Pink Floyd and Rush. I made every attempt to tease out to the bigger picture, the overall narrative arc, that connects everything from Heinlein to Kraftwerk to Star Wars, so there’s a story to be absorbed, not just a guide to great music for people to discover.

ROB THORNTON: How did you decide to use David Bowie’s career as a recurring theme in Strange Stars?

JASON HELLER: If all the musicians who were influenced by science fiction in the ’70s, David Bowie was the most visible, not to mention the most visibly science-fictional. But more than that, his very influential contributions to science-fiction music bookended that decade perfectly; he released his first science-fiction hit single, “Space Oddity,” in 1969, and he released “Ashes to Ashes,” the sequel to “Space Oddity,” in 1980. The ’70s fit perfectly between those songs, and as it turns out, Bowie’s on-off fascination and engagement with science fiction that decade perfectly paralleled so many larger events and trends that were happening in both science and science fiction, as well as in popular music. To use him as the barometer of science fiction rock in the ’70s just felt like the most natural thing I could do. Almost all roads in science fiction music lead either to or from Bowie in the ’70s.

ROB THORNTON: What was it like to work with editors on a book about the intersection of two minutiae-oriented pop cultures?

JASON HELLER: I loved working with my editor at Melville House, Ryan Harrington, who is not only brilliant but also very good at pointing out how my crazy, sprawling idea for a book could be focused into something tighter and more accessible. He helped me immensely when it came to making Strange Stars a book that both music fans and science fiction fans could relate to.

ROB THORNTON: Who was your favorite interview for Strange Stars and why?

JASON HELLER: I actually didn’t interview anyone for Strange Stars! It was all meticulous and exhausting research, including lots of quotes from past interviews with the musicians I covered in the book. Since Bowie died while I was in the process of writing Strange Stars, the possibility of interviewing him was sadly off the table. I figured if I couldn’t interview the main person in this book, it would feel imbalanced if I interviewed many of the lesser figures in my narrative, as important as they each are in their own right.

And it turned out there was simply no shortage of research material out there! As it is, I had to leave out tons of great quotes and anecdotes that weren’t entirely necessary to the story I was telling. If I’d had another few tens of thousands of words of original interview material to incorporate into Strange Stars, it would have vastly exceeded the wordcount my publisher gave me to work with! But I think everything worked out for the best.

ROB THORNTON: What was the most rewarding audio discovery you made while you were writing the book?

JASON HELLER: I made so, so many discoveries while working on Strange Stars. I went into this project thinking I had a pretty deep knowledge of science-fiction-influenced music, but as it turned out, I knew maybe half the story. Of all the musical rabbitholes I went down while researching for the book, the one that delighted me the most was science fiction funk. I’d always known that funk (and disco) were important parts of my story, and I collect funk and disco records from the ’70s, but none of that prepared me for the wealth of groups and artists of the era who contributed to the canon of science-fiction funk, besides the big names we all probably know like Parliament-Funkadelic.

If I had to pick a favorite discovery, it would be the 1979 song “Dark Vader” by Instant Funk. In it, the story of Darth Vader is retold from a sympathetic perspective — remember, this was before the revelations about his character seen a year later in The Empire Strikes Back! — that folds Star Wars fanfic and blaxploitation swagger into Afrofuturism. As I point out in Strange Stars, the song does for Darth Vader what Wicked did for The Wicked Witch of the West decades later.

ROB THORNTON: What surprised you the most during the research for Strange Stars? I was amazed to learn that Ian Curtis wanted to work with Michael Moorcock!

JASON HELLER: That was definitely one of the biggest surprises to me too! It’s hard to imagine what a collaboration between Joy Division and Michael Moorcock would have sounded like, but it’s amazing just to know they actually conversed about the prospect prior to Curtis’ death in 1980. Joy Division are so deeply associated with the bleak futurism (no-futurism?) of the post-punk movement, and Moorcock resides at the other end of the ’70s science-fiction-music spectrum thanks to his close ties to Hawkwind.

The kinship between Curtis and Moorcock is one of those startling little anecdotes I dug up that really tied so much of Strange Stars together for me. Likewise, so did the discovery that Paul McCartney asked Gene Roddenberry to help him write a science fiction musical for Wings in 1975! It never came about, of course, but wow, if only.

ROB THORNTON: How would you describe the relationship between popular music and SF/F?

JASON HELLER: It’s an interesting relationship. Neither popular music nor science fiction/fantasy acknowledge each other that openly. Crossovers pop up all the time — and as I detail in Strange Stars, they were especially rife in the ’70s — but there’s almost an introvert/extrovert dichotomy the two. That’s a massive oversimplification, but I think it does get to the heart of it, in a way.

Music is an openly joyous and collective thing; SF/F, and literature in general, is more intimately and personally experienced. But when the two feed off each other, the results can bring out the best in both. I’ve always wished the SF/F world in particular would pay more attention to the many musicians who struggle to find an audience with their science-fiction music, but I’m just happy people still make such music and pay attention to its rich history at all. Which is why writing Strange Stars was such an honor for me.

Nisi Shawl Teaching Workshop at Summer Fishtrap Writers’ Gathering

Nisi Shawl

2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award Winner Nisi Shawl will be teaching a workshop on “Inclusive Dialogue: Writing in Dialect and Representing Nonstandard Speech” at the 2019 Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers: Steering the Craft  at Wallowa Lake Lodge on July 8-14. The workshop focuses on techniques using phonetic spelling, italics, and slang words and phrases through discussion, examples, and exercises. Other strategies include code-switching, rhythmic emphasis, and cultural references.

Summer Fishtrap is a week-long writer’s conference located in the heart of Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains at the south end of Wallowa Lake – with workshops in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, and special workshops just for youth. Classes are limited to no more than 13 students which gives every writer the chance to share their work in an intimate and supportive environment.

The 2019 Summer Fishtrap Gathering is part of Fishtrap’s year-long tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin, who was a long-term advisor and instructor.

Register for Shawl’s workshop here.

Not Space Force. Space Forces. Forces Plural.

By Carl Slaughter: When Trump announced a space force, the late-night comedians had a field day.

But Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is this generation’s Carl Sagan, has been making the rounds of the talk shows to say that the idea of a space force is not fundamentally flawed.

I would go further.  Much further.

Tucked away in an article about China going to Mars and the Moon is a sentence that jumped out at me:  One of the craters on the far side of the Moon is iron rich.

We haven’t seen a soil sample from that crater or a gas sample from Jupiter or an ice sample from Saturn’s rings or a metal sample from the Asteroid Belt.  So we have not yet gotten excited about space mining.

But we will.  When we have lab confirmation that those resources are available and realize they are within our grasp, we’re going to decide to mine space, just as we decided to walk on the Moon, and we’re going to make it happen.

And that’s when we will have high-stakes claims wars  –  and sabotage and espionage and assassination.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, geopolitics and economies will go through upheaval in response to what’s happening in space.

Meanwhile, out in space, colonies will declare their independence, just as America and India did, and try to nationalize the resources they were sent there to mine.

Those mother countries are going to say to those colonists, “We financed that colony.  If you want to be independent, you can start your own colony.  If not, prepare to be executed, exiled, or imprisoned.”

It’s going to be something out of a science fiction story.  Yeah, there’ s gonna be space forces.  Forces plural.

The Pentagon, the Russians, and the Chinese have all demonstrated the capacity to shoot down satellites.  We have manned shuttles and manned space stations.  We have already landed on the Moon.  It’s only a matter of time, and probably in our lifetime, before Elon Musk or NASA or someone builds a colony on Mars.

Eventually, some clever scientists will find a way to mine those gases, metals, and ice.  Then other clever scientists will find a way to transport all those resources to Earth cheaply.

Wormholes, FLT, mass transfer.  They are distant, but their day will arrive.

The day is coming when a space force will make as much sense as a police force, a naval force, and an air force.

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?

By John Hertz:  In the course of reading and re-reading this and that I came across these two remarks I thought worth attention.  They touch points we often talk of.

Here’s Bernard Shaw in a 1930 preface to a reprint of his play The Philanderer. I found it in Plays Unpleasant (Penguin Bks. 1978, p. 98; I haven’t compared any of the more recent printings).

There is a disease to which plays as well as men become liable with advancing years.  In men it is called doting, in plays dating.  The more topical the play the more it dates.  The Philanderer suffers from this complaint.  In the eighteen-nineties, when it was written, not only dramatic literature but life itself was staggering from the impact of Ibsen’s plays, which reached us in 1889.  The state of mind represented by the Ibsen Club in this play was familiar then to our Intelligentsia.  That far more numerous body which may be called the Unintelligentsia was as unconscious of Ibsen as of any other political influence….

I make no attempt to bring the play up to date.  I should as soon think of bringing Ben Jonson’s  Bartholomew Fair up to date by changing the fair into a Woolworth store.  The human nature in it is still in the latest fashion: indeed I am far from sure that its ideas, instead of being 36 years behind the times, are not for a considerable section of the community 36 years ahead of them.  My picture of the past may be for many people a picture of the future.  At all events I shall leave the play as it is; for all the attempts within my experience to modernize ancient plays have only produced worse anachronisms than those they aimed at remedying.

Now here’s Vladimir Nabokov. He’s writing in 1949 about Afanasy Fet. I found it in the posthumous collection Verses and Versions (pp. 300-01).

Literary criticism in Russia, or at least that part of literary criticism that swayed the reader, was mainly a social force, occupied with social civic problems, and to such critics, to critics immensely celebrated in Russia as champions of liberty, civilization, commonsense, popular science, and the rest … a poet who spent his time inventing new methods of making poems out of landscapes, or love, was a ridiculous freak, a heretic, a sinner against mankind….  Fet was harried, spat at, spanked, mocked, insulted in such a thorough fashion that it is a wonder he never lost his head, never so much as replied to those attacks, ignoring absolutely his furious critics who in the long run made dreadful fools of themselves by raving at things they did not understand.  And so it happened that up to the present day it is a good way to test whether a Russian understands poetry or not by finding out whether he appreciates Fet….

The matter-of-fact critics who cursed Fet because he did not describe the sufferings of the Russian peasant in blunt manly measures, those critics were particularly maddened by Fet’s verse slipping as it were between their fingers, verse which became intangible when placed in a coarse medium of their own world, for in their world mental curves were as illegal as the roundness of the world was in the days of the flat-footed logicians who were firmly planted on a flat beach, where every grain of sand voiced, unheeded, the claim of its circular shape.  A poem by Fet seemed to them meaningless, because for them the meaning of things was limited by the square angles of their immediate use – city squares where crowds gather with square flags, square shoes, square prison cells, square tombstones.  But Fet looped his loop and was suddenly somewhere in the Milky Way just when he was expected to come home with some reasonable explanation of his behavior.

Among much else I was struck by how pertinent these seemed, written ninety and seventy years ago – about things written a hundred twenty and a hundred thirty years ago.  But so are Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki. They are also of course impertinent.

Do Shaw and Nabokov contradict each other?  Very well then they contradict each other.  They are large, they contain multitudes.

Finding New Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Short Form

By Rob Thornton:  In the Pixel Scroll for March 11, 2018, the Filers discussed a blog post from Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, which alleged that science fiction was “no longer writing” what he wanted to read. As a result of those discussions, John A Arkansawyer suggested that someone create a resource named “Seven simple ways for the casual SF fan to find a likely new book without investing too much time.”

This post attempts to fulfill that request. Here is a collection of links to sites that generate lists of newly published science fiction and fantasy books. If possible, the link leads to a source’s latest list (such as Amazon). If not, the link leads to a list of search results (such as “best new science fiction and fantasy” at Barnes & Noble) which captures the most recent lists. Please add other sources in the comments.

Direct Links

Search Results

Standalone Novels:

Thanks to: Both JJ and Dann for making contributions to the list and additional thanks to JJ for cleaning up some of my links as well.

Laura Resnick: Genres Unlimited

Laura Resnick

By Carl Slaughter: Laura Resnick broke into writing through the romance genre, switched to sci-fi short fiction, did an urban fantasy trilogy, and then a series of comedy-horror-detective novels.  The first 7 in the series were recently produced as high quality full cast audio.  Now Resnick is offering a humorous take on Lovecraft in Alex Schvartsman’s latest humor anthology.

CARL SLAUGHTER: What was the appeal of writing Lovecraft type horror?

LAURA RESNICK: Well, we didn’t write horror in the recently released anthology, The Cackle of Cthulhu (ed. Alex Shvartsman) from Baen Books, we wrote humor.

Lovecraft’s fiction seems to be going through another period of revival, where people discover or rediscover it. Cthulhu is a Lovecraft creation which, in addition to being popular with fans, has entered mainstream consciousness (ex. “Cthulhu for President” as an internet meme in 2016). Even people who’ve never heard of Lovecraft, or who’ve heard of him but have never read his work, are aware of Cthulhu these days. Also, Lovecraft’s prose style is tempting to satirize. So when Alex Shvartsman came up with the idea for the anthology, Baen Books was immediately interested, since Cthulhu is commercial and a Lovecraft humor anthology is unusual.

(The Baen Free Radio Hour on January 26 did a podcast interview with some of the contributors — Alex, me, Esther Friesner, Jody Lynn Nye, and Gini Koch.)

Part of the appeal for me was also that it was a good reason to read some Lovecraft, which I had never gotten around to doing. When Alex invited me into The Cackle of Cthulhu, I was completely unfamiliar with Lovecraft’s work (apart from the Cthulhu memes)—a fact I did not share with Alex until we did a podcast interview to promote the anthology’s release!

CS: Describe the research you did into Lovecraft and what did you discover along the way?

LAURA RESNICK: I normally turn down any invitation to write a story inspired by works that I don’t know (ex. a series of novels I haven’t read, or a TV series I haven’t watched, etc.), since I can’t spare the time to dive into that much material for a random short story. But one thing I did know about Lovecraft was that he focused on short fiction, so I could get a good feel for his writing and themes, and particularly for the “Cthulhu mythos,” in just a couple of evenings.

So I read The Call of Cthulhu, At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, and a few others. The story I liked best happens to have nothing to do with Cthulhu; in “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs,” the great Harry Houdini gets abducted while visiting Egypt and has to escape from mysterious ancient underground caverns where Strange Things Happen.

I found Lovecraft’s stories very imaginative and colorful and pretty creepy. It’s easy to see why his work influenced people. The language is rich and interesting, but it’s also melodramatic; as someone else said, it often seems like a thesaurus vomited on the page. His writing also evinces fastidiousness (or sometimes revulsion) about anyone who isn’t a white Anglo-Saxon protestant.

CS: Describe studying and writing about Cthulhu.

LAURA RESNICK: Well, the assignment was to write a funny Lovecraftian story, and reading the stories had got me thinking in pulp fiction mode. I am a fan of noir crime story motifs and hard-boiled detective tropes (or, okay, clichés). So I reimagined Cthulhu as a traditional private eye, writhing tentacles and all. In my story, “Cthulhu, P.I.,” the cruise ship industry has discovered R’lyeh and corporate culture has taken over. Cthulhu, who got terrible legal advice, signed such a bad contract with a marketing company that he can’t be seen anywhere near R’lyeh without violating the licensing rights for his own image. So he has relocated to Innsmouth and reinvented himself as a private detective. The story begins when a long-legged blonde walks in the door, needing his help to deal with a blackmailer, but things aren’t quite what they seem… Also, there are some Airplane-style jokes.

CS: You’ve conquered several genres.  How do you go from inexperienced to master in such a short time?

LAURA RESNICK: I would say I’ve “worked in” several genres, not “conquered” them. And there hasn’t been anything “short” about the time!

I broke into the business very young, writing “category” or “series” romance novels for Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin. Back then, Silhouette was a good place to start a writing career. My editors there worked closely with me and taught me a lot, and Silhouette in those days was buying books as fast as their authors could write them. You learn by doing, and I learned a lot by delivering a dozen books in 5 years (as well as by writing a lot of proposals during those years that got rejected).

A few years into my career, I also started writing sf/f short fiction, and that was a case of learn-by-doing, too. I wrote stories for about half a dozen anthologies per year back then (when the late great anthology packager Martin H. Greenberg was at his peak), and even though some of my early efforts weren’t that good, you’re bound to get better if you’re delivering a short story every couple of months for 3-4 years.

When I started writing book-length sf/f, I wrote a number of book proposals I couldn’t sell, before I finally came up with a viable project (on my third or fourth complete overhaul of the idea). And then after I sold it, it took me about a year to write the first book, In Legend Born, in that trilogy (and longer to write the next two books).

It also took, overall, more than ten years to get my urban fantasy series, the Esther Diamond novels, from proposal to publication. These days, I’m contracted through the 10th Esther Diamond novel, so it has worked out well; but it was a long road to get here—a road that was cluttered with agents who told me the project wasn’t marketable and wouldn’t sell (which is just one example, among many, of why I stopped working with literary agents).

At any rate, anyone who writes as much as I’ve been writing ever since the early days of my career has very little excuse not to keep improving at it.

CS: Any other genres in your future?

LAURA RESNICK: I have learned to avoid predictions, since nothing ever goes the way I expect! That said, I really enjoy mysteries and romantic suspense, so I can certainly see myself trying something in that vein eventually.

CS: Your Esther Diamond series is part horror, part fantasy, part detective, part romance.  How do you juggle all those genres in one story?

LAURA RESNICK: Artist Dan Dos Santos, who does the extraordinary covers for the Esther Diamond books, once said to me that the challenge of creating those images is coming up with the right balance of menace, comedy, and sexiness that characterize the novels.

And the word he chose—balance—is also what I strive for when writing the books, what I have to get right to make the stories work. The books are comedy, and whenever working on the humor aspect, the stakes still need to be compelling. I keep my eye on that ball, so that the comedy doesn’t descend into aimless schtick. Similarly, when following the plot-driven aspects of the story (usually the “detective” part), I need to make sure I don’t neglect the humor. The balance I look for in Esther’s chaotic love life is that she’s not just “hot” for her love interest, her heart is at stake. And when working on the horror/fantasy aspect of the stories, I remember that whatever scary stuff I write has to be able to balance with the comedy aspects of the books. So, for example, murder in an Esther Diamond novel often happens offstage, and it typically happens to characters we never meet, barely see, or really dislike; and it does not happen in these books to children or to characters we love.

CS: Give us the inside story on full cast audio.

LAURA RESNICK: The first seven Esther Diamond novels (which is how many have been published so far) were all adapted last year by Graphic Audio, which company describes its format as “a movie in your mind.”

These are full-cast audio recordings, including sound effects and music. They’re halfway between a traditional audiobook and a radio play. Each character is played by a different actor (and the casting maintains continuity, using the same actors from book to book for the continuing characters in the series). The novel is the basis of the script, but Graphic Audio adapts it to the format. So, for example, instead of the narrator reading, “he whispered” or “she sounded angry,” you hear the actor or actress playing that character whispering the dialogue or sounding angry when speaking. Instead of the narration telling you someone laughed, you hear the laughter. If a scene takes place on the city streets, you hear traffic and footsteps; if there’s action, you hear it happening.

Actress Colleen Delany plays Esther Diamond, who is the protagonist and the first-person narrator of the novels. Delany also directs the productions. I think she’s done a terrific job, and I’ve been delighted with these recordings. They really capture the tone and feel of the stories, and the voices are well cast. There are even some actors whose interpretations I like so much, it’s influenced me to put those characters in upcoming books, in hopes of hearing those actors play them again in the Graphic Audio adaptations.

Here’s a quick 3-minute sample that gives you a taste of the series and what Graphic Audio is doing with it. Enjoy!

We Need To Do More Than Just Be Upset About Abuse In Fandom

By JJ: I was going to post in a File 770 comment a link to a recent blog post, because I wanted to make a comment about the trend it represents – but then I realized that it would be unfair to single out one of many of the same sort of posts being made on blogs and Facebook and Twitter right now, posts which express horror and anger about harassment and abuse in fandom, and then just say “We need to do something about this!”

I know, from my own experience upon finding out that MZB, the author of the Darkover books I’d loved so much when I was young – books I will never be able to read or recommend again – was actually a horrible person in real life, that it’s horrifying for most of us whenever “new” news comes out about someone in SFFdom having done awful things which were enabled, excused, deliberately overlooked, or just not recognized for what they were, by people at the time.

Yes, it’s awful, and yes, we need to talk openly about it, and yes, it needs to stop.

But instead of yet one more piece (and the one I just read is by far not the only one) in which someone waves their arms around and says, “OMG!!! All this stuff that happened 20 to 60 years ago! We absolutely must do SOMETHING!!!”, I would like the people who feel compelled to chime in to do so in a constructive way that accomplishes more than just arm-waving and regurgitating ancient history.

The Geek Feminism Wikia contains a wealth of information about harassment and abuse in SFF fandom. Their Incidents section contains information about things which have occurred in recent history. Those who are outraged about decades-old abuses, but unaware of what has gone on in the last 20 years, should educate themselves about the recent ones.

Their Resources section contains information and links which can help people who would like to know how to actually make a difference: how we can help the cons we work on, or attend, to proactively set up mechanisms for recognizing, reporting, and dealing with abuse; how we can each fight abuse in our fandom, gaming, or other social groups; how we can find the words and the personal strength to speak up when abuses occur in front of us.

For those of you who feel that something should be done, I ask you to read about what people in fandom have actually been doing, for quite a few years now, to change con and fandom culture for the better, so that harassment and abuse no longer happen or get tolerated. For example, many fan conventions have instituted official Codes of Conduct in recent years, and these are being enforced. Last month, ConFusion, whose Harassment Policy is clearly specified here, dealt with an incident at their convention, and did so according to their clearly-written reporting and enforcement guidelines.

For those of you who feel that something should be done, I ask you to consider current efforts and think about what could, and should, still be done, to improve those efforts.

For those of you who feel that something should be done, I ask you to figure out how you can contribute personally to those efforts.

Arm-waving outrage pieces unfortunately do not add value to the never-ending work we as fans should be doing to make our fan spaces into better places. We can, and should, be doing more. I am going to actively try to do more in working toward that, and I welcome constructive comments on this post about ways in which we as genre fans can all work toward that.