By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, January 20, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Delia Sherman and Ilana C. Myer in the Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The room, up a steep set of stairs to the 2nd floor, filled up quickly.
The Series, co-hosted by Mathew Kressel (author of King of Shards) and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, has, for over a decade, on the third Wednesday of the month, presented readings (always free) both by established science fiction and fantasy writers and by new voices in the genre.
After flitting around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted here), Ellen welcomed the audience, then sadly reported the news that Tor senior editor David Hartwell had fallen the day before, suffering massive head injuries and a brain hemorrhage from which he was not expected to recover. (Soon after, he did pass.) This month’s readings are dedicated to him, she said. She then announced upcoming readings in the Series: On February 17, the readers will be Carola Dibbell and Gemma Files; on March 16, Rio Youers and David Nickle; and on April 20, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. She then introduced the first reader of the evening.
Ilana C. Myer is the author of the just-published Last Song Before Night, an epic fantasy about poets and dark enchantments. She read from the still-in-progress sequel to her debut novel, tentatively titled Fire Dance. In the scene offered, Ned (Lord Alterra), a court poet, has come to a neighboring kingdom to investigate dark magic. An audience with the queen leads to an assignation where they play “the game of kings” – no, not that, chess. (He’s surprised too.) Unfortunately, while it was engaging, her selection was brief and did not allow us a sense of who the main character was or a glimpse of the story’s larger plot.
After a break, Matt thanked the Bar, and urged the crowd to support it (there’s no cover charge, he reminded) by buying drinks, even soft drinks, then introduced the evening’s concluding reader.
Delia Sherman is the author – or “the cause” – of numerous short stories and novels, including the Norton Award-winning The Freedom Maze and the upcoming novel, The Evil Wizard Smallbone (from which I heard her read at December’s NY Review of SF reading). She entertained us with an excerpt from her novella “The Great Detective,” which is coming out from Tor.com in February, reading “with a Welsh accent, where warranted.” “The game is afoot” in a foggy, steampunk London, as Welsh baronet and inventor Sir Arthur Cwmlech, accompanied by his apprentice Tacy Gof and Angharad Cwmlech, a literal “ghost in the machine” (an English Civil War era spirit inhabiting an automaton), consults Mycroft Holmes about the theft of his “illogic engine,” which would imbue mechanicals with more humanlike qualities. Holmes has his own automaton, a “reasoning machine” that resembles him closely enough “almost” to be his younger brother, though, of course, is thinner. (We know his methods.)
At the back of the room, copies of Last Song Before Night and books by Sherman were for sale by the Word bookstore of Brooklyn and (this is new) Jersey City. Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then headed out for dinner.