By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, February 2, 2016 (Groundhog Day [happily, Punxsutawney Phil and our local rodent forecasters alike didn’t see their shadows]), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series featured readings from two (appropriate for 2/2) very familiar local writers, Richard Bowes and Barbara Krasnoff. (Both, as it happens, are members of the New York City writers group Tabula Rasa.)
After an ear-shattering wake-up call from a sound check, the event, held at the Series’ current venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café on Atlantic Avenue, kicked off as customary 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. Additionally, the readings stream live via Livestream, where they remain archived for a period of time, and may be accessed by going to Livestream.com and searching for NYRSF.) He began on a sad note; the man who founded and published the magazine from which the Series takes its name (though not formally linked to the magazine), The New York Review of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell, died suddenly a few weeks ago. Not yet scheduled, there will be an event of some sort here celebrating his life.
As to scheduled upcoming readings, March 3 will feature Karen Heuler and another writer to be announced; on April 5 there will be a Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch reading, guest-hosted by Mike Allen and presenting “a cast of thousands!” (well, seven: Rob Cameron, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Barbara Krasnoff, Sonya Taaffe, Shveta Thakrar and A.C. Wise); the May 3 event will be a play, a project by Andrea Hairston and Pan Morigan; and on June 7 a gala will celebrate Space & Time Magazine’s 50th anniversary, with Gordon Linzner and Hildy Silverman. (The magazine, quipped Freund, is better than Space Magazine and Time Magazine combined.) He concluded by thanking Terence Taylor, the Series’ technical director, and the Café, which is offering new foods (and has decorated our space with colorful paintings), then introduced the evening’s first reader.
Barbara Krasnoff has sold over 30 pieces of short fiction to a wide variety of publications and anthologies, most of which (Freund noted) have long subtitles. Her appearances include
Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Sybil’s Garage, Space & Time Magazine, Subversion (from which she read at a previous NYRSF reading), Crossed Genres, Atomic Avarice, and Clockwork Phoenix 2, 4 and 5. Her selection was from the last-named, “Sabbath Wine.” Set in Brownsville, Brooklyn in 1920, a preteen Jewish girl befriends a black boy, who tells her that he’s dead, and invites him to her home for a full-ceremonial Sabbath dinner. Her loving father, who has abandoned religion for radicalism, nevertheless gives in to her entreaty and goes off to obtain the titular kosher wine, a task complicated by it being the Prohibition Era. It had charming moments and even some humor (the word “schmuck” always does it) … and an ending that literally brought tears to more than a few eyes.
During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing with Sybil’s Garage 4, and Bowes’s If Angels Fight as prizes. Jim then introduced the second and final reader, whom he described as one of the Series’ best.
Richard Bowes has published six novels, four story collections and over 80 short stories, earning two World Fantasy Awards, a Lambda Award, a StorySouth Million Writers Award and an International Horror Guild Award. His work includes the aforementioned If Angels Fight, From The Files of the Time Rangers, a Nebula finalist, Dust Devil On a Quiet Street, and a 9/11 story, “There’s A Hole In The City.” His offering was “ethically different,” as well as a change in locale and era, from Barbara’s, a wryly humorous story that will be a chapter in an novel about life as a gay kid in 1950s Boston, “The McGavins and Me.” Anecdotal snapshots of a family ranged from the home, the Church and Irish bars to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and, inevitably, the Red Sox.
As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and there was some lovely fresh-baked bread. The Café saw to more substantial food needs.
The crowd of about 30 included Melissa C. Beckman, Seth Breidbart, Rob Cameron, Amy Goldschlager (filling in as ticket-taker for Barbara), Stuart Hellinger, Karen Heuler, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Lissanne Lake, Gordon Linzner, James and Susan Ratisher Ryan (the readings were thematically perfect for them, Jewish and Irish), and Terence Taylor. Afterward, there was schmoozing, and some adjourned to the Café.
And because it was Groundhog Day, the same things happened all over again.