By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 29th Season with the stellar line-up of Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in, of all places, Brooklyn.
The event opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience back after the summer hiatus. For a while now, the Readings have streamed on Livestream, however, due to a difficulty, tonight’s wouldn’t be – we were on Facebook Live! (Livestream will be back in October.) He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away), and reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon page. He concluded by announcing future readers: on Monday, October 14th, guest host Michael J. DeLuca will present readers from Reckoning, including Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen and Brian Francis Slattery. On Tuesday, November 5th (Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others “reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.)
Gregory Feeley, the evening’s first reader, describes himself as a writer of and about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine and Kentauros, “a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth.” He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician. (In addition, he is Thomas M. Disch’s literary executor for prose, and was part of the Series’ tribute to Disch last year.) He read the first half of “Cloudborn,” which also draws from Greek myth. (Despite my childhood reading of Greek mythology, not to mention watching Mighty Hercules cartoons – his sidekick, recall, was a centaur – I was unaware that “cloudborn” was an epithet for centaurs; as their genesis involved two separate instances by Itzion of cross-species copulation, this omission is understandable.) The story centers on children aboard a spaceship very slowly heading toward Neptune to terraform and settle it; there are, of course, secrets being kept from them. The girl Asia, it should be noted, is very into Greek mythology.
During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of Kentauros and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. I was asked to draw the tickets; no surprise, and despite the small number of raffle tickets, the winning numbers were one immediately before and one immediately after mine.
Michael Swanwick, the evening’s final reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix and the recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years. (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) The Iron Dragon’s Mother, from which he read, completes “a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.”
Caitlin, of House Sans Merci, a dragon pilot, after a hard landing, is immediately arrested when she returns to her base, and charged with corruption, a wide-ranging crime. It’s quickly evident that the trial is rigged (her virginity is denied), so she escapes on a Kawasaki and attempts to get answers from a dragon committing perjury against her. As Swanwick’s reading selection breaks off, she discovers that she has the mind of a dying old woman in her head.
The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of about 20 – we were mystified by the size of the turnout (but what there was, “was cherce”) – included Alan Beck, Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Marianne Porter, Hildy Silverman and Henry Wessels. The Café closed early.