The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?
I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….
You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?
Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.
(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.
Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?
I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.
The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.
The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.
I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.
(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.
We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.
…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.
We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.
(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.
…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders. The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting. Each complex case is split into two parts: the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…
…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves. These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace. The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered. Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods. Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.
(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.
… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.
I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….
(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:
…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….
And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.
(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.
This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.
Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.
You can find the issue here:
(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:
The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)
The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.
The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.
(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.
Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….
Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff. Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent. It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born April 12, 1884 — Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE)
- Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb. Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam. Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7. Kaymar and Rebel service awards. (Died 1981) [JH]
- Born April 12, 1915 — Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’ He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE)
- Born April 12, 1921 — Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE)
- Born April 12, 1936 — Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission Impossible, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, Tales of The Golden Monkey, The Incredible Hulk Returns, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Deep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE)
- Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy. Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69. Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF. Seven novels, a score of shorter stories. Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work? [JH]
- Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63. Canadian living in Los Angeles. Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy). Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only). [JH]
- Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53. Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report. Chaired SFContario 4-5. Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII. [JH]
- Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52. Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof). Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms. Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
- Born April 12, 1979 — Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE)
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.
(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:
… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.
Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling….
(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.
…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.
“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”
(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.
…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.
Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.
At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.
There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition….
(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.
Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr Books. Mike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.
For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.
And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…
(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.
You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?
Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.
(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds” – Yahoo! News has the story.
Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.
Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.
But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.
Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien: Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”
[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]