Pixel Scroll 5/9/19 Get Your Clicks On Scroll 6-6-6!

(1) DEALING WITH DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. Chuck Wendig, who doesn’t want people using social media to shove their negative reviews of his work in his face – point taken – goes on to make an unconvincing distinction between customer complaints about his fiction and everything else: “Hi, Definitely Don’t Tag Authors In Your Negative Reviews Of Their Books”.

…You might note also that negative reviews are one of the ways we communicate with creators of products and arbiters of service in order to improve the quality of that product or that service — which is true! If someone at American Airlines shits in my bag, I’m gonna say something on Twitter, and I’m going to say it to American Airlines. If the dishwasher I bought was full of ants, you bet I’m going to tag GE in that biz when I go to Twitter. But books are not dishwashers or airlines. You can’t improve what happened. It’s out there. The book exists. You can’t fix it now. And art isn’t a busted on-switch, or a broken door, or a poopy carryon bag, or an ant-filled dishwasher….

(2) THE PERIPHERALS WHISPERER. Ursula Vernon has many talents – this is another one.

(3) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Simon Strantzas and Kai Ashante Wilson on Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is the author of five collections of short fiction, including Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), and is editor of the award-winning Aickman’s Heirs and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3. His fiction has appeared in numerous annual best-of anthologies, in venues such as Nightmare, Postscripts, and Cemetery Dance, and has been nominated for both the British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.

Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson won the Crawford award for best first novel of 2016, and his works have been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. Most of his stories are available on Tor.com. His novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey may be ordered from local bookstores or online. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.

(4) FAT ISSUES IN ENDGAME? Adam-Troy Castro rejects complaints about Thor’s character in Avengers: Endgame. Beware Spoilers.

I am a fat guy. I will likely always be a fat guy.

Fat Thor is not fat-shaming.

Fat Thor is character humor: the man has given up. Tony Stark went in one direction, the Odinson went in another. He’s a binge-drinking, binge-eating, emotionally fragile shell of himself, and while some of the other characters make unkind (and, dammit, funny) remarks, it is his diminishment and not his enlargement that is the source of the humor.

Sure, bloody explain it to me now.

I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Fvck you, I’m a fat guy. I do know, I do understand. I have been mocked for my weight, sometimes viciously. I know it all.

(I haven’t personally encountered these complaints, I can only assume there must be some, else why Castro’s post.)

(5) JUNE SWOON. It’s 1964. the prozine pendulum is swinging, and apparently it’s getting away from Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus: “[May 8, 1964] Rough Patch (June 1964 Galaxy)”.

I think I’ve got a bad case of sibling rivalry.  When Victoria Silverwolf came onto the Journey, she took on the task of reviewing Fantastic, a magazine that was just pulling itself out of the doldrums.  My bailiwick consisted of Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, IF, and Galaxy, which constituted The Best that SF had to offer.

Ah for those halcyon days.  Now Fantastic is showcasing fabulous Leiber, Moorcock, and Le Guin.  Moreover, Vic has added the superlative Worlds of Tomorrow to her beat.  What have I got?  Analog is drab and dry, Avram Davidson has careened F&SF to the ground, IF is inconsistent, and Galaxy…ah, my poor, once beloved Galaxy

(6) TERRAIN TERROR. Laird Barron now writes crime novels set in Alaska.  But he used to be a horror writer, and “In Noir, Geography Is a Character” on CrimeReads, Barron has anecdotes about Michael Shea and the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose.

…A decade ago, bound for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I stared out the window of a light commercial plane swooping in low over the Central Valley. Low enough I made out details of oak trees covering big hills and the rusty check patterns of the yards of individual homes. Country roads radiated like nerves from a plexus. Cars crawled along those snaking roads through golden dust. The rumpled land subtly descended toward the haze of the Pacific. I realized this was where Michael Shea got his flavor. This “obvious” revelation slapped me in the face.

Michael left us too soon five years later in 2014. His memory looms large in the weird fiction and horror fields as the man who wrote the landmark collection Polyphemus. A deep vein of mystery and noir travels through his work, grounding the fantastical tropes. I’d read him since my latter teens, absorbing the unique cadence of his prose without giving conscious thought to how echoes of the natural world inflected his grimiest urban settings, how the superstructures and sprawl of his version of LA and San Francisco were influenced by the ancient earth they occupy….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

This was a big date in sff history.

May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered.

May 9, 1986 Short Circuit debuted in theatres.

May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element arrived in movie houses.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn was the pen name of Philip Klass. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 68. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 40. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) INTERZONE BEGINS. SFFDirect downloads the history of a famed sf magazine from one of the founders: “Early years of Interzone, told by Co-Ed Simon Ounsley”.

In 1981, Eastercon was held in Leeds. Four attendees were David Pringle, Simon Ounsley, Alan Dorey (then chairman of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA)) and Graham James. David Pringle was a co-chairman of the convention and Simon Ounsley was assisting with the finances. The convention made a profit of £1,300, which Simon states was completely unintentional and purely down to cautious budgeting. At Graham James’ suggestion, the committee agreed to use the money to launch an SF magazine. Simon recalls how controversial this decision was at the time, but in any event, the four men teamed up to start a magazine.

At the same time, four friends in London were also trying to get an SF magazine off the ground. They were Malcolm Edwards, who worked for SF publisher Gollancz, and SF critics John Clute, Colin Greenland, and Roz Kaveney. They had asked the BSFA if they would publish the magazine and it had declined. However, Alan made David aware of the London proposal and the two groups got together.

As Simon says, this was an ideal match because the Leeds contingent had the money and the London team had the connections. The name of the magazine was suggested by David. It was an imaginary city in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch

(11) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. Stephen Colbert helped fans get a head start watching the new biopic: “Stephen Colbert Hosts First ‘Tolkien’ Screening With Cast and Director” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Moviegoers across the country were able to see Tolkien ahead of its release this Friday, along with a Q&A moderated by Lord of the Rings super-fan Stephen Colbert, even if they weren’t at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey on Tuesday for the first-ever screening of the movie.

The panel, featuring the Fox Searchlight film’s stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins with director Dome Karukoski, was simulcast to select theaters following special screenings. In Montclair, Karukoski revealed what goes into a film like Tolkien, which chronicles the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as he forms friendships, goes to war and falls in love….

To close out the Q&A, Colbert praised Karukoski’s efforts and Tolkien itself. “Thank you for the film you created. It reminds me of the power of story, and how it can give us hope,” the late-night host said before citing one of Tolkien’s quotes from The Return of the King: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Continued Colbert, “I cried many times watching this film, and I want to thank you for those tears of pain and of those tears of joy and thank you for what you have given me of his [Tolkien’s] life and for your beautiful performances.”

(12) CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE. “Australia’s A$50 note misspells responsibility” – time to get the appertainment flowing Down Under.

Australia’s latest A$50 note comes with a big blunder hidden in the small print – a somewhat embarrassing typo.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) spelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty” on millions of the new yellow notes.

The RBA confirmed the typo on Thursday and said the error would be fixed in future print runs.

But for now, around 46 million of the new notes are in use across the country.

The bills were released late last year and feature Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

What looks like a lawn in the background of Ms Cowan’s portrait is in fact rows of text – a quotation from her first speech to parliament.

(13) HEAVY METAL. Alas behind a paywall at Nature: “Collapsars  forming black holes as a major source of galaxy’s heavy elements” [PDF file]. Here scientists report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks (in black hole formation) yield sufficient heavy elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe.

Although these supernovae are rarer than neutronstar mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process heavy element content of the Universe.

(14) HE CALLED FOR HIS BOWL. BBC calls “Southend burial site ‘UK’s answer to Tutankhamun'”.

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their “best guess” is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend on permanent display for the first time.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were “astounded” to find the burial chamber intact.

(15) STAR BLECCH. Matt Keeley encounters one of the earliest Star Trek parodies while revisiting a Sixties issue of MAD: “Not Just a Classic Issue, MAD #115 (December 1967) Predicted the Future”.

…Mort Drucker’s art is exquisite as always, and DeBartolo’s writing is top notch, loaded with puns and hilarious jokes. (Spook: “That’s what your MIND says! What does your HEART say?” Kook: “Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat — just like everybody else’s!”) But one of the most interesting things about this parody is the way the story wraps up — the solution is for the Boobyprize to reverse orbit and go back in time. You might recognize this plot device from the first Superman movie. Somehow DeBartolo ripped it off, despite “Star Blecch” coming out 11 years before the film.

(16) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MARVEL. Nerds of a Feather panelists Adri Joy, Mike N., Phoebe Wagner, and Vance K assemble for a “Review Roundtable: Avengers: Endgame”.

Today I’ve gathered Brian, Mike, Phoebe and Vance to chat about our Endgame reactions: what made us punch the air in glee and what had us sliding down in our seats in frustration. Needless to say, all the spoilers are ahead and you really shouldn’t be here unless you’ve had a chance to see the movie first.

Adri: So, Endgame! That was fun. Even more fun than I expected after, you know, all the dead people and the feelings about them.

Brian: First impressions are that I thought this was a great conclusion to all of the movies that came before it. The MCU could stop here (it won’t, but it could) and I would be completely satisfied.

Vance: The woman seated next to me — and I’ve never experienced this in a movie theater — started taking deep, centering breaths the moment the lights went down. And I love her for it. Infinity War was a gauntlet for fans, yet she was there opening day for whatever came next, no matter how gutting. Turned out the movie was a lot of fanservice, so she made it through. As did I!

(17) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. (If you see that sign, it won’t lead you to a fabulous new alien, I guarantee!) The LA Times tries to find out — “After hyping a $1-billion Star Wars land, how does Disney get visitors to leave?”

…Once a time window expires, park employees dressed as “Star Wars” characters will politely tell parkgoers that they need to leave the land to make way for new visitors.

Disneyland representatives say they expect that most guests will abide by the courteous directions to move on. But they remain mum about what will happen if guests ignore the requests.

“Four hours is a long time in the land,” said Kris Theiler, vice president of the Disneyland Park. “Most guests are going to find that they’re ready to roll after four hours.”

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2018 James White Award

The winner of the 2018 James White Award is:

  • “Two Worlds Apart” by Dustin Blair Steinacker

The winning story was selected by judges Anne Charnock, RJ Barker and Una McCormack.

The winner receives £200 and publication of the story in Interzone.

The judges also awarded a special commendation to:

  • “A Sip of Pombé” by Gustavo Bondoni

RJ Barker, author of Age of Assassins, praised the winning story:

A short story is a hard thing to write. You have to establish a a realistic and believable character in a very short space of time to carry it (sometimes I struggle to do this with a whole novel at hand). Then of course you have to tell a satisfying, and self-contained, story. An SFF short story is an even harder thing to write because you not only have to do all of the above but you have to establish a world with rules and structure and make the reader buy into it. ‘Two Worlds Apart’ does that brilliantly.

Life springing up on a planet with no sun that just wanders the galaxy? Is that even possible or likely? Probably not, I reckon, when you start thinking about radiation and meteors and all that science stuff. But did I ever question it in this story? No. Not for a moment. It absolutely sold its premise and ideas and I flew through it with a real sense of wonder at the alien-ness of it all, it felt like something new – and that is a beautiful thing to happen. More than that, the story itself left me with a sense of hope and real feeling that in the end people are worthwhile and I think, in a time when the news cycle is increasingly grim, that’s an important message to be putting across. A worthy winner in among a set of stories that showed some real talent at work and were a pleasure to judge.

And Anne Charnock added:

A tightly written story with well-drawn characters, ‘Two Worlds Apart’ poses profound questions about what it is to be a species. Earth hopes to join a Consortium of species and, as a test, a group of human emissaries aided by a Consortium facilitator – an augmented insectoid – is attempting first contact with the Tarshach. The Tarshach face extinction, their energy resources close to depletion. But will they accept help? Why do the Tarshach repeatedly ask “What is expected of us?” A fascinating glimpse into the imagined cultural differences between intelligent species, the inevitability of good intentions lost in translation.

Una McCormack said about runner-up, Gustavo Bondoni’s “A Sip of Pombé”:

Our world at the moment seems to have turned inwards, away from the stars and the promise of the stars, becoming lost in divisions and threat. ‘A Sip of Pombé’, which concerns an illicit Ugandan mission to Mars, shows us how humanity can be audacious and strive towards a better future. It reminds us that if we are to have such a future, it must be found together. A fine story within an excellent set of short stories.

The other shortlisted stories in this year’s competition were:

  • “Imago” by Matthew Eeles
  • “Ms. Höffern Stays Abreast of the News” by Sarah Pauling
  • “My Fault” by Sarah Palmer
  • “The Big I Am” by E.M Faulds

Award administrator Martin McGrath said the 2019 James White Award will open to entries in October.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

2018 James White Award Longlist

The 2018 James White Award longlist was announced July 6.

The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. In addition, this year’s prize is £200.

The competition received 312 valid entries, and 29 stories made it to the second stage of judging. Because the stories are judged anonymously, only the titles have been released:

  • A Long Way From Home
  • A Sip of Pombé
  • Amalus and the Automatons
  • Androids for the Elderly
  • Blood, Bone, Feather
  • By the Boiler’s Hand
  • Deliver Us
  • Dimensions
  • For the Love of AI
  • Ghost in the War Machine
  • Halfway Human
  • How Grady Lost Andraya
  • Imago
  • In Communion with the Invisible Flock
  • Inheritance
  • Insert
  • Ms Hofferen Stays Abreast of the News
  • My Fault
  • New Instruments
  • Sky Burial
  • Suburban Twilight
  • The Big I AM
  • The Gift That Keeps on Taking
  • The Human Condition
  • The Malfunctioning Heart
  • The Snowstorm
  • Transaction
  • Two Worlds Apart
  • Waiting for the Winter

The judges for the final stage of the competition will be announced in weeks to come. The winning story is scheduled to be chosen by the end of July

Alan Dorey (1958-2017)

Alan Dorey

Alan Dorey, a major figure in British sf fandom since the late Seventies, died July 24. The cause was not announced.

Dorey was one of eight co-editors who started Interzone magazine in 1982, along with John Clute, Malcolm Edwards, Colin Greenland, Graham James, Roz Kaveney, Simon Ounsley and David Pringle. (Dorey left Interzone after issue 10.)

He first became active in fandom while attending Leeds University in the late Seventies. He co-founded the Surrey Limpwrists (a local club near his hometown), worked on the Eastercon committee, and was elected Chairman of the BSFA, all in 1979. He continued as BSFA chair until 1985. During that span he also wrote a lot of columns and reviews for BSFA’s fanzines Matrix and Vector.

His own fanzines included Black Hole for the Leeds University sf club, Gross Encounters, and Sirius (with Mike Dickinson).

His fanpublishing resume did not include the first issue of Another Bloody Fanzine (1979), although he and Joseph Nicholas shared the masthead. As Rob Hansen explains in his British fanhistory, THEN:

For some months, Alan Dorey and Joseph Nicholas had been telling everyone of their intention to puiblish a fan zine of that name that would be devoted to killer fanzine reviews to end all killer fanzine reviews, so when ABF 0 dropped onto their doormats most assumed it was the much awaited thunderbolt….

The hoax penned by David Langford and Kevin Smith caused at least as much of an uproar as had been promised by the real editors, and when Nicholas and Dorey did in fact put out an issue by that title in late 1979 it was almost anticlimactic.

Dorey’s fanac tailed off in the 1990s but in 2012 he revived Gross Encounters where he explained:

The late 1990s saw my activity increasingly head towards the back burner, taking its place amongst a host of other projects that sat there gently simmering away. I can’t quite place my finger on the exact moment, but sometime between 1998 and the fuss over the new millennium, the shilling in the meter must have run out and the burner flickered no more.

By then his real passion was his radio show. Dorey’s first experience in radio came decades ago at BBC Radio Manchester. He wrote book reviews and discussed them on air with the show’s host, Briony Barton. Since 2006 he had been a presenter and DJ at Forest FM, where his show was called “Music Box.” Dorey described it this way –

The show runs to a loose format which can be summed up as “old, New, Borrowed, Blues” . It’s a simple formula, but it works and it ensures that there’s always plenty of new music as well as older sounds and a mix of genres. There’s a handy little phrase in putting a show together—”hammocking”: this is the process of bookending segments with more familiar music so that casual listeners aren’t put off with too much new and unfamiliar music.

Today many listeners have left messages on his Facebook page praising his openness to new music and support for local artists.

Dorey is survived by his wife, Rochelle, and their children.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Steven H Silver for the story.]

2017 James White Award Winner

The winner of the 2017 James White Award is “The Morrigan” by Stewart Horn. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

Commenting on the winning story on behalf of the judging panel, David Gullen said:

The Morrigan works very well, a very tight piece of writing, confident and accomplished. It breaks the rule on colloquial speech and not only makes it work but is stronger for it. An original take on a very old tale with good pace, and sense of time and place.

Horn’s story wins £200 and will be published in a future issue of Interzone.

The judges also chose to give a special commendation to “May the Pain Guide You Home” by Daniel Roy. Award Adminstrator Martin McGrath said, “Daniel’s story scored highly with all the judges, it packs a powerful emotional punch in a well-written and tightly told story.”

The winning story was chosen from a field of almost 200 entrants this year.

 

The judges were Lorna Gibb, David Gullen, and Konrad Waleski.

[Thanks to  Mark-kitteh for the story.]

2017 James White Award Finalists

The judges’ shortlist for the 2017 James White Award was announced on June 18. The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

The stories on this year’s shortlist are:

  • “Don” – Steve Dubois
  • “May the Pain Guide You Home” – Daniel Roy
  • “The Morrigan” – Stewart Horn
  • “Skin and Bone” – Beth Plutchak
  • “The Cut” – Elsie WK Donald
  • “The Dying Glass” – Cameron Johnston

The winner will be announced next week.

The judges are:

  • Lorna Gibb

Lorna is a novelist, short story and non fiction writer. She has published two biographies, Lady Hester (Faber 2005), the Sperber shortlisted West’s World (Pan Mac 2012) and the critically acclaimed novel A Ghost’s Story (Granta 2015), as well as short fiction for literary magazines and radio broadcast and the award winning memoir, ‘The Two Gardens’.

  • David Gullen

David is a white African writer whose short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies. His work has won the British Fantasy Society short story competition and his collection, Open Waters, is published by Exaggerated Press. In 2016 he was also a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. His SF novel, Shopocalypse, is due to be re-issued by NewCon Press this summer.

  • Konrad Waleski

Editor, writer, anthologist, literary critic and translator, Konrad is a prominent figure in the Polish sff scene. He is co-founder of, and editor for, the Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy in Poland. He has translated works such as Synners by Pat Cadigan and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link and his anthologies include three volumes of Kroki w nieznane (Steps into the Unknown) and Wielkie dzie?o czasu (Great Work of Time).

[Thanks to  Mark-kitteh for the story.]

2017 James White Award Taking Entries

The James White Award Short Story Competition is accepting entries through Friday, January 20.

The award was established in 2000 and offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

It is open to writers of any age and nationality, but it is not open to professional authors. For purposes of the award, a “professional author” is defined as one who is eligible for active membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America – that is a writer with three short story sales to qualifying markets or one novel sale to a qualifying market.

Entries should be previously unpublished stories no longer than 6,000 words, written in English. Stories are judged anonymously, with no names on the manuscripts. Complete submission guidelines are on the award’s Rules page.

The winner will be announced during Innominate, Eastercon 2017 – April 14-17 in Birmingham, UK.

 [Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Jason Sanford and the Appeal of Sci-Fi Strange

“Few SF/fantasy writers generate a buzz through short fiction alone, but Jason Sanford is an exception. Over the past few years, he’s created a growing fan base through his brand of modern speculative fiction, something he called ‘SF Strange.”  –  Jeff VanderMeer

Interzone devoted a special issue exclusively to Jason Sanford’s stories.  In this interview, he delves into the nature and influences of sci-fi strange.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Define “sci-fi strange.”

Jason Sanford

Jason Sanford

JASON SANFORD:  I started using the term a few years ago after David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer described one of my stories as “new weird SF.” That comment tickled me since I’ve long been a fan of the New Weird movement, with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville ranking among my favorite fantasy writers. But the comment also set me to thinking about the science fiction authors who excited me the most. I wondered if there was a trend here, decided there was, and eventually started calling it sci-fi strange.

To me, sci-fi strange stories exhibit well-crafted language, a strong sense of wonder, and reflect the truth of our multicultural world. Sci-fi strange stories cross back and forth across the boundaries of what is scientifically and realistically possible, often flirting with the fantasy genre. But these stories aren’t fantasy. Instead, they’re an updated version of the “literature of ideas” theme within the science fiction genre. I see sci-fi strange as science fiction for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.

CS:  What are the genre, story, and author influences for sci-fi strange?

JS:  A number of authors I love create what I’d call sci-fi strange, including Paolo Bacigalupi, Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Ted Chiang, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Rachel Swirsky, Lavie Tidhar and Caroline M. Yoachim, among many others.

I’d say Paolo Bacigalupi is the prototypical sci-fi strange author, as exhibited by many of his short stories along with novels like The Windup Girl. Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya continuity of short fiction is also very much sci-fi strange (there are many great stories in this series, including her novella On a Red Station, Drifting). Most of Ted Chiang’s fiction feels like sci-fi strange, as does Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station stories. I’d also place within sci-fi strange Nnedi Okorafor’s novella “Binti,” which is pure SF, and Who Fears Death, which actively blurs the lines between fantasy and SF in very exciting ways.

Who Fears Death actually ties in with an interesting point, which is that many of the authors I’ve named go back and forth between the science fiction and fantasy genres. For example, some of Ken Liu’s best short fiction is pure science fiction, yet his first novel is an epic fantasy. Makes me wonder if authors who defy being pegged down to a single genre with their writings are also people willing to defy the accepted tropes of science fiction.

CS:  Give us some examples of premises, plots, and characters for sci-fi strange.

My new novelette “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2016) features a world where bio-technology is embedded in all aspects of the environment, allowing the lands around us to communicate and protect themselves from harm. The story’s main character is Frere-Jones Roeder, a woman who “anchors” the land she lives in by being connected to the environment’s bio-technology and responding to the land’s needs and desires. A connection which, as Frere-Jones learns to her horror, can lead her to do truly horrific acts.

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” is grounded in science yet reads in many aspects like fantasy, such as through the inclusion of technology-created fairies. I believe this mixing of tropes creates a sense of wonder and a contemplation of ideas which (I hope) resonates with readers.

CS:  Does sci fi strange fit into the New Weird movement?

JS:  Can this be the part where I disavow everything I’ve previously said about sci-fi strange? I use the term to describe the type of SF I both write and enjoy reading, but it’s totally pretentious to try and name a new subgenre by one’s self. Whether or not sci-fi strange truly exists and is useful as a term is for other people to determine.

Damien G. Walter recently wrote an essay on the “8 Tribes of Sci-Fi”, which I highly recommend people read. His point is that there are multiple genres within science fiction and fantasy, which he calls communities and cultures, and that the genre will likely continue to break into these distinct subgroups for years to come. I both agree with his view of SF and see this fragmentation as a great thing. All the genres within SF contain multiple worlds and ideas and beliefs. There’s room for everything we love within the universe of speculative fiction.

In addition to sci-fi strange I also love space operas and dystopian SF and New Weird and countless other types of speculative fiction. But don’t pretend that these labels ever take the place of the stories themselves. Genres and subgenres exist to help readers and fans find stories which resonate with them. Nothing more or less than that.

So is sci-fi part of the New Weird? I’d say that’s a call for others to make. And if a term like sci-fi strange helps some people find stories they like, then more power to the term. And if it doesn’t then the term is beyond worthless.

CS:  Why do your stories connect with Interzone readers much more than other magazines?

JS:  I wouldn’t say my stories connect more with Interzone readers. Instead, I’d say my stories received their first big exposure thanks to Interzone and editors Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock (along with Jetse de Vries, who found my first Interzone story in their slush pile). Interzone has long been known as a magazine which takes chance on new writers and I’m thrilled they took one with me.

In regards to your question, I do find it amusing that my biggest exposure as an American SF writer was initially overseas. I’ve published more than a dozen stories in Interzone and have had my fiction reprinted in a number of languages, including Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Czech. I even write a monthly column for the Czech SF magazine XB-1. And most of that happened before I began publishing stories on a regular basis in the U.S.

But in the last few years I’ve found a readership in the U.S., with magazines like Asimov’s Science Fiction and Apex and Beneath Ceaseless Skies printing a number of my stories. These days most of my short fiction is first published in the U.S., followed by reprints and translations in other countries.

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CS:  In 2007, your career took an abrupt turn from literary to speculative.  What happened?

JS:  I’ve always been a science fiction fan. I grew up on science fiction, worshipped as a kid at the SF altar, and dreamed about one day being a SF author.

Yet I’ve also long been a fan of other types of fiction—in particular Southern Literature with its beautiful cadences and tragic themes and magic realism form of storytelling. I can still remember where I was when I first read stories by William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy and so many others.

Because I grew up in the American South and love Southern Literature I’ve also written within that genre, and even founded a literary magazine called storySouth which focused on the genre. But I eventually realized the best way to write the stories I needed to tell was by generally staying within the SF genre.

CS:  What’s the criteria for the Million Writers Award?  Who are the judges?

JS:  The Million Writers Award grew out of my work on storySouth, which was one of the earliest online literary journals. At that time many people ignored or put down online fiction. The award was an attempt to bring more exposure to authors publishing online.

Obviously the situation has changed in the 12 years since I started the award—now online and e-publishing are the equal of anything published in print, and actually bring in more readers in many cases.

I no longer run the Million Writers Award or publish storySouth. Spring Garden Press, a not-for-profit independent literary press located in Greensboro, North Carolina, now manages both the journal and the award. But the way the award works is that online editors and readers nominate their favorite stories each year. The only criteria is that the story must have been first published online. Then a group of judges pick the finalists and the general public votes on the overall winner.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Jason Sanford?

JS:  I’m completing work on a young adult SF novel which is very much sci-fi strange. I’ll begin submitting the completed novel to agents in the next few months.

I’m also writing a number of short stories. My novelette “Toppers”—which mixes together time travel with a weirdly strange version of New York City—will appear in the August 2016 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. This will be my fifth appearance in Asimov’s and I’m eager to see what readers think of the new story.

2016 James White Award

The winner of this year’s James White Award is “Rock, Paper, Incisors” by David Cleden.

The winner was announced during the BSFA Awards ceremony on March 26.

The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000 and offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading and longest established science fiction magazine.

The shortlisted stories were:

  • “Deadly Dance” – Trina Marie Phillips
  • “If Only Kissing Made It So” – Jason Kimble
  • “Let the Bells Ring Out” – Morgan Parks
  • “(Perhaps The Answer Is) That We Question At All” – Matt Dovey
  • “Wreckwalkers” – Jon Lasser
  • “Rock, Paper, Incisors” – David Cleden

The judges were Ruth EJ Boot, Ian Sales and Neil Williamson.