Mythic, Delirious Fantasy at NYRSF Readings

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at its venue, The Commons Café in Brooklyn  (just a half a mile from the railroad tracks), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, in a special event guest-hosted by Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium Books, presented two writers of new fantasy collections from the imprint, Theodora Goss and Barbara Krasnoff.

The “mythically delirious” (as opposed to magically delicious) evening opened with the customary welcome from Series producer/executive curator Jim Freund (who was wearing a nifty T-shirt “Make Orwell Fiction Again”), longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, cautioning us that we were streaming live via Livestream, reminding all that the Series is supported entirely by donations (the Readings are free, but there is a suggested contribution of $7), notifying us that books by the authors were for sale at the door, and announcing upcoming readings:

  • May 7th:  guest co-host Rob Cameron promises “happy surprises”
  • June 4th:  Katharine Duckett (“a queer month,” the 50th anniversary of Stonewall) and TBA
  • July 2nd:  Sam J. Miller (his book is coming out that month) and TBA

(All dates are the first Tuesday of the month.) On a sad note, Freund informed any who hadn’t yet heard that Vonda N. McIntyre had died the day before (April 1st); she was, he said, incredibly influential in the genre and that “you know her even if you don’t know her.” (On a personal note, I met her at Lunacon 1994, at which she was Guest of Honor and I ran Program.) Finally, he introduced the evening’s emcee – noting that it was just about the third anniversary of his previous stint, a launch party for Clockwork Phoenix 5 – and turned hosting duties over to Mike Allen.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen is a Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and winner of three Rhysling Awards for poetry, the author of several poetry collections, the novel The Black Fire Concerto, (2013) and the short story collections Unseaming, The Spider Tapestries and the forthcoming Aftermath of an Industrial Accident; the editor of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies (there may yet be a #6); and, with his wife Anita, publisher of Mythic Delirium Books. (He “wears many creative hats, and at least one of them, tailor-made by Anita, features a large bejeweled spider.”)

Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss (Dora to her friends) is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting; Interfictions, a short story anthology co-edited with Delia Sherman; The Thorn and the Blossom, “a novella in a two-sided accordion format;” and the novels The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman , winner of the Lord Ruthven Award for vampire fiction. (The third book in her Athena Club trilogy, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, comes out in October.) She has also been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List.

Her offering was from her newest collection of poetry and fiction, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, just released by Mythic Delirium Books, eight stories and twenty-three poems that “retell and recast fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde, in ways that re-center and empower the women at the hearts of these timeless narratives.” She began with the first poem in the volume, and the one that gave it its title, “Snow White Learns Witchcraft.” Set long after the “happily ever after,” the prince-later-king has passed on, her beauty is fading (her hair is now snow white) and all said and done, she has no (or at least few) regrets.

The short story “Conversations with the Sea Witch” was also a decades-later follow-up to a fairy tale. Now old, and the dowager queen, Melusine (not Ariel) of the sea folk (they’re mammalian, not piscine), who had traded her “song” to the sea witch for legs – legs too weak to support “the crippled girl” – and giving up 500 years of life in the sea for one human lifespan, chats and reminisces at the edge of the sea with her old adversary; over all, she has no regrets. “Mirror, Mirror,” the final poem in the book, presented yet a different take on the post-tale Snow White.

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing for those who’d donated with the prizes being two sets of books from Mythic Delirium. Resuming the “evening of literal magic,” Allen introduced the second reader.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff, a very familiar face at the NYRSF Readings, is the author of short fiction that has appeared in about 35 venues including Amazing Stories, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Weird TalesSybil’s Garage, Space and TimeCrossed Genres, and Clockwork Phoenix, as well as the author of a YA non-fiction book, Robots: Reel to Real, and currently Reviews Editor for The Verge. In addition, every weekday morning, she “investigates what the animals and objects in our world are really thinking” in her whimsical and delightful Backstories series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#theirbackstories).

Her debut novel The History of Soul 2065, out in June from Mythic Delirium Books, is actually a mosaic novel, a collection of twenty loosely interconnected tales. (It includes the 2016 Nebula finalist short story “Sabbath Wine,” which originally appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 5, edited by Mike Allen), and from which she read – evoking tears from some – at previous NYRSF Readings events.) She realized that the stories that had appeared “here and there” were, at heart, about “the same people with different names.” Accordingly, she shared the story that “introduces the two people, the young women, from whom the other characters come.” In “The Clearing in the Autumn: A Story of Chana Rivka Krasulka and Sophia Stein,” on the eve of World War I, the girls meet in a magical clearing (that may, according to Chana’s mother, be haunted by ghost children) that the brilliant Chana (who aspires to be a doctor) has entered from Lvov in Russia and the theatrical Sophia from Munich, and form a friendship as they together rescue an injured pigeon. War and Revolution are hard on the families of both girls and prevent future meetings. As her family is leaving for America, Chana reenters the clearing to say goodbye and finds a note in a jar from Sophia. (To those who read the book: take note of the photographs on the cover; they have personal meanings to Barbara and her partner Jim Freund.)

In conclusion, Allen said that he was “proud to be the conduit” of some of their fiction.

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books.

The crowd of about 60 included (to name a small few) Richard Bowes, C.S.E. Cooney, Madeline Flieger (handling tech), Amy Goldschlager (filling in as ticket-taker for Barbara), Karen Heuler, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, James Ryan and Susan Bratisher, and (Tech Director) Terence Taylor. Afterward, some stuck around to schmooze and/or adjourned to the Café.

Pixel Scroll 2/4/19 Like Pixels Through File 770, So Are The Scrolls Of Our Lives

(1) COVER REVEAL. Here is The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2019 cover. The cover art is by Kent Bash.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. The latest short story (and video adaptation) in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” series is “A Sun Will Always Sing,” by Karin Lowachee. (Video byYeah Haus.)

There’s also a Q&A: “Karin Lowachee on how humanity can peacefully coexist with AI” conducted by Andrew Liptak.

What inspired this story, and how did you construct this future?

I’d seen on YouTube a discussion from scientists about if an AI possessed an exact neural map of the human brain that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe that they would also be imbued with curiosity and maybe even a sense of responsibility for the Earth because now they, too, were a part of its systems. Around the same time, I stumbled on articles written by social scientists who believed that in taking care of certain economic necessities, humanity ideally could free up resources for creative problem-solving on the world scale and exploration.

These points of reference were really the general jumping-off points for me to try to logically extrapolate a human society that accommodated AIs (though not without some implied struggle) because the AIs were not, in fact, seeking a judgment day. They wanted to live and progress just as humans, and though their consciousness was not exact to humans, they were their own kind and just as worthy to be respected. We recognize this in intelligent animals, or even animals as a whole, so my thinking was it could be possible for AIs as well.

(3) WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. Max Florschutz offers advice about “Being a Better Writer: Garbage”. His ideas are far more realistic than J.K. Rowling’s.

Consider, for example, your trash. What happens to it? How do you dispose of it? Is it a garbage can next to your desk or in the kitchen? What happens to it once the can is full? Where does it go? Who deals with it? Do you know? Or does it simply “vanish?”

Well, here’s the thing. It definitely doesn’t vanish. Refuse is refuse: Someone has to do something with it or it piles up. Waste from your home, for example, at least in the US, is collected in a larger can and taken to the side of the road for a garbage truck to collect (99% of the time. The US’s coverage with this system is so ubiquitous that I’ve been to rural places where the only vehicle in town that isn’t a four-wheeler or a boat is the town garbage truck). That truck then takes it to a landfill or a processing center. At the first, the garbage is dumped out. At the second, it’s sorted and separated, usually with an end-goal in mind of dividing up the garbage into smaller, more dedicated end-states, from compost to recycling.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. Jim Freund asks, “Why waste your time with the State of the Union, when we have such a brilliant and more fulfilling alternative?”

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series resumes Tuesday, February 5.

Mimi Mondal (Bone Stew) writes about history and politics, occasionally disguised as fiction. Her first co-edited anthology, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler won a Locus Award and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2018. In the past Mimi has worked as an editor at Penguin India and Uncanny Magazine, and spent eleven years at universities in India, Scotland and the US, from which she is currently recovering in New York and at @Miminality on Twitter.

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and others. She has published four novels and a novella, and her fourth story collection has just been published by Tartarus Press.

The events begins at 7:00 p.m. in The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.) in Brooklyn, NY.

(5) FIVE STORIES IN ONE. Syfy Wire gets to Hogwarts by way of Korea: “Geek Road Trip: Harry Potter fans in South Korea just opened a five-story cafe devoted to the boy wizard”.

Once we get inside, we’re quickly pointed to the counter. The food and drink offerings here are relatively run-of-the-mill Seoul cafe classics: Americanos, various flavored lattes and milk teas, and fruity adeS. On the menu, they promise chocolate wands are coming soon, and on select days there’s Butterbeer. Dessert-wise there’s a selection of cakes, none of which are themed, save for one: the wizard cake, a mini replica of the birthday cake Hagrid brings to Harry. We ordered the wizard cake for a cool 17,000 Won (around $15), grabbed our pager, and began to explore.

And trust me, there’s a lot to explore. Everywhere you turn there’s a poster or a reference to something Harry Potter-esque. Quotes in English and Korean line the staircases along with posters and portraits. Even the elevator is fully decked out.

(6) NO CODE FOR THIS CONDUCT.  The infosec industry conference DerbyCon is calling it quits after this year. Their explanation sounds like “We’re closing down rather than resorting to enforcing our code of conduct.”

Read their announcement here: “DerbyCon 9.0 – Every Beginning Has an End”.

…This year, we had to handle issues that honestly, as an adult, we would never expect to have to handle from other adults. Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings. Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy. To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears.

This is not what we signed up for.

Admittedly, we had no idea how to handle this person, and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to “not upset the masses”. The best we could do was just apologize, for other apologies, and apologize more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle. We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media.

Who knows? What we do know is each year it gets harder and harder.

2019 will be our last year of DerbyCon.

Motherboard reports “Hackers Baselessly Blame Women and ‘SJWs’ for the End of DerbyCon Security Conference”.

…Some in the infosec community read the organizers’ statement and began to blame the shutdown on “Social Justice Warriors,” and women who complained too much. For example, far right blog Gateway Pundit pointed to an incident where an attendee complained that other attendees were joking about sexual assault outside of the conference’s Mental Health Village. Others on Twitter latched on to the rumor that “SJWs” killed DerbyCon.

Regardless of the reason for the conference’s cancellation, the announcement renewed a conversation about toxicity in the infosec community that has been taking place in earnest since at least 2017 (and in smaller circles before then), when the Verge reported on chat logs from well-known security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire, in which he confessed to a series of sexual assaults; the Verge and VICE corroborated that reporting with multiple women who have knowledge of the assaults.

While some women in the cybersecurity world were discussing the toxic interactions, sexual harassment, and assaults they’ve faced in the infosec community, members of a popular closed Facebook hacking group called “illmob” began to attack women who have spoken up about these issues, including Georgia Weidman, a security researcher who recently tweeted that her career was hurt by attending and speaking at DerbyCon in 2013….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Riddley Walker may well be one of the most difficult novels I’ve ever read but it’s certainly also worth it. ISFDB lists a lot of other SF works by him but I must say I hadn’t realised that he’d written any beyond this work. Had any of you known this? (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 79. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes. Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 58. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of ten thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). He’s the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1970 Gabrielle Anwar, 49. Currently Lady Tremaine on Once Upon a Time. On the BBC series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she once played Ramandu’s Daughter. Marti Malone in Body Snatchers which is the third film adaptation of that Finney novel.  She was Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers which I love and Emily Davenport in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Patriotic Ewoks will shed a tear over this Brevity.

(9) STAR TREK: RENT. On The Late Late Show With James Corden, the cast of Star Trek: Discovery leaves the bridge for this week’s episode of Carpool Karaoke. Sing along with Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman. Complete show is accessible through an Apple app.

There’s another preview on Twitter.

(10) WORLDCON ECONOMICS. Persistent Scribble tasks an unnamed author who feels the Worldcon should give them a free membership. Thread starts here.  

(11) VAMPING IT UP. What We Do in the Shadows, from writer Jemaine Clement and director Taika Waititi, premieres March 27 on FX.

What We Do in the Shadows is a half-hour comedy series based on the feature film of the same name by co-creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Set in New York City, the show follows three vampires who have been roommates for hundreds and hundreds of years. Stars Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch.

(11) Y? Y NOT? The Hollywood Reporter has posted that, “‘Y: The Last Man’ Ordered to Series at FX.” Much of the cast had been announced as early as mid 2018 (The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Y: The Last Man’ FX Cast Unveiled, Diane Lane and Barry Keoghan to Star”), but FX has now definitized the series order.

File this under “years in the making.”

Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved comic series Y: The Last Man is finally coming to a screen. FX on Monday announced that it has picked up its TV adaptation to series. The network has handed out a series order for the drama from showrunner Michael Green and starring Barry Keoghan and Diane Lane. It is expected to premiere in 2020.

[…] Green (American GodsBlade Runner 2049Logan) and Aïda Mashaka Croal (Luke CageTurn) serve as showrunners and executive producers. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force (American Crime StoryPoseThe Hunger Games) and Vaughan executive produce and developed the series. Melina Matsoukas (InsecureMaster of NoneBeyonce: Formation) directed the pilot and exec produce the FX Productions drama. In addition to Keoghan and Lane, the cast also includes Amber TamblynImogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield and Marin Ireland.

(12) BLUER MARBLE. BBC story says “Climate change: Blue planet will get even bluer as Earth warms”.

Rising temperatures will change the colour of the world’s oceans, making them more blue in the coming decades say scientists.

They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light.

Scientists say there will be less of them in the waters in the decades to come.

This will drive a colour change in more than 50% of the world’s seas by 2100.

(13) AS EASY AS A. Chip Hitchcock says BBC’s article “How easy will it be to build a Moon base” is an “interesting overview despite one huge error-of-fact.” (Can you spot it?)

How can astronauts build a lunar base if traditional building materials are too heavy to load into a rocket?

In 1975, three years after the final Apollo Moon landing, Space: 1999 first aired on British television. It began with a nuclear explosion wrenching the Moon, and an international lunar colony of over 300 people, out of its orbit and into an unknown journey into space.

The TV series obviously made an impression on a young Elon Musk because, when the SpaceX founder revealed their plans for a lunar colony in August 2017, he called it Moonbase Alpha after the lunar base in Space: 1999. “Cheesy show,” Musk tweeted, “but I loved it.”

SpaceX is not alone is wanting to get humans back on the Moon. The Chinese space agency CNSA (China National Space Administration) has announced the next stages of its successful Chang’e lunar exploration missions – shortly after Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e 5 and 6 will be sample return missions while Chang’e 7 will survey the South Pole, a region of specific interest for human habitation because it contains water ice. “We hope that Chang’e 8 will help test some technologies and do some exploring,” deputy head of the CNSA Wu Yanhua said in January, “for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.”

China is not alone in this ambition. Across the globe, 50 years after the Moon landings, the practicalities of a moonbase are taking shape. The irony is that, while only the United States of America has left footprints on the Moon, the Americans are now having to play catch up. It didn’t unveil plans for a permanent moonbase until August 2018. Nasa’s primary focus until then had been Mars. The European Space Agency (Esa) was already one step ahead.

(14) YARN V. GLASS CEILING. Pixar has a new short film that blurs the line between genre and a workplace dramedy (Mashable: “Pixar’s newest short ‘Purl’ is a must-watch for every workplace”).

Pixar’s new animation program SparkShorts has released its first short film, a powerful story about the difficulty of fitting into a workplace of human males. 

“Purl” might be about a pink ball of yarn, but its title character adopts new behaviors and aggression to be one of the boys, a transparent allegory for women trying to break the glass ceiling in corporate culture.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to ULTRAGOTHA.)

A Celebration of Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10th Anniversary Will Begin NYRSF Readings Season

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series kicks off its 28th season on October 2 with an evening devoted to the 10th anniversary of online sff magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

In ten years, BCS has published over 550 stories and 225 audio podcasts; the magazine or its stories have been finalists for seven Hugo Awards, nine World Fantasy Awards, three Nebula Awards, and numerous other short fiction, magazine, and podcast awards.

The evening’s host will be Scott H. Andrews. Featured authors will be: Fran Wilde, Martin Cahill, Seth Dickinson, Jonathan Edelstein, Rose Lemberg (read by C.S.E. Cooney), & Aliette de Bodard (read by Scott H. Andrews)


Scott H. Andrews

Scott H. Andrews

Scott H. Andrews is a writer, editor, chemistry lecturer, musician, woodworker, and connoisseur of stouts. His literary short fiction has won a $1,000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales and in On Spec. He is editor-in-chief and publisher of the four-time Hugo Award-finalist fantasy e-zine Beneath Ceaseless Skies and its five-time Parsec Award finalist podcast. Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, 11 guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world.

 

 


Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde. Photo by Bryan Derballa

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. She can also tie a bunch of sailing knots, set gemstones, and program digital minions. Her novels and short stories have been finalists for three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, and two Hugo Awards, and include her Andre Norton- and Compton-Crook-winning debut novel Updraft, its sequels Cloudbound, and Horizon, and the Nebula-, Hugo-, and Locus-nominated novelette The Jewel and Her Lapidary. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Nature, and the 2017 Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. Her poetry has appeared in The Marlboro Review, Articulate, and Poetry Baltimore. She holds an MFA in poetry and an MA in information architecture and interaction design. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at FranWilde.net.


Martin Cahill

Martin Cahil

Martin Cahill is a writer working in Manhattan and living in Astoria, Queens. He is a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop and a member of the New York City based writing group, Altered Fluid. He has had fiction published in Fireside Fiction, Nightmare, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, and Lightspeed. Martin also writes non-fiction reviews, articles, and essays for Book Riot, Tor.com, the Barnes & Noble Sci-fi and Fantasy Blog, and Strange Horizons.

 


Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s debut novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant (2015), a hard fantasy expansion of a 2011 short story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, is about a brilliant young woman who sets out to gain power to subvert an empire from within. It won praise from Publishers Weekly and NPR, and its sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, is forthcoming in October 2018. Seth’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and nearly every other major science fiction and fantasy market. He’s a lapsed student of social neuroscience, where he studied the role of racial bias in police shootings, and the writer of much of the lore and fictional flavor for Bungie Studios’ smash hit Destiny. In his spare time he works on the collaborative space opera Blue Planet: War in Heaven.


Jonathan Edelstein

Jonathan Edelstein is forty-six years old, married with cat, and living in New York City. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Lacuna Journal, and multiple times in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he blogs occasionally at haibane.info/author/jonnaomi/. He counts Ursula Le Guin and Bernard Cornwell among his inspirations, and when he isn’t writing, he practices law and hopes someday to get it right.


Rose Lemberg

Rose Lemberg

Rose Lemberg is a queer immigrant from Eastern Europe. Their work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Interfictions, Uncanny, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, and multiple times in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among other venues, and their story “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies was a finalist for the Nebula Awards. Rose co-edits Stone Telling, a magazine of boundary-crossing poetry, with Shweta Narayan. They have edited Here, We Cross, an anthology of queer and gender-fluid speculative poetry from Stone Telling and The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poetry. You can find Rose at roselemberg.net and @roselemberg, including links to their page on Patreon, where they post about Birdverse, the world in which their BCS stories and others take place. Rose Lemberg’s work will be read by C.S.E. Cooney. 


C.S.E. Cooney

C.S.E. Cooney

C.S.E. Cooney is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, and author of World Fantasy Award-winning short fiction collection Bone Swans: Stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories which have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. Her space opera books include The Tea Master and the Detective, a murder mystery set on a space station in a Vietnamese Galactic empire and inspired by the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Recent works include the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist) and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns. Visit her at aliettedebodard.com for writing process and Franco-Vietnamese cooking. Aliette de Bodard’s work will be read by Scott H. Andrews.


Jim Freund is Producer and Executive Curator of The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings.

WHEN:
Tuesday, October 2nd
Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7

WHERE:
The Brooklyn Commons Café
388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.)

The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series provides performances from some of the best writers in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, etc.  The series usually takes place the first Tuesday of every month.

Mayday! NYRSF Readings Series Presents Jo Walton and Ilana C. Myer

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, May 1 – May Day – the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by fantasy writers Jo Walton and Ilana C. Myer at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, down the road apiece and third star to the left from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

(Mayday indeed. The Series’ original plans for May Day, a tentatively scheduled celebration of the life of Ama Paterson, fell through, but the two replacement readers were no mere consolation prize. The evening was a delight.)

In his introductory welcome (he thought of the day more as Beltane than as May Day), executive curator Jim Freund, host of  WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (which broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1-3 am), cautioned us that the event was being Livestreamed (so watch out) and asked all who could donate to donate (suggested amount $7), adding that WBAI (two floors above) was in a fundraising drive. He then announced upcoming events:

  • June 5 – A Tribute to Thomas M. Disch, with guest curator Henry Wessels, featuring Brendan Byrne, John Clute, Gregory Feeley, Elizabeth Hand, et al.
  • July – TBD
  • August 7 – A Launch Party/Reading for Sunspot Jungle, with guest curator Bill Campbell

June, he noted, marks 10 years since Disch’s final reading for the Series, a bare month before his death. Feeley, aside from his credentials as author and critic, is the executor of Disch’s estate. Campbell’s anthology was described by Freund as “bleeping [sic] massive.” June’s event would close out the Series’ 27th Season, with July and August as its Summer Season. Concluding, Freund introduced the evening’s first reader.

Journalist and cultural critic and reviewer (as Ilana Teitelbaum) Ilana C. Myer is the author of the novels Last Song Before Night and Fire Dance. She read from Fire Dance, which she described as a stand-alone sequel to Last Song Before Night, and a blend of Celtic myth and Middle Eastern magic, where poets/musicians have mystical/mental powers.

During the intermission, as traditional, a raffle was held for donors; the prizes were a copy of Fire Dance (Jim Ryan drew the tickets and, as it happened, the winner was his wife Susan – no collusion, no collusion!) and a copy of Starlings. Afterward, Freund introduced the second and final reader.

Jo Walton has published thirteen novels, among others the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Among Others; her fourteenth, Lent, is due out from Tor soon. She has also just published Starlings, a collection of short stories, poetry and a play. Additionally, her blog posts about older sf have been collected in a volume called What Makes This Book So Great, while An Informal History of the Hugos collects her blog posts about nominees and winners from 1953 to 2000. Walton has said that her plan is to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year; she noted that she has a good start this year.

With a mind to next month’s tribute to Disch, she began by reading her essay on his On Wings of Song from An Informal History of the Hugos. She described the work as “brilliant, depressing and hilarious … as if Dostoevsky and Douglas Adams had collaborated on the Great American Novel.” She then read an abundance of selections from Starlings, enlivened by her rich Welsh accent. (Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams may not like the birds, but she does.)

She began with the eponymous “Starlings,” a short serious poem, then shifted to the uproariously absurd “Remember the Allosaur,” in which Cedric, the titular theropod (he’s a clone), has had quite the Hollywood career, even winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Othello. In “Joyful and Triumphant: St. Zenobias and the Aliens,” a Christmas posting on LiveJournal, she addresses the question of what do people do in Heaven? There are a lot of planets out there, and human and alien saints, we are told, may manifest on each other’s world; the “lucky” ones don’t become patron saints, but are free to engage in “the Great Work,” worship. “At the Bottom of the Garden” was written when her son was that age. A little girl captures a fairy man and – well, Walton had “read one too many fairy flower books.”

In “Out of It,” a damned soul, John (as his wife’s name is Helen, we presume that his was originally Johann), is asked if his bargain with Mephistopheles (which has affected history for good and ill) was worth it or if he should renounce it. “Parable Lost” is a story that has “everything in the universe” – almost – and starts with a man (call him Adam) throwing jellyfish (which are and aren’t metaphorical) into the sea. Is he helping them or thwarting the Plan for them, and what should the woman (Eve) do?

“Dragon’s Song” was a poem about dragons as they appear in many ballads. She next turned to that modern incarnation of firebreathing dragons in her cycle of “Godzilla Sonnets”: “Godzilla vs. Shakespeare,” “Godzilla in Shakespeare,” “Godzilla Weeps for Baldur,” “Godzilla in Love” and “Godzilla at Colonus.” She concluded her readings with “Three Bears Norse,” the Goldilocks story retold as a Norse saga – the bears vow revenge against the despoiler of their home, beds and porridge.

Among those present in the audience of about 30 were Richard Bowes, Susan Bratisher, Madeline Flieger (video and tech ops), Amy Goldschlager, Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok and James Ryan. Throughout the evening and following the readings, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine. (Tip your barista!) As customary, the Jenna freebie table offered books.

Alternate History and Futurity, With Dragons and Samurai: NYSF Readings Feature Chris Claremont and Chandler Klang Smith

By Mark L. Blackman: On the rainy (though not snowy) evening of Tuesday, April 3, at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Downtownish Brooklyn, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series featured offerings from authors Chris Claremont and Chandler Klang Smith. The event was guest-hosted by Amy Goldschlager, an editor, proofreader, book/audiobook reviewer, and a past Curator of the Series.

Jim Freund, the Series’ Producer and Executive Curator, and the host of WBAI’s long-running Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, welcomed the audience and guests, cautioning again that the event was being Livestreamed. It was, he said the 50th anniversary of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it would be marked the next night on Hour of the Wolf (Wednesday night/Thursday morning, 1-3 am, WBAI, 99.5 FM). (He teased that the story that was Kubrick’s inspiration wasn’t “The Sentinel!”) Tonight, though, he went on, tongue firmly in cheek, was the viewing party for Legion (Season 2 was premiering at 10 pm on FX – Claremont’s X-Men stories are the source material for the series – and, in truth, there was a more official event on the West Coast). After appealing for those who could to donate to support the Series (readings are free, with a suggested donation of $7, but no one is turned away), and thanking House Manager Barbara Krasnoff, Tech Ops Madeline Flieger, Tech Director Terence Taylor (not present, he was rather the Text Director) and the Café (tip the baristas!), he announced upcoming NYRSF readings:

  • May Day 1st (still tent.): In Memory of Ama Paterson, with Pan Morigan, Andrea Hairston and Sheree Renée Thomas
  • June 5th (tent.): A Tribute to Thomas M. Disch, with Guest Curator Henry Wessels

July was unbooked at present, August would be a launch party for Bill Campbell’s two-part anthology, and the 28th Season would open in September with a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He concluded by turning things over to the evening’s guest curator, Amy Goldschlager.

We have “two great readers tonight,” she began, before introducing the first, Chandler Klang Smith, quipping that this was “the last stop on her New York tour”. (She’d read two weeks earlier at the KGB Bar.) Her new novel The Sky Is Yours, we were informed, was listed by Entertainment Weekly as a “Best New Book.” Tor.com and Lit Hub compared it favorably with Infinite Jest, The Wall Street Journal called it “mesmeric … a great and disturbing debut,” and NPR described it as “a wickedly satirical synthesis that underlines just how fractured our own realities can be during periods of fear, unrest, inequality and instability.” Goldschlager added that it was “a very New York kind of novel.”

Smith, who read from the novel, concurred; Empire Island is loosely based on a future New York City, one with flying, fire-spitting dragons. Duncan Ripple V, scion of a wealthy family, is haunted by, then conscripted by, the Phantom Fireman, aka the faceless Leather Lungs, to be his protégé fighting dragon fires, as you’d expect, a major threat to the largely ravaged city.

During the intermission, there was a “very cool raffle,” a drawing for those who had donated, with the prizes being an Advanced Reading Copy (“ARC”) of The Sky Is Yours and a copy of Nightcrawler (which was fittingly won by a young fan).

Chris Claremont

Chris Claremont, the evening’s second reader, is, of course, best-known for his unbroken 17-year run on Marvel Comics’ The Uncanny X-Men. (His story arc “Dark Phoenix” is the source material for next year’s major release Dark Phoenix, which will be mainstreamed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Additionally, he has published nine novels, with more on the way. (As a fascinating aside, his papers are archived in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, “right down the hall from three Gutenberg Bibles.”)

As part of the course he’s teaching at NYU in writing graphic novels (“The challenge of not being Frank Miller,” he noted, is having to find an artist), he wrote a sample story; his offering, a work-in-progress, grew out of that story. In our history, Kublai Khan tried to conquer Japan, but his fleet was blown off course by “the Divine Wind.” In his alternate history, China succeeds and the Samurai flee in boats, settling in the Hawaiian Islands, as well as in Alaska and California. Over the next few centuries, they bond with the indigenous peoples and spread, so that when Europeans arrive, they find an integrated warrior society, with horses. Thus, in the 21st century, the British domains (there is no American Revolution) end at the Alleghenys – however, somehow technology is present-day (the Internet, planes, GPS and CSIs), though we might quibble that different geopolitics would lead to technological divergences – and when a Maui-born girl is murdered in the no-man’s-land of Ohio, there’s a joint Anglo-Indigene investigation (and “spy stuff” … and unaccountably, there are dragons).

A Q-&-A session brought, the host and readers back to the platform, but it quickly mutated (sorry). Replying to a question, Claremont said that the impetus for the story was wondering why did the history of the Americas have to be Eurocentric? In this version, someone else got here first, and having been evicted from Japan by China, they resist the European invaders. He was next asked about writing comics. Whereas writing novels is a solo act, the comics writer has to communicate the story visually to the artist so that they can draw it (and different artists have different approaches). There has to be a balance of image and expository dialog, and additionally, the writer has to direct the action from the upper left to the bottom right and get the reader to turn to the next page. When there’s synergy between writer and artist, he said, it’s “mainstream comics at their best.” (As a reviewer, Goldschlager noted that doing audiobooks of graphic novels doesn’t work.) Neatly closing a circle, Claremont praised the cinematography of 2001 and “Kubrick’s genius” in having the ship slowly and silently move through space to a waltz. (Comics can afford better special effects than movies, and they can be done faster.)

As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and, it being the 5th night of Passover, several sheets of matzoh.

The audience, which exceeded 50, included Sue Hollister Barr, Melissa C. Beckman, Susan Bratisher, Karen Heuler, Alexa and Nicholas Kaufmann, Barbara Krasnoff, Gordon Linsner, Herschel M. Rothman, and James Ryan. Over the course of the evening and afterward, and, for some, despite the holiday, many audience members availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine.

Cadaver & Angel: NYSF Readings Feature Kwitney & Kaufmann

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, March 6, at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in borderline Downtown Brooklyn, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series featured offerings from authors Alisa Kwitney and Nicholas Kaufmann (“K and K”).

Jim Freund, the Series’ Producer and Executive Curator, and the host of WBAI’s long-running Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, welcomed the audience and guests. (The event was, as regularly done, being Livestreamed; he waved at that audience.) The turnout was smaller than usual (about 30-35), he noted, likely due to an event opposite being held by Henry Wessels (himself a past Curator and occasional host) that had drawn several who might otherwise have been here; plus some might have been leery of the approaching nor’easter. After appealing for those who could to donate to support the Series (readings are free, with a suggested donation of $7, but no one is turned away), and thanking the Café and his crew, he announced upcoming NYRSF readings:

  • April 3: Chris Claremont and Chandler Klang Smith
  • May Day 1 (tent.): In Memory of Ama Paterson, with Pan Morigan, Andrea Hairston and Sheree Renée Thomas
  • June 5 (tent.): A Tribute to Thomas M. Disch, with Guest Curator: Henry Wessels

Nicholas Kauffman

Freund concluded by introducing the first reader of the evening, Nicholas Kaufmann, a Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of numerous horror, fantasy and adventure novels. Introducing his story, Kaufmann noted that, Jewish, he had “always had a problem” with the story of the Exodus, particularly the Ten Plagues, so when he had the opportunity to contribute to an anthology of alternate Jewish history, he decided to “address” it. In “Coriander for the Hidden,” the angel Sauriel, the guardian of the flowers in the Garden of Eden (“He” and “She” do a lot of “rutting,” constantly) is ordered by “The On-High,” for reasons he cannot fathom, to be the Angel of Death (“the Creeping Death”) who is to pass over the Egyptians’ homes and smite the first-born. He silently questions “The On-High’s” ways – why was the Tree of Forbidden Knowledge put in the Garden of Eden if it was meant to be stayed away from? Why are the first-born children of Egypt paying the price for Pharaoh’s sin of not letting the Israelites go, particularly when “The On-High” hardened his heart and is capable of miracles like parting the Red Sea? (Believe it or not, there are rabbinic answers, but that’s outside the present scope.) – and ultimately, secretly “breaks the rules.” (One wonders what Kaufmann will say at next month’s Haggadah reading.)

During the intermission, there was a drawing for those who had donated, with the prizes being copies of Kaufmann’s In the Shadow of the Axe and Kwitney’s Cadaver & Queen. (There was a quick reshuffling when the winner of Kaufmann’s book was his wife Alexa, who presumably has a copy already. And yes, there were more than a few “Alexa” jokes made.)

Alisa Kwitney

Freund next introduced the event’s second reader, Alisa Kwitney (who also writes under the name Alisa Sheckley – she’s the late Robert Sheckley’s daughter). In her own right, she is the Eisner-nominated author of numerous graphic novels, romantic women’s fiction, urban fantasy, and non-fiction titles, a former editor for the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, and currently the writer of the DC Prestige Miniseries Mystik U, and editor of Gothic horror for Liminal Comics. Her first YA novel, Cadaver & Queen, has just come out (Harlequin Teen), and has been described as a “steampunk play on Frankenstein, set in the English countryside against the backdrop of the Boer War, [that] explores themes of belonging, sexuality, and what it means to be human.” Set in 1902, Lizzie, an American, female medical student, is at a facility where cadavers are being reanimated as “biomechanicals” to be soldiers in Queen Victoria’s army – they obey and don’t feel pain. In it, she explores the theme of “dehumanization, which happens in war.” In a twist, one of the biomechanicals is a newly-deceased medical student named Victor Frankenstein who, unlike the others – perhaps because his cadaver is so fresh – has self-awareness and his memories, along with awareness of his surroundings; he also has a left arm from another body, and those memories.

As a treat, she presented a dramatic reading of the Prologue and a later chapter (though not of “the sexy parts”), with her “entourage” of two providing male and female dialogue. (Victor’s growl, an attempt by him at speech, was a lot of fun.) Kwitney spoke briefly about Mystik U, the first two issues of which are out, before holding a Q&A session. In replies, she said that she loves pulp, romance and horror; that for Cadaver & Queen she researched “Victorian trivia” and mostly stuck to history (like England’s and Germany’s arms race), except, of course, for biomechanicals (which in that world began during the Crimean War and which other nations are also working on); that Mary Shelley’s inspiration was experiments by Galvani and Volta; that a century ago, “medical science” believed a lot of “weird things” (even as late as the 1980s, many believed that babies didn’t feel pain!); and that she selected Mystik U’s artist, Mike Norton, from an offered list (another artist had been assigned originally) and is very happy with him. She alluded to her follow-up to Cadaver & Queen (there’ll be an eye transplant), and a theme that she keeps coming back to is that “we are most ourselves when we are concealed by some kind of mask.”

As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books (and, oddly, yahrzeit memorial candles, presumably unrelated to Kaufmann’s story).

The audience included Melissa C. Beckman, Susan Bratisher, Amy Goldschlager, Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, Lissanne Lake, Herschel M. Rothman, James Ryan, Sam Shreiber (running video), Chandler Klang Smith (one of next month’s readers), (Tech Director) Terence Taylor, and Kaufmann’s wife Alexa (though not his “two ridiculous cats”). Over the course of the evening and afterward, many audience members availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine. (“It’s a good night for soup,” said Freund.)

A Festive Evening of Music and Comedy (But No Readings) at NYRSF Readings – With Valente, Pinsker and Miller

By Mark L. Blackman: On the rainy late autumn evening of Tuesday, December 5, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series closed the first half of its 27th anniversary season at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café (in the most wonderful Borough of Brooklyn) with a special Holidays event of “SFF: Singing Friends Festival,” featuring Sarah Pinsker in concert, and Catherynne M. Valente with her game show, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Mic,” hosted by Heath Miller.

Longtime attendees of these readings know that, for over a decade, it’s been a tradition to present “Family Night,” featuring its “official holiday family,” Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner; however, they are currently sojourning in Paris and le Métro doesn’t stop at Atlantic Avenue.  In their place, the Series offered a “really, really festive variety show,” an evening of music and games from two sf/fantasy stars.

Jim Freund, producer/executive curator of the Series and host of the long-running live radio program on WBAI-FM, Hour of the Wolf (broadcast and streamed every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 a.m.) welcomed the audience, cautioning us as he customarily does that we were on camera and Livestreaming (visit Livestream.com), so to be mindful of what we say and next to whom we’re sitting.  (Just ask Billy Bush.)  He thanked contributors (the event is free, with a suggested donation of $7), his crew and the Café, and reported on upcoming readings:

  • Jan. 9: Sunny Moraine and Brooke Bolander
  • Feb. 6: “Welcome to Dystopia,” with Gordon Van Gelder (who started the Series)
  • Mar. 6: Alisa Kwitney and Nicholas Kaufmann
  • Apr. 3: Chandler Klang Smith and Chris Claremont

He concluded by introducing the opening act of the evening.

Sarah Pinsker performing

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Theodore Sturgeon Award winning novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” She is also, as we saw, a singer/songwriter who has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels, with, punned Freund, “a fourth fourthcoming.”  Pinsker’s guitar and vocals were accompanied by Karen Osborne (who is also a writer, having sold her first story) on fiddle.  “I’ve never opened for myself before,” she said.

Her first song, “Everything Bounces,” alluded to Road Runner/Coyote cartoons’ idiosyncratic physics, while her second, “Water Wings,” was about a 19th-century couple “out for a row” who’ve gotten hopelessly lost and have to swim for it … “positivity in the midst of adversity.”  “Cave Drawing” was inspired by a documentary on homeless people living in subway tunnels yet creating in graffiti “amazing art on the walls.”  Her next, as yet untitled, was “about unrequited love in a circus sideshow” (aren’t most songs?), and was followed by “Wingspan” (not, she enunciated, “Waistband”).  Most of her songs, she said, were about the ocean, her “weird dreams” or something she heard on NPR, and her big finish, took us back to the ocean.

Sarah Pinsker accompanied by Karen Osborne

During the intermission, a raffle was held for contributors.  The prizes were a copy of Black Feathers, a horror anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, and a copy of the first rebirth issue of Omni; and a “so, so unbound” galley of Valente’s new space opera.  Freund then introduced Valente.

Catherynne Valente and Heath Miller

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, DeathlessRadiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it), and the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo Awards; she has as well been a finalist for the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards.  She in turn introduced Heath Miller, “actor extraordinaire” from Perth and “man of a thousand voices” (several without an Aussie accent), who would be hosting their game show, and they were joined on panel by Pinsker.

Versions of the game show, explained Miller to those unfamiliar with it, have been performed at Readercon and Windycon, and now it was in Brooklyn, where “most of history happened here.”  It was, not to mince words, a rollicking laugh riot, with all three convulsing the audience throughout as they proceeded through a series of rounds or “games.”  Asked to name holiday-themed books that Santa might leave under the tree, Valente and Pinsker buzzed in (yes, each had a buzzer) with Rendezvous With Ramadan, Manger in a Mange Land, and A Few Good Menorah.  In a round called “Oscar Wildely Incorrect” (the other title option was “George Bernard Unsure”), they finished quotations (including Wilde’s “The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young …”  “Instagram everything,” said Pinsker).  In “Gregorian Chants,” they replaced songs’ pronouns with “Greg,” hence Valente sang “Greg Will Survive” and Pinsker “Thank Greg for Being a Friend.”

Game Show: Catherynne Valente, Heath Miller and Sarah Pinsker

“Intellectual Property Values” asked them to increase or decrease titles; in lightning succession they fired off Justice Little League, Social Justice League, The One Body Problem, Murder on the Orient Local, and The Penultimate Jedi.  “Lexiconfusion” was what we used to call “Daffynitions,” alternative definitions (for example, “Concave: the Javits Center”).  Next they sang song lyrics to other songs’ tunes:  Pinsker sang “Folsom Prison Blues” to “I Had a Little Dreidel” (I hear the rabbi plotzin’), and Valente and Miller in a duet sang “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to “Where the Wild Roses Grow.”  It’s impossible to do the event justice; to experience it more fully and vividly, visit Livestream.com.

As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books.  Additionally, Pinsker’s CDs were for sale and autograph.  The crowd of about 60 (probably most of whom walked in front of my camera) included Melissa C. Beckman, Madeline Flieger (running camera and operations), Amy Goldschlager, (house manager/ticket-taker) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Kevin J. Maroney (publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction) and (Technical Director) Terence Taylor.  Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite at the Café, which has excellent food, a coffee bar, beer and wine.

Happy Holidays.

OMNI Is Back

Omni Magazine has reappeared on newsstands, now published by Penthouse Global Media Inc. in Los Angeles, with editor-in-chief Pamela Weintraub and fiction editor Ellen Datlow.

Nancy Kress has a time travel story in the debut issue, “Every Hour of Light and Dark.”

The magazine is on a new schedule, as Ellen Datlow explained on Facebook:

It’s a quarterly continuation of the original. We actually published two all reprint issues in 2016 and have had an active website for several years (with reprints from the original OMNI). We’ve got a new website we’ll be rolling out soon, with reprints and some material from the new print issues.

Last night Jim Freund interviewed OMNI editors Pamela Weintraub, Ellen Datlow, Robert Karl, Johannes Killheffer, and Corey Powell on his WBAI 99.5 FM show Hour of the Wolf. Click the link to hear the program.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

A Diamond Chip: NYRSF Readings Celebrate Delany’s 75th (No April Fool’s Joke)

Samuel R. Delany

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Saturday, April 1, 2017 (yes, Saturday, and not an April Fool’s joke), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series commemorated the 75th birthday – the diamond jubilee – of one of speculative fiction’s most important writers and significant figures, Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, with a celebration at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn. The extravaganza featured an essay by Terence Taylor on Dhalgren and an interview with Delany by Jim Freund; and culminated with Delany reading a new nonfiction piece. Plus, it being a party, there was cake!

Over the course of his career, which began in the 1960s, Delany has won four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, the Stonewall Book Award, and the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, been named Grand Master by SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and invited to be Guest of Honor at innumerable science fiction conventions. Outside of sf and fantasy, his work includes fiction, memoir, criticism, radio drama, and essays on sexuality and society, and, moreover, he has been a mentor and role model to a generation of writers, particularly those who are people of color.

The evening opened with a welcome from Freund, the Series’ Executive Curator, who confessed that he had been planning this event for a long time, ever since he realized that Delany’s next birthday would be his 75th, and proclaimed this as one of the Series’ largest gatherings. He then announced upcoming events in the Series: May 2 will feature an evening with the Serial Box podcasters, including Matthew Cody, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, Lindsay Smith and Michael Swanwick, with Amy Goldschlager as guest-host. On June 6, the readers will be Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly.

Terence Taylor

Introducing Taylor (the Series’ Technical Director and the author of the Vampire Testament series), Freund related that Terence had been recruited onto a panel at Readercon about the 40th anniversary of Dhalgren. Taylor, it turned out, had never read the iconic novel; he began reading it on the train up, read it straight through (all 879 pages), and finished it (supplied Taylor) about an hour before the panel. His impressions grew to a 1,500-word analytical essay, “Doing Dhalgren,” which he shared. Taylor prefaced his reading by reminiscing about moving to Chip’s neighborhood, but, having not yet read Dhalgren (which was, by the way, and to our surprise, a bestseller), mercifully not “pestering” him. Delany’s literary legacy was, beyond his work, his inspiration to writers of color. (Terence treasures, and is trying to restore, a photo of himself with Delany and the late Octavia Butler.)

Taylor examined the novel’s protagonist, the “Candide-like naïf” Kid, who enters and ultimately leaves “the autumnal city,” Bellona (the name of the Roman war goddess), which seems real and is believable. Dhalgren, said Taylor, “takes root, blossoms and plants ideas in the minds of readers.” It is “an epic tale of the rite of passage that every writer takes” – Kid can only leave Bellona after he records stories, becomes a writer – so is “essential reading for every writer.” It displays “the infinite power of the written word.” Taylor concluded that Delany was a personal inspiration and encouraged him that he could do it too. Thanking Terence, Freund confessed that his first reading of Dhalgren was hard-going, but breezed through his third, and urged everyone to read the classic.

Promoting the event, Freund had written, “It is no small honor for us that we can host a jubilee for one of speculative fiction’s most important writers – one with whom we have had a long, happy association, both personal and professional. Chip Delany was one of the very first readers at this reading series some 25+ years ago. He has been a correspondent to NYRSF — the magazine whose name this series bears – throughout its existence. Samuel R. Delany’s contributions to science fiction — nay, to literature and culture — are incalculable. He has been a role model to a great many people; a highly-esteemed critic and teacher; a writer whose fiction will be studied long after we’re all forgotten; and simply a wonderful, loving human being.”

At the microphone, though, Jim’s introduction was extemporaneous. “Nova, Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, The Star-Pit, Dhalgren, the Nevèrÿon series – books in my pocket like grains of sand.” His body of work would be an achievement for any writer, but that he did it beginning in the 1960s as a gay black man is awe-inspiring. He’s inspired millions, and particularly many of today’s foremost sf writers. Jim reminisced about the radio play of The Star-Pit, 50 years ago on WBAI (he noted that May 1 marks his own 50th anniversary on WBAI, whose studio is now two flights up from the Café) – and whose 40th anniversary was celebrated at a NYRSF reading (I reported on it at the time for SFScope), then brought up Delany for a chat.

Delany interviewed by Jim Freund

Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. was born in Harlem on April 1, 1942, the son of a funeral director, the nephew of the Delany sisters (civil rights pioneers Sadie and Bessie), and the grandson of a slave who had been taught to read and write (which was illegal) by a bored master, and who later became the head of a black Episcopal school in Raleigh, NC. Freund asked him about the first books that he read. Probably, he said, like all kids, Mother Goose, some stories in which were “problematic,” notably “Little Black Sambo.” Because his name was Sam, his cousins teased him as Sambo. Then, at a summer camp, a counselor asked him what name everyone called him. “I lied through my teeth,” and came up with “Chip.” “To this day, I prefer Chip to Samuel or Sam” (though Jeff Greenfield once called him Sammy). To the audience he said that it was “warming and humbling that so many have come out for” him.

He then did his own introduction, noting that he has been called a “sexual radical,” an Afro-Futurist” and a “Grand Master of Science Fiction.” He opined that Katherine MacLean, now in her 90s, should be named a Grand Master, and spoke up for the auxiliary literary genre of letters and journals.

A Q-&-A session opened with a question about masturbation. Unfazed, he answered and said that he doesn’t lose any dignity by telling people that he has a sex life. A former student concurred, adding that, as a professor, he talked openly about safer sex during the AIDS epidemic. The next questioner said that he thought of “the autumnal city” as New York, but what city had Delany had in mind? He responded that the exteriors were based on New York (the park is Central Park and there’s some of the Lower East Side) and the interiors on San Francisco because he started the book in New York, then moved to San Francisco. Jim Ryan asked how he felt that those two cities that he had written about had changed so much, in effect, were no longer there. “Things change,” he shrugged. Ellen Kushner said that Babel-17 and Nova were “enormous” influences, and asked why he had started writing sf. He replied because he read it and liked it. “You enter the writing world where you can,” and his then-wife (“my only wife”), Marilyn Hacker, was a slushpile reader at Ace. His first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, was submitted pseudonymously, till Don Wollheim bought it.

During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for two copies of the audiobook of Dhalgren from Skyboat Media, read by Stefan Rudnicki. (Freund thought it “amazing” how they turned Dhalgren into an audiobook.)

Freund briefly plugged Lunacon (April 7-9 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY), for which he had curated a program of readings, “a damned good reading program. You should go if you can.”

Delany then read “Ash Wednesday,” after the day that he had conceived writing it (in it he alludes, at one point, to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), a memoir about coming up to New York from Philadelphia for a sex party for older gay men (the “Prime-Timers”) at a Doubletree, and continuing from there upstate to the mobile home of two friends in a town near Brewster, NY. The essay ranges wide, from backstories of the other men to the events (in detail) of the respective visits, and to observations about how he has changed from a monogamous heterosexual to a white-bearded “daddy” having sex with strange men, and how society-at-large has changed – same-sex marriage, protecting abortion rights (barely), and one “phallic” tower replacing “the Tuning Fork in the Sky.” Citing his introductory description, he said that there were others more sexually radical, more socially aware and into things far more marginal than science fiction. He received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Terence returned to the microphone to toast Delany and, as Freund brought out a cake (apple), the gathering sang “Happy birthday, dear Chip.” Some in the audience got a slice (I had one; it was very tasty), though the birthday boy, being diabetic, passed on it, and for the rest, as Jim said, “we’re in a lovely café.”

The (over)capacity crowd of some 130 (people were turned away from the door, and there was no space for the Jenna Felice Freebie Table) included Melissa C. Beckman, EXO Books, Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door and newly a Nebula Award finalist), Ellen Kushner, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Kevin Maroney, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Delia Sherman, Henry Wessels, plus the Kestenbaums (Delany’s hosts) and his partner Dennis. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and, if they hadn’t already, grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café.

Tradition! Tradition! NYRSF Readings’ Annual Family Night Again Features Kushner & Sherman

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Monday, December 12, 2016, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series continued its tradition of celebrating the December Holidays Season with “Family Night,” featuring one of its favorite families, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (in their eighth, by my count, December appearance). Also traditional was the December guest host. (Her anonymity here is due to her outside professional concerns.)

The event, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café (in the outskirts of Downtown Brooklyn – dare we call it “Bordertown?”), opened with a welcome from its Executive Curator, Jim Freund, who is otherwise the 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 a.m.) He cautioned the gathering that the readings were being Livestreamed (this later surprised Kushner, who’d expected only to be “seen” on radio), and thanked those who had donated (the readings are nominally free, with a suggested donation of $7) as they help the Series continue (there is a rental fee for the space).

Moving into 2017, upcoming readers will be:

  • Tuesday, January 10th, Phenderson Djeli Clark and Shan Chakraborty, with guest curator Rob Cameron (who was running the cameras and whose nom de video-wiz is Cam Rob);
  • Friday, February 10th, James Morrow and Jack Womack;
  • Tuesday, March 7th, we’ll all be getting Older, siblings Malka Older and (the elder Older) Daniel José Older (also getting older, these jokes; guest curator Amy Goldschlager had earlier called it Family Night II);
  • Saturday, April 1st (despite the date, not an April Fool’s joke), the Series will host a 75th birthday gathering for Samuel R. (Chip) Delany
  • May 2nd, Goldschlager returns as host for an evening with the Serial Box podcasters (Max Gladstone, et al.).

Family Night came about, said the evening’s guest host, because December is traditionally a family time; since then, the theme has grown from the readers to encompass the audience regulars, who have become a family of sorts (Kushner soon after referred to “the NYRSF Holiday Reading family”), and stated that it was “an honor to be part of it.”  Tonight’s readers, she concluded, were “a very special pair of writers, spouses and people,” and introduced the first reader.

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Delia Sherman

Delia Sherman is the author of, among other works, the Prometheus and Andre Norton Award-winning The Freedom Maze, The Evil Wizard Smallbone and The Fall of the Kings (written with Kushner). Prefacing her reading, she promised a selection that wouldn’t “bring blushes to young cheeks.”  (Ellen’s offering, however, “will bring blushes to many cheeks.”) With that caveat, she read from Chapter 2 of The Evil Wizard Smallbone. On a cold December night in Maine, Nick, a runaway lost in the woods, stumbles into the Victorian mansion of the titular evil wizard – it even says “Evil Wizard” on his business card, and moreover he is the proprietor of Evil Wizard Books. Smallbone declares that Nick (whom he calls Foxkin) is his apprentice and promptly puts him to work around his house, farm and shop. The boy finds it magically impossible to run off, and, when he talks back, discovers to his dismay that he has, it seems, spent most of a week (and missed Christmas) turned into a spider. The evil wizard’s brusqueness was a source of much humor.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who’d donated), with the prizes being a “rare” set of press-on tattoos from the online serial program Tremontaine (pronounced, we learned, “Trem-on-ten,” not “-taine”), a “Live, Laugh and Love” mug, and the copy of The Evil Wizard Smallbone from which Sherman had just read; all raffle winners also received a pencil commemorating Ellen’s and Delia’s 20th anniversary. (That the tickets drawn were consecutive, and one winner was the guest curator, might have prompted cries of “rigged” from someone who shall not be named.)

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Ellen Kushner

The second reader of the evening, Ellen Kushner, is the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning Thomas the Rhymer, the children’s book The Golden Dreydl (adapted by her) as The Klezmer Nutcracker), and the much-loved novels and related short stories in the Riverside series, which has been called a “fantasy of manners” and “mannerpunk,” alternating wit, intrigue, sex, swordplay and chocolate. Swordspoint (an audiobook of which won an Audie Award) introduced readers to the setting, and was visited again in The Privilege of the Sword, The Fall of the Kings (written with Sherman), and an online collaborative prequel to Swordspoint, called Tremontaine, with the e-publisher Serial Box (SerialBox.com; season two premiered this past October). In addition, Kushner co-edited (with Holly Black) Welcome to Bordertown, a revival of the original urban fantasy shared world series created by Terri Windling.

The story from which she read, “When I was a Highwayman,” is brand new and slated to appear in The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois. Set in Riverside, 4-5 years before Swordspoint and 12 years after Tremontaine, it is a standalone that she hoped is comprehensible to non-readers of the Riverside series. (The series is not written in order, and Kushner has gone back to prequels and sequels to fill in and expand on incidents; at times this may be limiting.) Here the young swordsman-for-hire Richard St. Vier (who serves as narrator) is in partnership with the grifter Jessamyn. When work for them dries up – she’s recovering from a terminated pregnancy and the nobles for whom he performs in demonstration bouts of swordplay or as a bodyguard at weddings are in the country for the summer – and they’re running out of things to pawn or sell, he’s talked into accompanying two lowlife acquaintances as they waylay traveling nobles. (His sword is to be the incentive to “stand and deliver.”) Unfortunately, he foregoes a mask and their very first robbery victim turns out to be a young nobleman with whom he’s quite intimately acquainted. Laughter was frequent and out loud (I’m uncertain about occurrences of cheeks blushing).

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, while at another table, books by Sherman and Kushner were for sale and autograph.

The capacity crowd of about 60 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron (running tech), Randee Dawn (whose Christmas lights skirt was appropriate as well for the Festival of Lights), Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door), Josh Kronengold, Lisa Padol, James Ryan, Terence Taylor, Gay Terry, Leah Withers and Claire Wolf Smith. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite at the Café.