Magical Mystery Tour: NYRSF Readings Spotlight the Beatles Across Space and Time

By Mark L. Blackman: The Beatles entered my consciousness not through the bathroom window but with my brother telling me about a new singing group with “haircuts like Moe” of the Three Stooges. (Decades later, he watched Sir Paul perform in Tel Aviv.) Soon after I saw their landmark first appearance on Ed Sullivan. By then Beatlemania had erupted – the moptops were the Fab Four – everyone had to get them into their lives. We followed their long and winding road from sweet love songs to India and Sergeant Pepper and The End.

When friends visited from England, they made a pilgrimage to Strawberry Fields – a place to go – then across the street to the Dakota.

This time of year is a sad one for Beatles fans. Last month saw the anniversary of George’s death, next week will be that of John’s murder. A celebration of their music, fame and legacy, what they meant, something to say that it’s O.K. and make us feel good in a special way, is most welcome. We saw a reminder of their status as The ’60s Icons last summer as fans gathered on the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road on, where else?, London’s Abbey Road.

Yesterday, on the evening of Tuesday, December 3rd – Giving Tuesday – at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series hosted a launch party (we’re going to a party party) for Across the Universe, an anthology of 25 freaky and twisted (and shouted) speculative fiction stories about the Beatles and alternative variations of the still-Fab Four. Edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn, the ticket to ride features what-ifs by Spider Robinson, Jody Lynn Nye, David Gerrold, Cat Rambo, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Pat Cadigan, Gregory Frost, Gregory Benford, Matthew Amati, Ken Schneyer, Bev Vincent, Patrick Barb, Gail Z. Martin, Barbara Clough, Eric Avedissian, Alan Goldsher, R. Jean Mathieu, Beth Patterson, and Christian Smith, coming together, plus the, um, Fab Five readers of the evening: Charles Barouch, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Carol Gyzander, Gordon Linzner, and Sally Wiener Grotta.

All together now.

As we gathered, Beatles tunes played to get us into the spirit of things. The event opened, as usual, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund, host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf (with WBAI-FM back on the air, he’s no longer sitting in a nowhere land) welcoming the audience to the last reading of 2019. He began by noting that tonight’s readings would be on Facebook Live, rather than streamed on Livestream, plugging that the Café’s kitchen would be open through most of the evening, and announcing that next month’s readers (January 7th) would be Hildy Silverman and A.C. Wise (though without glitter). He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away due to lack of funds), and reported that the home audience may donate on its Patreon page, Jim Freund.

Randee Dawn

Bringing up guest host and the book’s co-editor Randee Dawn, he reported that Across the Universe is actually the second such anthology, the first being All Together Now, edited by James Ryan. Dawn is a Brooklyn-based author and entertainment journalist who focuses on speculative fiction, but is co-author of The Law & Order:  SVU Unofficial Companion. After recounting how she and Ventrella pretty much simultaneously came up with the idea, presented it to Ian Randal Strock of Fantastic Books and launched a Kickstarter campaign to realize it, she introduced the evening’s first reader.

Sally Wiener Grotta is the author of The Winter Boy and Jo Joe, a journalist and the co-curator of the Galactic Philadelphia author reading series. She read from her story “The Truth Within,” in which George goes to Key Biscayne and tries to get Nixon interested in (“hooked on”) transcendental meditation: “Imagine a chilled Nixon at peace with himself. … And poof! No more carpet bombing and napalm.”

Carol Gyzander, writer of various crossgenre ’punk stories and the second reader, read from “Deal with the Devil”, which is one answer to “how did the Beatles get so good?” Set in Liverpool after their return from playing clubs in Hamburg (Pete Best is still their drummer), two kids, fans of Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, using black magic to connect with their idols, instead reach – through their old black and white “telly” – the Beatles.

Next up was Gordon Linzner, founder and former editor of Space & Time Magazine, author of The Spy Who Drank Blood, and who, as lead singer of the Saboteur Tiger Blues Band, has covered a fair share of Beatles songs. His story alludes to a tv show with four protagonists, “The Hey! Team.” With John as leader and wacko Richard “Ringo” Starkey in the Murdoch role, they try to prevent the abduction of Chuck Berry’s guitar Maybellene, while being pursued by Colonel Pepper (he was promoted).

Charles Barouch

“The Perfect Bridge,” Charles Barouch’s quickie was another time travel story. A computer programmer in 1978, using a “Yellow Subroutine,” reaches across to 1967 to plant an Appleseed.

During the intermission, a raffle was held for those who donated, with three prizes: from Carol Gyzander’s What We’ve Unlearned;  Sally Wiener Grotta’s Jo Joe; and Gordon Linzner’s The Spy Who Drank Blood. Freund reported that the Brooklyn Commons was starting a series or festival of short subject films and invited us to sign up electronically at a terminal up front.

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Opening the second half of the show was Keith R.A. DeCandido, who is perhaps best known for his media tie-in work across “33 different universes, from Alien to Zorro.” In “Used to Be,” which is set sort of in his “Precinct” fantasy police procedural series, the Beatles are recast as Jahn, Gyorg, Paol and Starki, D&D tropes (Jahn is a bard, Starki a barbarian).

Filling in for the scheduled final reader, Dawn read Matthew Amati’s “Apocalypse Rock.” Set in an alternate history where the U.S. lost JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis gamble, four musicians wander a postapocalyptic landscape of gangs and cannibal mutants to a battle of the bands at the titular site.

Ian Randall Strock

Then, in a bonus, the book’s publisher (“the guy who writes the checks”), Ian Randal Strock, read “Rubber Soul” by Spider Robinson. In the 1985 story, John is resurrected 24 years after his death at 40, making him…

Finally, it being a party party and all the world is birthday cake, Dawn brought out a huge cake (though not honey pie or marshmallow pie) decorated with a copy of the cover art by Dave Alvarez. (I took a piece but not too much.)

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of close to 80, counting Freund and the readers, included Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, James Ryan and Susan Bratisher Ryan.

It was a hard day’s night. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Two’s Crowds at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, October 16th, as a nor’easter raged outside, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace at its longtime venue, the most sincerely Red Room of the second-floor (or third – there’s a major schism – but, either way, it’s a steep climb up stairs) KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. (The Room seemed darker than usual.)

The event opened with Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcoming the crowd (who’d come out in the storm) and the standard exhortation to thank the Bar by buying drinks, hard or soft (readings are always free, and our patronage keeps it so) (somewhat smaller, likely due to the holidays) and reported on upcoming readings. The next months’ readers are:

November 20
David Mack
Glassner

December 18
Paul Tremblay
Nathan Ballingrud

January 15, 2020
Cassandra Khaw
Richard Kadrey

February 19
James Patrick Kelly
P. Djeli Clark

(Details are available at here.)  All dates are the third Wednesday of the month.

He concluded by introducing the first reader of the evening. Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020, and it was from it that she read. Firebreak, she relayed, has been described as “if Saga Press and Black Mirror had a baby.” Set in the future, in an oppressive company town – notably, they’ve locked up the water supply – Mallory Parker leads a protest (the revolution is being broadcast online), and security, behind disruptor shields, is brutally disbanding the crowd. (Though, of course, not intended, it was hard not to think of what’s happening in Hong Kong.) When there is a rainfall, protestors grab red plastic cups to catch it, deemed illegally “poaching water.” Her offering was well-received, though Kornher-Stace did read a bit too fast.

After an intermission, the Series’ senior co-host, Ellen Datlow, introduced the evening’s second reader. Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel (connected stories) titled The History of Soul 2065, a generational saga of two Jewish girls’ descendants, spanning from the eve of World War I to the second half of the 21st century, including “Sabbath Wine.” (She’s also responsible for a series of wryly captioned photos delving into the inner situations of street objects and urban wildlife that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.)

Her reading was of a story from The History of Soul 2065, “Stoop Ladies.” Set in 1983, in Brooklyn (of course), Julie Jacobson (not strictly speaking on either girl’s family tree), newly laid off from her office job (a PR representative) after 17 years, sighs and decides to join the crowd (a very different one from Firebreak) of mostly elderly women who congregate evenings in the yard outside her brownstone to schmooze and gossip, and with whom she occasionally sits. (My mother called the bunch who set up beach chairs outside our apartment house “Rogues Gallery,” with people passing by on the sidewalk or entering the building running the gauntlet of their scrutiny, though we dubbed them “Yenta Center.” Julie’s neighbors are more ethnically diverse.) Sharing her woes, she finds Chablis and sympathy, and perhaps a little magic. The story was quirky – like the ladies – and enchanting.

Prior to the reading, as usual, Datlow whirled through the audience, taking photos. (It looks like she’s also using a cameraphone these days.) Her photos of the event may be seen on her Flickr page.

Comes a Reckoning: NYRSF Readings Spotlight Creative Writing on Environmental Justice

By Mark L. Blackman: One might think that, as we all breathe air and need potable water to survive – among the few things that all of humanity has in common – the environment would be as noncontroversial and nonpartisan as anything could be, but no. Even the very first Earth Day in 1970 was savaged as, variously, Hitler’s birthday and Lenin’s birthday. One button that I have from back then displays an upside-down peace sign, resembling a tree, calling us to “make peace with nature” … thus environmentalism was deemed “unpatriotic” (and ridiculed as “tree-hugging”) long before visible and undisputed climate change was called “a Chinese hoax” and even weather reports were politicized.

On the evening of Monday, October 14 – Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Federal Columbus Day and the start of the second day of Sukkot (a Jewish festival with arboreal aspects) – at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn, two floors below the beleaguered WBAI-FM (more on that below), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series spotlighted Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. (Trade paper, perfect-bound copies are $15, but are free online to get the message out. The 4th issue will be out in January. Visit Reckoning.press for more information.) The event was guest-hosted by its publisher, Michael J. DeLuca, and featured readings by Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen, Emery Robin and Brian Francis Slattery. (The readers read from works in Reckoning 1 and 2, with the exception of Robin, whose story will run in Reckoning 4.)

The event opened, as usual, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund (and, until last week, host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience. He began by noting that tonight’s readings would on Facebook Live, rather than streamed on Livestream, (Livestream should be back in November.)  He then addressed the elephant in the room two floors above. A week earlier, WBAI-FM’s parent company, Pacifica Across America – or, more specifically, a group of the owners – abruptly shut down the listener-sponsored station. Legal counteractions ensued, with more to come. Freund (who was wearing a WBAI t-shirt) assured all that WBAI-FM would be back, and announced that there would be a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday the 15th at noon (too late for those reading this) in support of BAI.

Michael J. DeLuca

Returning to why we were there, he reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away due to lack of funds), and reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon page. He concluded by announcing future readers: On Tuesday (yes, the Series returns to its usual schedule), November 5th (Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day – “Remember, remember, the 5th of November”), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others to be corralled “reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.) Disclosing his own early environmental activism, he then turned “the show” over to DeLuca.

DeLuca describes hisroots as mycorrhizal with sugar maple and Eastern white pine,” a theme seen in his website, mossyskull.com. His fiction has appeared most recently in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesThree-Lobed Burning EyeStrangelet and Middle Planet. He observed that holding the event on Indigenous Peoples’ Day was “in keeping with the spirit of environmental justice” (some anthropologists may disagree).

Brian Francis Slattery

First up was Brian Francis Slattery, who has written four novels and is also the arts editor and a reporter for the New Haven Independent, and a musician. “For a week out of every year, lives without electricity” (and that’s without living in California). He read from his semi-fictional essay “The Kinder and More Caring Future,” musings on sustainability (we shouldn’t eat meat-eating predators, including certain fish like haddock) and a reminiscence on the wake of Hurricane Irene. “Hurricane Irene was the future calling,” showing us the perils of seas rising.)

Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Krista Hoeppner Leahy, the second reader, has appeared in a Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy,  ClarkesworldLady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Farrago’s Wainscot. Her offering washer short poem “Eathspun,” about our relationship with Nature (“All of us belong to the sky”). (Another memorable line was “Breathe through your cloaca.”)

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of Infomocracy by Malka Older and Galápagos Regained by James Morrow. DeLuca then opened the second half of the evening.

Emily Houk

Emily Houk commented that her story “Plague Winter” reads as science fiction, but is historical, about bio-control of invasive species (we were referred to The Simpsons). Here a lab assistant sets plague doctor beetles on hemlocks. (I might have seen the trees in her story in Western Massachusetts.)

In keeping with the ecological theme, Marissa Lingen reported that she has “a large collection of foliage-themed jewelry.” She read her story “The Shale Giants.” (“Humans want to steal their breath.”)

The final reader of the evening, Emery Robin, read a story set in her hometown Oakland, “Ambient and Isolated Effects of Fine Particulate Matter.” After fires – and drought – in Northern California, the sky is hazy, and the air quality has been severely affected, become unbreathable (people wear masks) and ashy – people are turning gray.

DeLuca concluded the evening by inviting submissions.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books along with copies of Cultural Survival Quarterly (focused indigenous issues and traditional knowledge; DeLuca’s sister is on staff). The audience of about 40, counting Freund and the readers (but not the Chabad duo who wandered in with the Four Species), included Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok and (Tech Director) Terence Taylor. The kitchen closed early, but the Café still offered beverages, cold food and snacks.

NYRSF Readings Open New Season with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick and Gregory Feeley

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 29th Season with the stellar line-up of  Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in, of all places, Brooklyn.

The event opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience back after the summer hiatus. For a while now, the Readings have streamed on Livestream, however, due to a difficulty, tonight’s wouldn’t be – we were on Facebook Live! (Livestream will be back in October.)  He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away), and reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon page. He concluded by announcing future readers:  on Monday, October 14th, guest host Michael J. DeLuca will present readers from Reckoning, including Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen and Brian Francis Slattery. On Tuesday, November 5th (Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others “reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.)

Gregory Feeley

Gregory Feeley, the evening’s first reader, describes himself as a writer of and about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine and Kentauros, “a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth.” He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician. (In addition, he is Thomas M. Disch’s literary executor for prose, and was part of the Series’ tribute to Disch last year.) He read the first half of “Cloudborn,” which also draws from Greek myth. (Despite my childhood reading of Greek mythology, not to mention watching Mighty Hercules cartoons – his sidekick, recall, was a centaur – I was unaware that “cloudborn” was an epithet for centaurs; as their genesis involved two separate instances by Itzion of cross-species copulation, this omission is understandable.) The story centers on children aboard a spaceship very slowly heading toward Neptune to terraform and settle it; there are, of course, secrets being kept from them. The girl Asia, it should be noted, is very into Greek mythology.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of Kentauros and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. I was asked to draw the tickets; no surprise, and despite the small number of raffle tickets, the winning numbers were one immediately before and one immediately after mine.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick, the evening’s final reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum FlowersStations of the TideThe Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix and the recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years.  (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) The Iron Dragon’s Mother, from which he read, completes “a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.”

Caitlin, of House Sans Merci, a dragon pilot, after a hard landing, is immediately arrested when she returns to her base, and charged with corruption, a wide-ranging crime. It’s quickly evident that the trial is rigged (her virginity is denied), so she escapes on a Kawasaki and attempts to get answers from a dragon committing perjury against her. As Swanwick’s reading selection breaks off, she discovers that she has the mind of a dying old woman in her head.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of about 20 – we were mystified by the size of the turnout (but what there was, “was cherce”) – included Alan Beck, Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Marianne Porter, Hildy Silverman and Henry Wessels. The Café closed early.

Fantastic Fiction at KGB Readings Series Ties in to Keith R.A. DeCandido and Chuck Wendig

By Mark Blackman: On the damp, almost-almost summer evening of Wednesday, June 19th, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Keith R.A. DeCandido and Chuck Wendig at its venue, the aptly-named Red Room at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The event opened, as customary, with Series co-host Matthew Kressel’s exhortation to support the Bar by buying a drink and tipping the bartenders who help hydrate, and announcing upcoming readers:

  • July 17: Cadwell Turnbull, Theodora Goss
  • August 21:  Lara Elena Donnelly, Paul Witcover
  • September 18:  Sarah Beth Durst, Sarah Pinsker
  • October 16:  Nicole Kornher-Stace, Barbara Krasnoff

(All dates are the third Wednesday of the month. Details and lineup well into 2019 and the dawn of 2020 are available at the Series website.) He concluded by introducing the evening’s first reader, Keith R.A. DeCandido (who is used to his name being misspelled or mispronounced).

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Keith, whom I know from way, way back and who is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his fiction writing career, is perhaps best known for his media tie-in work across “33 different universes, from Alien to Zorro” (one of his releases this year is Alien: Isolation, based on the classic movie series), which earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and even inspired one fan to cosplay him. His original work includes a fantasy police procedural series – the latest is Mermaid Precinct – and A Furnace Sealed, launching a new urban fantasy series set in the Bronx (a borough sorely neglected by urban fantasy, he feels), where he currently lives. He read from Chapter 5 of the latter novel.

Brom Gold, MD, is, in his other profession, a courser, an agent for the Wardena, who is in charge of all magic in the area, monitoring and, where necessary, restricting it. While facing the pseudo-Haitian Madame Verité (“Mrs. Truth”), he discovers that something is interfering with spells. (We meanwhile learn that “unicorns are nasty” and, in detail, how difficult it is to drive and park in the Bronx, even on Sunday.)

After an intermission, Series co-host Ellen Datlow took the podium and introduced the second reader of the night.

Chuck Wendig was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His body of work includes the bestselling Star Wars: Aftermath, (like DeCandido, he is no stranger to media tie-in novels), the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, Zer0es/Invasive, and Wanderers (coming in July); he has also written comics, games, films and more, and served as the co-writer of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. He is also known for his blog, terribleminds.com, and books about writing, such as Damn Fine Story.

Chuck Wendig

His offering was the opening of Wanderers. In the wake of Comet Sakomoto (which became as famous as Halley’s and Hale-Bopp), a plague of sleepwalkers (more than a dozin’, sorry) have joined together and cross the country, accompanied by followers. Shana is the sister of Nessie, one of the sleepwalkers.

The familiar bookstore was not set up at the back of the room (therefore they don’t get a plug here), but DeCandido had copies of some of his books available.

Prior to the readings, as is customary, Datlow wended through the audience, snapping away; her photos of the event may be seen at the Series website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.

From Mercury to a Distant Star: NYRSF Readings Feature Kressel and Rivera

David Rivera and Matt Kressel

By Mark L. Blackman: On the bitingly cold evening of Fat Tuesday (yes, it was Mardi Gras), March 5, 2019, at an event held at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series featured a joint reading from Matthew Kressel and Mercurio D. Rivera of their co-written story “The Walk to Distant Suns,” which appears in the March issue of Analog.

The evening kicked off as customary with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy, a heads-up that we were on camera – the proceedings were streaming live via Livestream (they may be accessed by going to Livestream.com and searching for NYRSF) – and an announcement of scheduled upcoming readings.  April 2nd’s event will be guest-hosted by Mike Allen and feature Theodora Goss and Barbara Krasnoff.  May 7th readers are to be determined. June, being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, on the 4th will offer Katharine Duckett and another writer to be named; it will, said Freund, be “queer-oriented.”  He then introduced the evening’s two readers before ducking into the control booth; he was handling Tech.

Matthew Kresselis the author of the well-received novel King of Shards and of short fiction that has appeared in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Analog, Nightmare, and Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies, and been honored as a three-time Nebula Award Finalist and a Eugie Award Finalist. Additionally, as a coder, he created the Moksha submissions system currently in use by many of the largest SF publishers. Locally, with Ellen Datlow, he is the co-host of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series at the titular East Village bar.

Mercurio D. (for David) Rivera is the World Fantasy Award-nominated writer of short fiction that has appeared in markets such as Analog, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Interzone, and Space and Time, and been anthologized in several Year’s Best Science Fiction compilations as well as podcast. His most notable stories include “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us,” “Longing for Langalana,” “Tethered,” “Dance of the Kawkawroons,” and “Those Brighter Stars;” his own collection, Across the Even Horizon, was critically acclaimed. Like Kressel, he is a member of the Manhattan writing group Altered Fluid. 

After a silly attempt to read together, the duo took turns reading “The Walk to Distant Suns,” with Rivera leading off. The “walk” is along an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, called “the Lift,” which transmutes matter and transfers it, both objects and people, one quark at a time, through a wormhole, from Earth (more precisely L-5) to a world dubbed Iris in the Trappist-1 System 40 light years away; it is a one-way trip. Earth is in bleak shape, with 80% of the population living in poverty and many eking out by foraging through garbage, so a new life on the paradisiacal planet beckons. Among them are Shandi, an engineer at the Lift, who hopes to make the trip one day with her family (her mother is ill and her little sister is artistic). Alas, the corporation that operates the Lift keeps raising the cost, so only the rich can afford to go. Using the opportunity that her position affords, Shandi schemes to smuggle them all onto the Lift. To be continued.

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing (with Freund boothed, Amy Goldschlager was drafted to oversee it) with the prizes including the issue of Analog containing the story, The Best Science Fiction of the Year , and a signed copy of the manuscript from which they were reading.

Subsequently, with Kressel leading off, the reading continued through to the end of the story and its twist ending (no spoilers).

Goldschlager then moderated a Q&A, opening with a question from her about their collaborative process. They broke up scenes, characters and motivations, said Rivera, though Kressel wrote the first section, then they went back and forth. It was “a successful collaboration;” in the end, they each “feel like they wrote the whole thing.” Even outside of Altered Fluid, they’re used to criticizing each other. Asked by an audience member if they’d thought of expanding it, Kressel said that they’d thought that it would be a short story, but it grew to 8,600 words. Goldschlager also delivered the “outro.”

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books, and the Café saw to food, a coffee bar, beer and wine.

The crowd of about 25-30 included Karen Heuler, Raj Khanna, Barbara Krasnoff (House Manager), Lissanne Lake, and James Ryan and Susan Ratisher Ryan.  Afterward, there was schmoozing, and feasting.

Diamond Jubilation for Richard Bowes at NYRSF Readings

Rick Bowes

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, January 8, 2019, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series held a Diamond Jubilee celebration for local writer Richard (Rick) Bowes on the occasion of his 75th Birthday.

Richard Bowes is the author of six novels, four story collections and over 80 short stories, earning two World Fantasy Awards, a Lambda Award, a StorySouth Million Writers Award, and an International Horror Guild Award, as well as works short-listed for the Nebula Award. He is a familiar face (and voice) as reader and audience at both the NYRSF and the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series. Born in Boston (with the accent to prove it), he grew up there and on Long Island, and has lived for decades in Greenwich Village.

The event, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café on Atlantic Avenue in the Borough sharing its name, kicked off as usual with a welcome from producer/executive curator Jim Freund, longtime host of WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (99.5 FM in New York and worldwide at wbai.org), a reminder – or warning – that cameras were recording (the readings are Livestreamed), and an announcement of upcoming readers:

  • Feb. 5:  Karen Heuler and Mimi Mondal
  • March 5:  To Be Determined
  • April 2:  Theodora Goss and Barbara Krasnoff, guest-hosted by Mike Allen

Concluding his introduction to the event, Freund remarked that he “first met Rick forever ago” and described him as “a writer (and personal friend) whose accomplishments have entertained and challenged the thinking of innumerable readers” during his over 35 years in the genre, and his “go-to guest on Hour of the Wolf.” A reading by Bowes of his 9/11 story, “There’s a Hole in the City” (online now at Nightmare Magazine), is broadcast each year around 9/11 over WBAI. 

Ellen Datlow

At the microphone, much-honored editor of over 100 anthologies (and co-host of the aformentioned Fantastic Fiction Reading Series), Ellen Datlow, characterized Bowes as “a natural-born storyteller,” and read a tribute essay by Jeffrey Ford, “Bowes.” In it, Ford related how he met Bowes (at a Nebula Weekend) and how he was mentored by him. (Rick has also similarly helped other writers in the sf/fantasy community.) Bowes, he declared, is “low-key, but hysterical” (indeed, he has a wicked sense of humor that veers between acerbic wit and smartass cracks). “No one writes about New York like Rick” (as his followers on Facebook know) as “he moves through history in his fiction.” His time in New York (by which is meant the Village, East and West) encompasses the eventful (and tumultuous) times pre- and post-Stonewall, the AIDS crisis, and, as noted, 9/11.

Next, Barbara Krasnoff conducted an interview with Bowes (both are members of the New York City writers group Tabula Rasa) about his early writing career and an overview of his body of work, which includes If Angels Fight, Minions of the Moon, From The Files of the Time Rangers, and Dust Devil On a Quiet Street. If he is “remembered for anything,” he mused, “it will be for ‘There’s a Hole in the City.’” (Set on Wednesday, Sept. 12th, in it he alludes as well to past tragedies like the General Slocum, an excursion steamer that burned in the East River, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.)

More recently, his work has appeared (or will be appearing) in Mad Hatter and March HaresQueers Destroy Fantasy, The Doll Collection, Black Feathers, and The Eyes Of Jack Saul. He is currently writing stories for a “fix-up novel” (short stories stitched together into a novel) about a gay kid in 1950s Boston. In a closing quip, he thanked Barbara and the gathering “for helping me remember stuff about myself that I didn’t know.” (At one point, he attributed a memory lapse to “This is what Trump has done to me.”)

During the intermission, there was a raffle drawing for donors (suggested donation is $7, but no one is turned away), with the prizes being Bowes’ Minions of the Moon and “short short stories” in the form of haikus, plus a copy of Ford’s tribute essay.

Opening the second half of the evening, Freund revealed that, among his other talents, Bowes is a songwriter, and brought up Natti Vogel to sing a ditty, lyrics by Rick and his brother Jerry, “I’m Oedipus Rex” (to the tune of “I’m Henry VIII,” from long before Natti’s time):

I’m Oedipus Rex, I am,

Oedipus Rex, I am, I am.

I got married to the widow next door.

She was married to my father before.

Rehabilitating himself from that literary travesty, Bowes read a story from his fix-up novel about Kevin, a gay kid with a shadow, his doppelganger, and the opening pages from “There’s a Hole in the City,” set on the evening of the day after 9/11, smoke and dust still in the air (and a family of tourists tries to get past checkpoints to gawk at Ground Zero).

Then, to conclude the festivities, a birthday cake – a vanilla cake decorated by Randee Dawn – was brought out (only one candle) and Vogel led us in “Happy Birthday.” Finally, his sister came up to share brief reminiscences about her “amazing” and “remarkable” brother, “Ricky.” (He taught her how to play chess and how to give him backrubs.)

As traditional at these Readings, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books. The Café saw to more substantial food (and cake) needs.

The crowd of about 60 also included Rob Cameron, Madeline Flieger (Tech Director), Amy Goldschlager (filling in as ticket-taker for Barbara), Karen Heuler, Andrea Katz, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Matthew Kressel, Lissanne Lake, Brad Parks, David Mercurio Rivera, Pam Roberson, and Paul Witcover.

Pixel Scroll 12/9/18 Harry Pixel And The Forgotten Click of Tickbox

(1) 2020 REVISION. Radio Times sets off weeping and wailing with news that “Doctor Who series 12 WILL be delayed to 2020”.

Doctor Who series 11 just came to an end – but fans will have quite a long wait until the next full selection of adventures for the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends.

The BBC have confirmed longstanding rumours that the sci-fi series won’t be back on screens for a full series in 2019, with the twelfth season of the revived series instead airing in “early” 2020.

(2) DECK THE DALEK. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society completed decorating their Dalek at the end of the December business meeting, as they have done every year since 2001. Dale Arnold says –

Andrew Bergstrom made this lifesize Dalek for a playat Balticon 35 in 2001 and it was too nice to throw away…so we started decorating it for the holidays and have done so on with new decorations addedto the mix every year.

(3) EDITOR’S INSIGHTS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Neil Clarke” at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

I don’t think there’s anything I’d raise to that level, but I do often recommend that developing writers and editors volunteer as slush readers somewhere. The experience gives you insight into the common mistakes most writers are makingand the distance you might need to start recognizing them in your own work.You’ll also see the current trends and get a good sense of your own place inthe field. I’ve yet to meet a slush reader who hasn’t underestimated their skill level. The rule for writers is to quit when you stop learning. Potential editors should keep going a few more months, just to see if they can hack the experience when it becomes routine.

Bonus advice: If you are still seeking your first sale, every editor I know wears their “discoveries” as a badge of honor. Saying “I am previously unpublished” in a cover letter is not a bad thing. When you do sell your first story, make sure the purchasing editor knows.

(4) INVERSE ROUNDUP. What would you think are “The Best Depictions of Real-Life Science in Science Fiction”? Inverse plans a series stretching through most of December discussing the best (not the most accurate) such depictions.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments seen in science fiction this year, whether it be on the big screen or small, in books, on stage or in the immersive worlds of video games. Our science and entertainment writers have teamed up for this year-end series to show how real-life science has been memorably —though not always accurately! — portrayed in the culture. Watch this space for more additions all month long. 

On the list is – “‘Pokémon: Let’s Go’s Fake Poké Ball Science Is Absolutely Terrifying”:

Poké Balls have been a key part of the Pokémon experience, from the original GameBoy games to the recently-released Pokémon: Let’s Go, which even works with a specially-designed Poké Ball Plus accessory that lets you simulate the experience. And yet we still have no idea how Snorlax (a giant fat cat-like creature that’s 6’11” and weighs around 1014 pounds) fits inside a metal object roughly the size of a baseball.

The canonical — and nonsensical — pseudoscientific explanation is that Poké Balls shoot out a beam that converts the Pokémon into a form of energy. Sounds fun, right? Except it’s not. The only known way to legitimately convert matter into energy is through nuclear fusion. Even in that process, less than 1 percent of the matter is converted into energy, and the reaction is so volatile that it causes massive explosions.

(5) ODDEST TITLE. The winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker. The Bookseller, which sponsors the prize, noted that “for the first time in the 40-year life of the world’s most prestigious literary gong, a foreign-language tome” has won. Published in Austria by Asche Verlag, the book is eligible for the prize despite being in German because its title is in English.

(6) THESE BOOTS AREN’T MADE FOR TALKIN’. Was there ever anybody more impressed with Harlan Ellison than himself? Perhaps Gay Talese. Now available on YouTube is Harlan’s version of this legendary pop culture confrontation: “Harlan Ellison on Esquire’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ by Gay Talese.”

An excerpt and unused interview from the feature doc “‘Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris” by director Raymond DeFelitta (2007) || RIP Harlan Ellison

(7) CASTING CALL. Dublin2019 will be staging “Jophan!,” Erwin Strauss’ musical adaptation of the great classic of Irish fanwriting, The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, a fannish parody of John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Strauss is reaching out to the community for people interested in participating, either on stage, or in the orchestra pit, or wherever. There is no travel budget, so participants will have to already be planning to be attending Dublin 2019. Contact Strauss or the Dublin Theatre team at theatre@dublin2019.com.

(8) NETFLIX SHELL GAME. Reporting for SYFY Wire, Christian Long says, “Netflix announces a new Ghost in the Shell series as part of its growing anime slate.”

It looks like Netflix is reviving another groundbreaking anime for its ever-expanding platform.

The streaming giant just announced Ghost in theShell: SAC_2045, which is set to premiere sometime in 2020. Based on Masamune Shirow’s classic manga Ghost in the Shell, which premiered back in 1989, it explores themes of consciousness and individuality through the lens of artificial intelligence.

(9) GLOWING BLACK HOLES. On December 14, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Sir Roger Penrose: Lecture on Hawking Points”.

Sir Roger Penrose

In this special lecture, we are very pleased to welcome Sir Roger Penrose back to the Clarke Center to explore how Hawking Points –Stephen Hawking’s prediction of glowing black holes– explain the nature of how our universe was formed and if there are others like it.

Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated mathematician and physicist, is an Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford and winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics — which he shared with Stephen Hawking. He has made profound contributions in geometry, blackhole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, the nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe.

Friday, December 14, 2018 — 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Kavli Auditorium, Tata Hall forthe Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences & the Clarke Center, UC San Diego. RSVP required; pleaseRSVP here

(10) TESSER OBIT. [Item by Mark Blackman.] Gary c Tesser (1952-2018). NY fan Gary c Tesser (small “c” with no period to be demure) died on Saturday night, December 8, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was one of the first 2 people in SF Fandom I met (in September 1970; he was recruiting for the Brooklyn College SF & Fantasy Society) and introduced me to apas (notably TAPS) and to Lunarians, of which he later (in the early ’90s) became President.  He was my closest friend for many years.  Dubbed “Captain Doom” and self-dubbed “The Plucky Red Ace”, he was a fannish legend, his habitual lateness (“the Tesser Effect”) and unique sense of logic were the inspiration for a slew of “Tesser Stories.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900Margaret Brundage. Illustrator and painter. Working in pastels on illustration board, she created most of the covers for Weird Tales between 1933 and 1938. Her work is collected in The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-UpArt. She was one of the very few women artist in the industry, a fact not known as she signed her work as M. Brundage. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1934Judi Dench, 84. M in the Bond films GoldenEyeTomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not EnoughDie Another DayCasino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie.
  • Born December 9, 1953John Malkovitch, 65. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decide that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series.These are selective highlights. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) OUT OF A HUNDRED. AbeBooks.com list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, says Steve Davidson, is 25% genre or genre-adjacent. Davidson continues —

The genre titles listed are classic works that have endured on bookshelves for decades, if not centuries.

Isn’t in interesting (?) that of these titles that have demonstrated longevity, continued relevance (and, as a side note, continued sales that dwarf just about everything else) each and every one ofthem is not only “science fiction”, but each and every one of them is social commentary?  “Political messaging in fiction” as somehave called it?

Not trying to resurrect a dead horse here, but it’s interesting nonetheless that SF’s enduring works — the classics — are all united in this way.

(14) THEY’RE NOT RELATED. James Davis Nicoll worries about these things. Your mileage may vary: “SF Novels That Get Special Relativity All Wrong” at Tor.com.

I gravitate towards certain SF sub-genres, such as stories featuring relativistic travel. I’ve encountered a fair number of such sub-genrebooks in which it is clear that the authors did not, emphatically NOT, understand relativity. This article features novels in which authors have wrestled with Mr. Einstein and lost three falls out of three.

As you know, there are two essential foundations of relativity.The first is that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. The second is that the speed of light is invariant regardless of one’s frame of reference. Every single SF novel in which reference is made to time as measured by the ship as “subjective” and time measured by the Earth “objective” is wrong: everyone’s clocks are right, even if they don’t agree with each other.

(15) PLEONASM DETECTED ON JUPITER. The Traveler is a bit jaded about Poul Anderson’s prose in the latest IF: “December 9, 1963 Indifferent to it all (January 1964 IF)” at Galactic Journey.

Some examples: Anderson likes to wax poetic on technical details.  He spends a full two pages describing what could have been handled with this sentence: “I used a neutrino beam to contact the Jovians; nothing else could penetrate their giant planet’s hellish radiation belts or the tens of thousands of thick atmosphere.”

Two.  Pages.

(16) ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Jason has compiled another “year’s best” at Featured Futures, which includes 29 stories of science fiction, fantasy, and their various permutations: Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories).

This second annual virtual anthology of the year’s best speculative fiction differs in four primary ways from last year’s Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories) and Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories). Rather than restricting my coverage to web magazines as in 2017, I added coverage of several 2018 print magazines which created a much larger pool of stories to choose from. Thus, the word count for the “best” stories has increased from 140,000 to 250,000 words. Further, those words were evenly divided between two volumes of science fictional and fantastic stories but have now been combined into a single volume with three sections of uneven story and word counts. Finally, because of some of this, I renamed it to Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What hasn’t changed is the principle of selecting (to repeat the first introduction’s quote of the late Gardner Dozois) “only those stories that honestly and forcibly struck me as being the best published during that year, with no consideration for log-rolling, friendship, fashion, politics, or any other kind of outside influence.” And there’s still the same qualification to that: for variety’s sake, if multiple stories are by the same author or have strikingly similar elements, I try to select only one. Similarly, I’ve attempted to sequence the stories for a varied reading experience rather than any other principle.

(17) THE ONLINE PALEONTOLOGIST. BBC reports “‘Digital museum’ brings millions of fossils out of the dark”.

The bid to create a “global digital museum” has been welcomed byscientists, who say it will enable them to study valuable specimens that are currently “hidden” in museum drawers.

(18) MR. RICO’S ARTIST. Andrew Liptak interviews Stephen Hickman for The Verge: “An artist on creating the retro art for a new edition of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers”.

You’ve provided cover illustrations for some of Heinlein’s works before — how did working on this edition stack up to those works?

The main difference is that I had quite a bit more time on each of my previous illustrations to refine and finish the paintings, which were done just for book cover images.

A cover is like a small movie poster, designed to compete with literally hundreds of similar tiny posters for the attention of potential buyers in bookstores. On the other hand, illustrations for the interior of a book should be approached a bit differently. They can be more quiet and thoughtful in their presentation, in terms of color mood and content, which is relative in the case of a book like Starship Troopers, naturally.

(19) YODA CLAUS. Business Insider tips readers to “27 creative and unexpected gifts for ‘Star Wars’ fans of all ages”. Two examples –

PANCAKE STAMP

LUGGAGE TAGS

(20) TODAY’S HERESY. An NPR writer throws down the challenge — “Dear Internet: Goats In Sweaters Are Cuter Than Kittens In Mittens”.

The goat pics turnout to be about more than making people go “awwwwww.”

The caprine fashionistas are featured on a calendar, the sales of which have benefited local organizations in Varanasi, India, where most of the images were taken.

Christy Sommers, who takes the photos, first noticed the cuteness that is clothed goats in 2010, while living in a village in northwestern Bangladesh as a Fulbright scholar studying rural primary education. Now she considers the project as adding “net happiness” to the world and helping to share a little slice of life from parts of the world that Americans don’t often get to see.

(21) THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Netflix dropped a trailer. The show airs February 15.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dale Arnold, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jason, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Alan Baumler, Steve Davidson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Alien Re-Encounters at the KGB Bar with Schoen and Pratt

Lawrence Schoen and Tim Pratt.

By Mark L. Blackman: On the wintry-cold autumn evening of Wednesday, October 17th, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series presented award-winning sf authors Lawrence M. Schoen and Tim Pratt, who read from their latest novels, both continuations of earlier works.

The Series, co-hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, is held on the third Wednesday of each month at its longtime venue, the Soviet era-themed (so doubly aptly-named) Red Room of the second-floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Readings are free, but the hosts do noodgeh the crowd to buy drinks. As Kressel put it in his opening remarks, support the Bar and support the Series. (bljatlh ‘e’ ymelev – yltlhutlh!)*

Kressel then announced upcoming readings:

    • November 21 – Leanna Renee Hieber and Cat Rambo
    • December 19 – Nicole Kornher-Stace and Maria Dahvana Headley
    • January 16, 2019 – Victor LaValle and Julie C. Day

(A fuller list may be found at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.) He concluded by introducing the event’s first reader.

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt is the Hugo Award-winning and Nebula, World Fantasy, and Philip K. Dick Awards-nominated author of 25 novels and four story collections. His Axiom space opera series began with The Wrong Stars; he read from its sequel, The Dreaming Stars.

Set several hundred years in the future, the series takes its name from the Axiom, an ancient, malevolent species that wipes out other spacefaring races, but is at present dormant. Humanity is out in deep space through the efforts of a mostly-benevolent squidlike race known as the Liars because, um, they do that a lot. Our heroes’ mission is to exterminate the Axiom before they rouse and notice us. Their bad luck, they encounter an Axiom artifact and one of their number is infected with nanobots that turn him into a homicidal psychopath. In Pratt’s breezy and entertaining selection, he is being woken again, for safety’s sake, in VR, and being very selectively updated on the situation (as you’d expect, they leave out the homicidal psychopath bit), previous attempts having been dangerously unsuccessful.

After an intermission, co-host Datlow introduced the second reader of the evening.

Lawrence Schoen

Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen (he holds a PhD in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics) has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award, and the recipient of the Coyotl Award for Best Novel for the anthropomorphic Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. He is also the author of humorous short stories, novellas and novels about his protagonist the Amazing Conroy, “a stage hypnotist turned CEO who travels the galaxy with Reggie, his alien companion animal that eats anything and farts oxygen.” In addition, he is an authority on the Klingon language.

His reading selection was from the first chapter of The Moons of Barsk, the sequel to Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. Set 80,000 years in the future, humanity is gone, superseded by sapient, uplifted animals (they don’t know that that’s what they are) that have spread through the galaxy. The furred mammals, it seems though, are none too keen on the furless elephants (of which there are two species, descendants respectively of African and Asian pachyderms) and have exiled them to a planet that no one wants, Barsk. There, when they are about to die, “Fants,” as the two races are collectively known, receive a call to sail away to an island, the proverbial Elephants’ Graveyard. Many theories were advanced about this in Barsk, but Schoen’s premise in the sequel is that “everything in the first book is wrong;” thus Chapter 1 is entitled “Nothing But Lies.” As it opens,  a physicist has arrived on the last island and, to his surprise, finds no evidence of others who preceded him there – such as bones – and then, to his shock, is greeted by a Fant who tells him that his life and work are not over. (By the way, Schoen revealed, the audiobook is read – in English – by J.G. Hertzler, General Martok on Deep Space Nine.)

In lieu of the Word Bookstore, the readers had for sale copies of their books, Pratt both Axiom novels and Schoen both Barsk novels.

Prior to the readings, Datlow, as usual, circulated, taking pictures of the early arrivals and the two readers. Her photos of the event may be seen on her Flickr page, linked to the Series’ website. The audience, often SRO, was, for some reason, noticeably smaller.

(Note:  Despite the readings being held in a bar, there were no reports of pink elephants.)

*Stop talking! Drink!

Michael Swanwick & Jeffrey Ford Read at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the humid but not-rainy evening of Wednesday, August 15, 2018, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by award-winning authors Michael Swanwick and Jeffrey Ford in the 2nd-floor Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

As customary, as the audience settled in, Series co-host Ellen Datlow whirled around the room, which is notable for its Soviet-era décor, photographing the crowd.  (Her photos may be found here.) The event opened with Datlow welcoming the audience, reporting that co-host Matthew Kressel was hiking national parks out west (good idea – before they’re sold to mining companies) and that David Mercurio Rivera would be filling in for him. She then announced upcoming readers:

  • September 19:  Patrick McGrath, tba
  • October 17:  Lawrence Schoen, Tim Pratt
  • November 21:  Leanna Renee Hieber, Cat Rambo
  • December 19:  Nicole Kornher-Stace, Maria Dahvana Headley

… continuing on into 2019, and concluded by introducing the evening’s first reader.

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Shadow Year and The Cosmology of the Wider World, and the story collections The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, The Drowned Life, Crackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell.  His fiction has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Nebula, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Gran Prix de l’Imaginaire.  He read the first chapter of his most recent novel, Ahab’s Return: Or The Last Voyage, “the part before the good stuff happens,” and “some of the good stuff.”

In 1855 Manhattan, Harrow, a “confabulator” at a less than respectable newspaper – we’d call it a tabloid or “fake news” – is confronted by Captain Ahab, who is looking for Ishmael (who has written a book about their last voyage), but, above all, for his wife and son. It seems that the mad whaler did not drown when pulled under the waves by the white whale, but slipped out of the ropes and was rescued (by a different ship than Ishmael). Like Odysseus, he has had adventures while voyaging home (among them, encountering a manticore, as Ford continued), and these stories are embellished and written up for his paper by Harrow (making them Harrowing adventures?).

Copies of The Twilight Pariah were given away (well, tossed into the audience).

After an intermission, Rivera took the podium, and, has Datlow had earlier, reminded the audience that the readings were free and urged them to support the Bar by buying lots of drinks. He then introduced the second “super-luminary” reader of the evening.

Michael Swanwick is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum FlowersStations of the TideThe Iron Dragon’s DaughterJack FaustBones of the EarthThe Dragons of BabelDancing With BearsChasing the Phoenix, and the forthcoming The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. He has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, the World Fantasy Award, and the Hugo Award.  (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) He read two short “things,” each of which was “unusual,” but “for different reasons.”

“Ghost Ships,” which he finished two weeks ago, is “not your standard ghost story.” It begins with a reminiscence from the ’70s of three townies driving through Tidewater Virginia in a used hearse who see fleetingly offshore two square-rigged wooden ships crewed by rough-looking men in 18th-century garb. It was in broad daylight, and the narrator was “not a party to the sighting” and only heard about it at second-hand. He is musing as he drives to a college reunion at William and Mary, and as he drives home. The ghost ships become a metaphor for the temporary nature of life, and, rather than fiction, as Swanwick’s wife, Marianne Porter, discerned, it is an essay. “Every word of it, the names excepted, is true.”

He prefaced his second “unusual” selection with background. In 1995, he and Gardner Dozois had written a novella, “City of God” (which was published by Datlow), an “astonishingly depressing story.” (The protagonist, Hanson, spends it shoveling coal into a hole.) They had talked about writing a sequel. Dozois died in May, and, “as a kind of memorial,” Swanwick finished it, “giving it the ending Gardner would have wanted.” In “City of Men,” Hanson, who had sent the City of God into the world, meets a scientist who is studying the Cathedral; there is a happy ending, of sorts.

He concluded by leading a moment not of silence for Dozois – he was, after all, a writer – but of applause.

Books (including Vanitas, Ford’s first novel) were for sale at the back of the room from the Word bookstore in Brooklyn.

To those going, enjoy Worldcon!