Some of the Political SF discussed at Readercon

I was privileged to moderate an excellent panel during this year’s Readercon that dealt with the life cycle of speculative fiction. Several books were mentioned, both in the description and during the panel, and I thought I might list them here, beginning with books by the folks on the panel. (If you were there and I’ve left any out, please let me know and I’ll add them.)

Panelists

Dennis Danvers
Author of The Watch, which Publisher’s Weekly described as “A philosophical inquiry with a basic moral point.”

Alexander Jablokow
Author of Brain Thief, which Publisher’s Weekly described as “a celebration of Americana diner schtick.”

Sabrina Vourvoulias
Author of Ink, of which Latinidad wrote, “If Margaret Atwood were Latina, this eerily believable depiction of where U.S. immigration policy is heading is the novel she would have written instead of The Handmaid’s Tale.”

T.X. Watson
Story “The Boston Hearth Project” will be in the upcoming Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation.

Books cited (links are to Wikipedia):

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

My Readercon schedule

Readercon is nearly here! This very literate SF con, which I haven’t missed in many years, is running from Thursday, July 13th, through the following Sunday, July 16. I’m very much looking forward to seeing a lot of new and old friends there. Here’s my schedule:

Friday
6 pm
Higher, Higher, Flight in Fiction
BH
Susan Bigelow, Lorrie Kim, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Nnedi Okorafor, Ann Tonsor Zeddies
From Greek myths to superheroes, humans have been captivated by the dream of flight. What about the concept is so appealing? Why has it appeared time and time again in science fiction and fantasy genres? Panelists will discuss how recent fiction has revisited the human obsession with flight, and where it might go next.

Saturday
11 am
Tabula Rasa Group Reading
Room A
Barbara Krasnoff, Randee Dawn, Sally Wiener Grotta, Terence Taylor, Scott Lee Williams, Justin Keyes
A very quick taste of the folks who are part of Tabula Rasa, a NYC-based writers group. We’re a very varied collection of writers, so come and enjoy!

2 pm
The Life Cycle of Political SF

Room 5
Dennis Danvers, Alex Jablokow, Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Sabrina Vourvoulias, T. X. Watson
SF writers have often written deeply political books and stories; some stand the test of time, while others become dated very quickly. John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis,” to name just a few, directly addressed major issues of their day and are still relevant now—but differently. What affects how political SF ages and is read decades after its publication? What are today’s explicitly political books, and how do we expect them to resonate decades in the future?

Trying a novel: If at first I don’t succeed…

Anna_Brassey_438-victorian-woman-writing-jornalA couple of years ago, I made an attempt at starting a novel. Not the first I’d started, but this time I was determined that I would keep on and actually finish a completed manuscript. I was resolute. I was ready.

It never happened.

So after several months of complete writer’s block, during which time I’ve started and abandoned several short stories, I’ve decided to give it another try. I’ve got part of a novel that I workshopped a couple of years ago, and which I think I can finished. Maybe. Perhaps.

The first thing that I realized was that I had a dozen or more versions of the beginning, and several stray bit and pieces from later in the story. Before I could write, I needed to at least isolate which segments I wanted to use. I needed also to track the characters and the culture. And I finally realized why some people used writing software such as Scrivener.

So I’ve spent the last two days going through the Scrivener tutorial, finding the versions of the first chapters that I want to keep, and entering all my characters into a list. What I hope is that I’m not doing all this as busywork to justify the fact that I’m not actually, you know, writing. Or to justify the fact that I’m not querying for more freelance work, or getting several phone calls a day from publications eager to hire me as an editor. That I’m really doing this as a preparation to finish at least one goddamn novel.

We’ll see.

Now online: “The Ladder-Back Chair”

Mythic_Delirium_3_4_cove_webMy short story, “The Ladder-Back Chair,” which was published in the April-June print edition of Mythic Delirium, is now available online.

I’m especially pleased because it is appearing alongside a wonderful poem called “Grave Robber” by Jane Yolen. I had the honor of sitting next to her during the author autographing session at last month’s Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, where she was Grand Master; she’s not only a great writer, but a lovely person.

The June online edition also features a poem “bn ʾdnbʿl bn ʾdrbʿl”by the talented writer Sonya Taafle.

So I hope you enjoy these, and the other now-online stories and poems in the issue.

 

Of bookcases and editing

bookcases in basementThere is something very satisfactory about building, say, a bookcase. On Monday, my cousin, his daughter, and his future son-in-law came over to help Jim and me assemble some bookcases that had been delivered from Home Depot (to replace some of those that had been ruined in the basement flood). We got four done; I started work on the fifth this morning, and Jim and I will probably finish that one soon.

The satisfaction is that, when you’re done putting in the dowels, and assembling the pieces, and turning the screws, you’ve got a bookcase. Sometimes you may not turn a screw correctly, or there may be a ding on the edge of one of the shelves from where you accidentally dropped it, or the quality may not be quite as high as you’d like. But you’ve got something to store your books in, and you put it together and it works.

I feel the same way about editing. Once I’m settled into a job, I know exactly what I need to do: Decide what stories are needed, assign them, get them back, edit them until they read well and are as factually and grammatically correct as possible, and then use online tools to build them and make them live. Hopefully, the result will be an article that, will enlighten or inform or amuse (or all three). Sometimes the article will need more work than I expected, or there will be glitches in the online tools used to put it online. But in the end, it will work.

Now I’m about to jump off the cliff into something new. There’s something exciting but a little frightening about that, especially after nearly a decade of employment in the same company. I’m hoping to land somewhere in the same continent I’ve been exploring for most of my career: That of the latest technologies — consumer or business — and the intersection of tech and human interaction. This has been what has fascinated me for years, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to earn my living reviewing and/or reporting on its various permutations. I’m hoping that will continue and that I’ll be able to build more interesting and up-to-date bookcases (as it were).

Meanwhile, I also write speculative fiction. But that’s grist for a somewhat different mill.

Some thoughts on co-workers as family

Years ago, when I had just graduated college and had been hired into my first real, adult, full-time job — as an editorial assistant for a travel publication called Signature, gone for lo these many years — my father took me aside and gave me this advice (not in these precise words, but this is the gist):

“When you start a job, somebody there — your boss, the personnel director — will tell you that the company is one big family, and that you’re now a part of that family. They may be very nice people, and say that with all the good will in the world, but it’s important that you don’t believe them. Because unless you’re married to the owner’s son, you’re not family.  And no matter how hard you work, how much time and effort and good will you give them, if they need to — for reasons that have nothing to do with you — they will get rid of you.”

Sounds a bit dire, doesn’t it? Not really. My father was an extremely astute man, and that advice has been a balm to my ego whenever I hit a bump in my career — I knew I had done my best, and while I deeply regretted the loss of the job, I didn’t waste time blaming myself. But he was not completely correct, either.

Because while he was right that corporate executives are wrong when they describe the company as family, he was not right when it came to the way the employees of some companies deal with each other. While there are organizations in which there seems to be a general sense of every person for themselves and screw everyone else (see: Uber), there are others where you have a group of people who sincerely like each other and the work they do.

What happens then? Then you have people who are more likely to enjoy starting work each morning and pushing to do the best they can. You have people who are truly dedicated to their work, not just because they are getting a salary, and not just because they want to get a raise and/or a new title, but also because by doing their job well, they make things easier for their friends who are working with them. They are more likely to collaborate well, come up with good ideas and carry out useful projects, and adjust to the changing demands that invariably come down from upper management.

They are more likely to stay in place, because they like and value the people they work with. And they are more likely to mourn when one or several of their members leave.

As with families, as the years go by, people will go their separate ways, make new friends, attach themselves to other families, and even lose track of those they were once close to. But the memories will always be there, and there will always be those times when two people meet and one says, “Hey, do you remember so-and-so? Did you know she moved to Washington and is now working for XYZ Corp?” “Omigawd!” says the other. “We haven’t talked for ages! Do you have her email address? I’ve got to get back in touch!”

And that’s what family does.

Getting up to date

Greetings all!

It’s been a while since I actually updated this website, and a lot has happened — and is happening. So I thought I’d do a quick rundown of recent and upcoming activities:

  • The Nebula Awards weekend has just ended, and it was a wonderful and inspiring experience. I got to meet and talk to a lot of friends (and writers whom I greatly admire) and sat next to 2017 SFWA Grand Master Jane Yolen, which was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend — she is not only a wonderful writer, but an incredibly nice person. Once again, I would like to congratulate all the Nebula Award winners, and express my thanks for being one of this year’s finalists.
  • There was a large layoff at IDG last Tuesday, May 16th, and unfortunately I was one of those affected. So I am now an ex-Computerworld reviews editor.  I’m going to be looking for freelance and/or full-time editorial work. This is the first day I’m actually dealing with it — I left for the Nebula Awards weekend the day after the layoff — so I’ve got a long list of people to contact and things to do. Thanks to everyone who has offered info and advice thus far.
  • I’ll be reading this Sunday at the Queens Book Festival with Jennifer Marie Brissett, hosted by Jim Freund. It will be at 4 pm on the Resorts Fall Plaza stage. Come on by if you’re free.