The Barrow

10/27/08

Give Your Soul a Good Scrubbin'

John Ottinger III, of Grasping for the Wind, on Robert Silverber's Son of Man:
"I cannot recommend this book. That is not because it is not well-written ... nor because it doesn't dive deep into trying to understand the who and what of humankind. That fundamental question is the very thing we want from a good science fiction story. I do not recommend it simply because I have moral objections to the story's graphic and over sexualized content. This book made me feel....dirty, as if my soul needed a good scrub. I therefore cannot recommend it to you."
Now that's a review!
No, Silverberg's psychedelic odyssey of a tantric messiah certainly isn't for everyone. But it is a masterpiece, and one of my personal favorite SF works of all time.

10/23/08

Mind Meld: The Future of Written Science Fiction

SF Signal is back with another one of their "Mind Meld" round tables, this one on the future of written science fiction. The respondents this time around include Jeff VanderMeer, Liz Williams, Allen Steele, Mark Newton, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Di Filippo, Sean Williams, Chris Roberson, Dot Lin, Alexis Glynn Latner, and Yours Truly.

I particularly liked Jeff Vandermeer's assertion that:
"...the real challenge is writing near future SF. Stross I believe said near future sf is impossible. I respectfully say that is bullshit. To be relevant that is exactly what SF needs and how SF is falling down on the job right now. SF can do escapism just fine right now. But dealing with things head on? Not so well. SF has to get down in the nitty gritty of the horrible position we are in right now or it runs the risk of being just as irrelevant as the next medieval based fantasy trilogy. Yes it is hard to do. Who ever said writing was supposed to be easy? Show some guts."
And I particularly liked Chris Roberson's exact opposite reaction:
"I'd love to see more people playing what Rudy Rucker calls the 'power chords' of science fiction. He describes these as 'those classic SF topes that have the visceral punch of heavy musical riffs.' The list includes: Blaster guns, spaceships, time machines, aliens, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, faster-than-light travel, immersive virtual realities, clones, robots, teleportation, alien-controlled pod people, endless shrinking, the shattering of planet Earth, intelligent goo, antigravity, generation starships, ecodisaster, pleasure-center zappers, alternate universes, nanomachines, mind viruses, higher dimensions, a cosmic computation that generates our reality and, of course, the attack of the giant ants. I want more of that stuff. The good stuff, the fun stuff. The mind-expanding thought-experiments and heady adventure stories."
And I loved Jay Lake's analogy, which explains how I can reconcile both of the above:
"Literature is like rock and roll...new movements come along, but the old ones never die. Reader tastes change, writers and publishers adapt, or they don't. I for one hope to keep writing what I love, and keep adapting at the same time."
Amen.

10/22/08

The Martian General's Daughter: Impressive!

Science Fiction and Fact Concatenation on Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughter:
This is a very entertaining novel, both amusing and intelligent with excellent prose and endearing characters. The 'Golden-Age' feel is both set-up and enhanced by the lovely cover illustration by Sparth. This is a fairly short book (by modern standards) and would be easily gulped down in a single sitting but, by the same token, would also recommend itself for re-reading. Either way it is an impressive addition to Pyr's list and, like many another title, bodes well for their future output. Recommended.

10/21/08

Cybermancy Incorporated available on Kindle

It is what it says on the label. Cybermancy Incorporated, the long unavailable novel that introduced the Bonaventure and Carmody families, is now available on Amazon's Kindle. The list price is $4.99, but at the moment Amazon is offering it for only $3.99.



Readers of my personal blog may recall that this novel was previously made available through Wowio last winter, but the online outlet ran into some money troubles, and was acquired by another outfit, and along the way I removed the title from its offerings. (If you're at all interested in the inside-baseball of all of this, check out this article on PW's The Beat and work your way backwards.)

Here's what I said about Cybermancy Incorporated back in February:
Sooner or later, I'm sure, I'll succeed in tricking some publisher into reprinting the thing, but even then, it wouldn't be this same text. The Bonaventure-Carmody characters started out as part of the shared world of San Cibola in the Clockwork Storybook days, but as they made the transition for the webzine to the novels published by Pyr and Solaris, they got tweaked a bit, moving away from the urban fantasy environment of San Cibola and into a more science fictional world (though admittedly a pulpish one). So the version of this novel that eventually gets reprinted will be one that takes place in some other alternate universe out in the Myriad, with revisions and changes here and there. No longer set in San Cibola, but in Recondito, California, most of the plot will be the same, but there's be some significant differences.
If you've got a Kindle, and have ever had any interest in checking out the book, or are curious to find out more about the Carmody and Bonaventure families featured in Here, There & Everywhere, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, Set the Seas on Fire, and the forthcoming End of the Century, here's your chance.

10/20/08

A Host of Pyr Reviews & a Podcast!

Okay, playing mad catch-up:

A podcast with Joe Abercrombie on the Dragon Page. Their description: "This week, Mike, Summer and Mike talk with Joe Abercrombie about Last Argument of Kings,the third book in The First Law Trilogy. We talk about the characters and the more contemporary feel of their speech, the more intimate nature of relationships and intrigues, and about how the buzz about these stories surround the writing style of the battle scenes."

Meanwhile, Patrick Rothfus, he of The Name of the Wind,raves about Joe Abercrombie (and Brandon Sanderson) on his blog: "The books are good, really good. They pulled me in. Well-developed world. Unique, compelling characters. I like them so much that when I got to the end of the second book and found out the third book wasn't going to be out in the US for another three months. I experienced a fit of rage, then a fit of depression, then I ate some lunch and had a bit of a lay down... I will also say this. This isn't some cookie-cutter fantasy. It's refreshingly realistic, but also very gritty and dark. It might even be fair to call it grim. You have been warned." Of course, I should point out, the books are all three available in the US now...

Discover Magazine on Fast Forward 2: "It’s a great collection, with a good mix of stories ranging from hard science fiction to near magic realism. Stand outs for me included 'True Names,' a novella by Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum set in a post-post-post-human universe, and 'An Eligible Boy,' written by Ian McDonald, that takes place in the mid-21st century India that McDonald has used as the backdrop for his 2004 book River of Gods." Our friend and frequent commentator Rene also has a nice review on her blog, Little Bits of Everything: "This is a fantastic anthology that I look forward to rereading. I sincerely hope that Fast Forward becomes an annual anthology; the first two volumes are incredibly strong."

Over at Adventures in Reading, Joe Sherry reviews Mike Resnick's Starship: Mercenary. I was struck by a particular comparison he made - "This may be an odd comparison given the length and success of Mike Resnick's career, but Starship: Mercenary is a fun military science fiction novel that fans of John Scalzi's work will want to jump right into. There is a certain comparison and similarity in style." This struck me because I read the manuscript for Mercenary within a month of The Last Colony and thought the same thing.

Also a positive review of Stalking the Vampire at Monsters & Critics: "...features offbeat humor, amusing dialog and a zany cast of characters that is sure to entertain the most jaded sci-fi fan and spark plenty of interest in an emerging series."

And here Intercontinental Ballistic Discourse discusses a host of Mike Resnick works, including the extant Starship series: "I’ve got to say: wow! The characters are engaging, the story is fast and entertaining, and the plots are believable. My favorite form of science fiction is loosly described as military science fiction, or sci-fi that takes place around a starcraft or some form of governmental space navy and this series started off that way and branched out to something even more."

Whew!

10/17/08

Garrett Lisi: A beautiful new theory of everything

Via Ted.com, a beautiful theory from a fascinating guy:

Viva FAST FORWARD!

Terrific review and breakdown of the recently-released Pyr antho FAST FORWARD 2, over at Little Bits of Everything. Check it out! LBOE's Final verdict: "This is a fantastic anthology that I look forward to rereading. I sincerely hope that FAST FORWARD becomes an annual anthology; the first two volumes are incredibly strong."

10/14/08

Secret Services

Lately I've been thinking a lot about an idea that's become a standard trope in fiction the last decade or two, the "clandestine government agencies that investigate the occult." It's an idea that resonates with me, clearly, as a quick glance over my library of books, comics, and DVDs results in dozens of examples.

A couple of weeks ago, after rereading all of Mike Mignola's Hellboy and related comics, watching the first episodes of the new Fringe series, and enjoying the premier of Cartoon Network's terrific new series Secret Saturdays (which isn't quite the same thing, but close enough to push the same buttons), I decided maybe the universe was trying to send me a message. I've been tinkering with my own clandestine government agency of occult investigators the last few weeks, Bureau Zero (the American counterpart to the British agency MI8 that is featured in the forthcoming End of the Century), so I figured it might serve to run down the list of preiminent examples and see if I can't identify some common characteristics.

The result is an irregular series of posts on my personal blog under the heading "Secret Services," my blanket name for such outfits in fiction. So far I've worked my way through a little over a half-dozen examples, and I've only begun to scratch the surface. If this kind of thing interests you, come on over and check it out, won't you?

10/10/08

From io9 With Love

io9, one of the coolest, mandatory-read sites in sf, spotlights my work with a cover illustration gallery -- and I love that they chose to lead with the art for Pyr's Robert Silverberg release, SON OF MAN! Big thanks to io9's Charlie Jane Anders! Great title for the piece -- "Revenge of the Giant Space Tentacle". Awesome!

10/6/08

Joe Mallozzi on Fast Forward 2

Stargate: Atlantis executive producer/writer and all around good guy Joseph Mallozzi has some nice things to say about my latest anthology, Fast Forward 2:
Long-time visitors to this blog are no doubt familiar with editor Lou Anders through his (all-too) infrequent visits here, and his previous SF collection, Fast Forward: Future Fiction From the Cutting Edge, which was a past book of the month club selection. Well, in Fast Forward 2, Lou has assembled a nice group of stories form the likes of Jack McDevitt, Nancy Kress, and Dr. Who’s Paul Cornell. As is the case with most anthologies, I didn’t like everything. But most of what I did like, I liked a lot. Stand-outs for me included Paolo Bacigalupi’s powerfully dead-on commentary on the challenges of maintaining journalistic integrity in a market increasingly driven by hits and eyeballs (“The Gambler”), Ian McDonald’s delightful tale of a young man in future India who relies on an Hindu A.I. to give him game (“An Eligible Boy“), Mike Resnick and Pat Cadigan’s trippy account of a world in which the borders between dream and reality blur (“Not Quite Alone in the Dream Quarter“), and Jack McDevitt’s amusing and ultimately heartfelt tale of a reluctant A.I. named George. Special mention should also be made of the book’s cover compliments of our pal John Picacio.

10/3/08

New Scientist: The Future of Science Fiction

The New Scientist is devoting an entire issue to the Future of Science Fiction. They write:
With the death earlier this year of Arthur C Clarke, the last of science fiction's Golden Age giants, and with mainstream literature becoming increasingly speculative and futuristic, is science fiction as a genre dying out?

We plan to explore this question in a special edition of New Scientist out on 15 November – as well as reviewing the best new science fiction books and talking to some of the world's leading writers.

They have a page where you can vote for your favorite science fiction book. Naturally, I might have a few suggestions of folks who should be on their radar.

The Stormcaller is In

Tom Lloyd's The Stormcaller is now shipping from Amazonand B&N.com, but still on pre-order at Borders.com.

10/2/08

Look Who’s Talking Up Pyr

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2008

CONTACT: Jill Maxick at 800-853-7545
jmaxick@prometheusbooks.com

Look Who’s Talking Up Pyr
A Variety of Notable Fans Brand It Well Worth Reading

Amherst, NY — The conventional wisdom holds that publishers don't have dedicated readerships, authors and subgenres do. Those few publishers that do cultivate a single brand identity tend to concentrate their focus on a particular subgenre, such as military science fiction.

Yet over the last few years, we have begun to hear from readers, critics, chain bookstore buyers, distributors, bloggers and independent bookstores, that Pyr is becoming an exception to this notion. It seems a Pyr brand is taking hold—based not on any one niche within the genre, but on the expectation of a general level of extremely high quality.

Every press likes to identify their readership. Whether for epic fantasy, hard science fiction, sci-fantasy blends, space opera or something else, just who thinks of Pyr as a line worth reading?

Junot Díaz, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, says “Pyr books has in a few short years become the imprint to beat in the science fiction and fantasy fields.”

Díaz explains, “[With The First Law series, Joe] Abercrombie has written the finest epic fantasy trilogy in recent memory. He's one writer that no one should miss. Ian McDonald’s Brasyl is beyond superb. This novel should have beaten all comers for all the main awards. And who is writing space opera as sharp as Kay Kenyon in her The Entire And The Rose series?”

Barbara Ehrenreich—author of This Land Is Their Land and Nickel and Dimed (Metropolitan Books)—was asked by Time Magazine to name a guilty pleasure, something she reads when she doesn’t want to work. She named River of Gods by Ian McDonald. Ehrenreich said, “There aren't many literary sci-fi thrillers that deliver a mind-expanding metaphysical punch, and this one ended all too soon. But in the afterglow of McDonald's lushly blooming imagination, even the real world is looking better.”

Joseph Mallozzi writes and produces one of television’s hottest science fiction shows, Stargate: Atlantis. During production in Vancouver, Canada, he regularly communicates with the show’s fans through online forums and blogs. Somehow, he also finds time to read for pleasure—and some of his recent favorites come from Pyr.

Mallozzi says, “Pyr continues to impress with its growing line-up of premiere genre fiction. From Justina Robson's mind-bending Quantum Gravity series to Kay Kenyon's thoughtful and provocative Entire and the Rose saga, it's an imprint marked for offering up some of the best Fantasy and SF being written today.”

Apparently, even Stargate: Atlantis characters read Pyr books. In recent episodes, both Chuck the technician and Dusty were seen reading Theodore Judson’s The Martian General’s Daughter.

Lou Anders, Pyr Editorial Director, notes, “Pyr’s goal from day one was to provide books of a consistently high quality, so it is extremely gratifying to hear that readers—famous, fictional, or otherwise—feel that is what they are getting.”

###

10/1/08

Paul Cornell's Short Story From FF2 Free Online!

In support of Fast Forward 2,we've put the entirely of the opening story from the anthology online at the new Pyr Sample Chapters page. (If you are viewing this inside the frame of the Pyr site, you might right click to avoid opening a window in a window).

"Catherine Drewe" by two-time Hugo nominee Paul Cornell is a tale of a Bond-like character in an alternate history where the Great Game never ended and the British Empire - along with the other world powers - extends its reach throughout the solar system.

Paul says of the character:
"I like to think I'm writing in the tradition of Ian Fleming's Bond novels (not the movies) but I'm trying to stay away from pastiche, and instead hope to explore the same debates about masculinity and Britishness he did, while perhaps coming to different conclusions."