[GUEST POST] Martha Wells on NASA, Up Close and Personal

Martha Wells is the author of nine fantasy novels, including The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. Her newest novel is The Cloud Roads, just released by Night Shade Books. Her next novel from Night Shade will be The Serpent Sea, coming out next year. Her publications also include two Stargate: Atlantis novels and several short stories.

NASA Up Close and Personal, for SF/F Writers and Editors

For the past few years, one of the perks for the guests of honor at ApolloCon, in Houston, Texas, is a VIP tour of NASA, led by Paul A. Abell, Lead Scientist for Planetary Small Bodies. If you are ever lucky enough to be offered the chance, you want to take this tour. Put on your comfortable shoes and leap into the car, because you don’t want to miss it! It takes about eight hours with a break for lunch, but it is worth every second. I was lucky enough to be an ApolloCon guest of honor this year, and took the tour the Thursday before the con started, with my husband and Ann VanderMeer, the ApolloCon editor guest of honor.

You do need a security clearance, and for each section a briefer/escort who works in that particular area will join you to give that part of tour and answer questions and be happy when you stare at everything with wide eyes and tell them how incredible it is.

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‘The Death of Science Fiction’ as Mythogenic Rejuvenation (Part One)

“Doomsayers continued to predict the imminent demise of science fiction throughout 1997, some of them even seeming to look forward to it with gloomy, headshaking, I-told-you-so-but-you-wouldn’t-listen-to-me relish; but . . .it seems to me that the actual numbers and the actual real-world situation do not justify these sorts of gloomy predications. To modify the words of Mark Twain, the Death of Science Fiction has been greatly exaggerated.” - Gardner Dozois

“This uncomfortable impure origin does nothing. however, to calm the anxieties for legitimation, nor can it, since the demands for legitimacy appeal to an external authority. The fantasy of non-origin persists, and it meets its complement in the future with the fantasy of non-being. Explicit proposals, even demands, for the death of science fiction, from within science fiction, are commonplace.This is the ecstatic process of transubstantiation back into the mainstream . . . .” – Roger Luckhurst

“SF isn’t dying, it hasn’t been ill, and frequent terminal diagnoses often see the undertaker clutching a handful of nails and a hammer and scratching his head over an empty coffin. However, discussions about this demise have been resurrecting themselves in only slightly altered form since I first read ‘about’ SF rather than SF itself. I’m betting there was some plonker declaring the death of SF the moment Sputnik beeped or just after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon. Really, the whole pointless staggering debate needs a nice fat stake driven through its heart. ” – Neal Asher

“The Death of Science Fiction” has been with us for a long time. It is a perennial topic, nigh unto a trope at this point. Writers from Kristine Kathryn Rusch to John C. Wright have discussed it. Richard Lupoff bemoaned it in the early 1980s and early last year Sarah A. Hoyt observed that it was more of a killing than just SF expiring. Mark Charan Newton just weeks before that defended this idea at length, arguing further that the specific genre was dying, while other sorts of fantastika were doing better.

There are many more, but what is fascinating about this idea is not just how many people discuss it or how often the topic seems to arise, but that it has at this point a quality of mythogenic rejuvenation that draws some to it while mightily irritating others. While some users of the term (like Newton) genuinely see the end of Science Fiction, many others, and many who respond to the idea, either feel that the idea is incorrect or that it is a call to action, myself included at one point. I’ve written about this previously elsewhere; but as I examine the pervasiveness of this idea, the combination of anxiety and passionate engagement that it seems to produce, and the constant return to it as a fabled touchstone, I am curious to figure out the notion’s power and why it seems to be – rhetorically, symbolically, socially – so necessary for the resurrection of this foreseen death that never actually occurs.

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The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 062): An Interview with Laura Resnick, Author of the Esther Diamond Series

In episode 62 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sits down with Laura Resnick, author of the Esther Diamond series published by DAW.

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[GUEST POST] Joel Shepherd on The Secret to Successful Female Action Hero Films

Joel Shepherd was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974. He has studied Film and Television, International Relations, has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, and traveled widely in Asia. His first trilogy, the Cassandra Kresnov Series, consists of Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch. A new series, Trial of Blood & Steel, consists of Sasha, Petrodor, Tracato, and Haven. Visit Joel Shepherd’s Web site at www.joelshepherd.com.

The Secret to Successful Female Action Hero Films

In Hollywood, there’s a feeling that movies with leading female action characters don’t do very well. This in turn makes it hard for more movies of that ilk to get made. Now let’s be fair to Hollywood — rather than just blast the many film industry folks who believe this stuff by listing all the big movies with leading female action characters that have done good or great, let’s acknowledge that there are plenty that have done poorly. It’s not that Hollywood is wrong to say female action leads have a mediocre record, it’s that they’re wrong to attribute that record to a lack of audience interest. The poor record is because most of these movies stink, and audiences, unsurprisingly, don’t like bad movies.

Why do these movies stink? It’s this…

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Daily Science Fiction Roster of Stories for July 2011

Daily Science Fiction has announced its July 2011 line-up of free stories:

  • July 1: “Barnaby: Or, As Luck Would Have it” by K.G. Jewell
  • July 4: “Like the Fourth of July” by John Paolicelli
  • July 5: “Upgrade” by Allison Starkweather
  • July 6: “Blink” by Carol Hassler
  • July 7: “Off the Shelf” by Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli
  • July 8: “Filling up the Void” by Richard Gropp
  • July 11: “Persistence” by Kurt Newton
  • July 12: “Suspicious” by James Patrick Kelly
  • July 13: “Distant Dragon” by L.L. Phelps
  • July 14: “Heart of Gold” by James Valvis
  • July 15: “Still Life” by A.C. Wise
  • July 18: “Deathbed” by Caroline M. Yoachim
  • July 19: “The Wishwriter’s Wife” by Ian Michael McHugh
  • July 20: “Paying the Tab” by Brian K. Lowe
  • July 21: “Counting Coup” by Kat Otis
  • July 22: “Forever Sixteen” by Amy Sundberg
  • July 25: “Toad Sister” by Joanna Michal Hoyt
  • July 26: “Only Backwards” by Kenneth S. Kao
  • July 27: “The Jester” by Maria Melissa Obedoza
  • July 28: “Blessed Are the Sowers” by Robert Lowell Russell
  • July 29: “The Large People” by Karen Heuler

SF Tidbits for 6/30/11

Interviews and Profiles


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Do You Read Short SF/F Fiction?

I’ve got a new article up at the Kirkus Reviews blog today that talks about reading short fiction and asks: Do You Read Short SF/F Fiction?

Stop by and check it out!

WINNERS: New York Asian Film Festival Tickets

We have our two winners for tickets to the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival. Our lucky winners are:

Ellen L. and Cathy G.

An email with more information has been sent to the winners and the festival organizers have been notified of their names.

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who entered!

MIND MELD: Keeping SF Relevant In A Technological Society

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In a recent Mind Meld (Are Golden Age Writers Worth It For New SF Readers?) one of our respondents asked this in their response, “How the hell is sf from today going to stay relevant long enough to get published?” We thought that was an excellent question! So we’re slightly rephrasing it and asking this:

Q: How, if at all, should SF change to stay relevant in a fast changing technological society?

Here’s what they said…

Kay Kenyon
Kay Kenyon’s latest work from Pyr is a science fiction quartet with a fantasy feel: The Entire and The Rose. The lead title, Bright of the Sky, was in Publishers Weekly’s top 150 books of 2007. Right now Kindle readers can try out her series with a free download of Bright. At her website, she holds forth on writing, the industry and other curious pursuits.

If by relevant we mean matching up technology to the actual, then let’s all quit and write regency romance. Because we’re going to lose the game of prediction. It’s all changing too fast. But then, so what? SF writers sometimes get kudos for foreshadowing big tech advances, but for me that’s kind of like congratulating a cook for finding a diamond ring in a sack of flour. It’s very nice, but hardly the point. The point in SF is the story, and stories are about people and yes, ideas, but those ideas are interesting whether the hardware turns out to be this way or that. I just read a story by Joe Halderman (In Year’s Best SF 16) about post traumatic stress disorder on a distant planet. The medical aspects were a gloss but believable enough. The human factor–the story–was riveting. That’s why I’m giving the So What answer to staying relevant. I admit that it’s a tricky environment to write in. Some stories will be so dead wrong on technology that it’ll bump readers out of the story. But aside from a little bad luck choosing a premise, I’m not much worried about relevance. Dune was written over 40 years ago. Still a good read, because it’s about people, politics, religion–things that aren’t so influenced by tech. Obviously my preference for stories of characterization is showing here. When I read some hard SF authors I find myself bored by the excruciating science extrapolations. These guys need to be right, or at least relevant. And over the long haul I think they’re going to lose that game.

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TOC: ‘The Mammoth Book of Steampunk’ Edited by Sean Wallace

Sean Wallace has posted the table of contents for his upcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of Steampunk:

  1. Introduction: Steampunk: Looking to the Future through the Lens of the Past by Ekaterina Sedia
  2. “Fixing Hanover” by Jeff VanderMeer
  3. “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  4. “Icebreaker” by Elise Tobler (original)
  5. “Tom Edison and His Amazing Telegraphic Harpoon” by Jay Lake
  6. “The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball” by Genevieve Valentine
  7. “Clockwork Fairies” by Cat Rambo
  8. “The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Muhammed Akbar” by Shweta Narayan
  9. “Prayers of Forges and Furnaces” by Aliette de Bodard (original)
  10. “The Effluent Engine” by N.K. Jemisin
  11. “The Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi” by Peter M Ball
  12. “The Armature of Flight” by Sharon Mock
  13. “The Anachronist’s Cookbook” by Catherynne M. Valente
  14. “Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu” by Alex Dally MacFarlane (original)
  15. “Zeppelin City” by Michael Swanwick & Eileen Gunn
  16. “The People’s Machine” by Tobias Buckell
  17. “The Hands That Feed” by Matthew Kressel
  18. “Machine Maid” by Margo Lanagan
  19. “To Follow the Waves” by Amal El-Mohtar
  20. “Clockmaker’s Requiem” by Barth Anderson
  21. “Dr. Lash Remembers” by Jeffrey Ford
  22. “Lady Witherspoon’s Solution” by James Morrow
  23. “Reluctance” by Cherie Priest
  24. “A Serpent in the Gears” by Margaret Ronald
  25. “The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois” by Megan Arkenberg
  26. “Biographical Notes To ‘A Discourse On The Nature Of Causality’ by Benjamin Rosenbaum” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  27. “Clockwork Chickadee” by Mary Robinette Kowal
  28. “Cinderella Suicide” by Samantha Henderson
  29. “Arbeitskraft” by Nick Mamatas (original)
  30. “To Seek Her Fortune” by Nicole Kornher-Stace
  31. “The Ballad of the Last Human” by Lavie Tidhar (original)

This Cool Animated Video Celebrates The 20th anniversary of The Rocketeer

SF Tidbits for 6/29/11

Interviews and Profiles


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WINNER: Autographed Copy of ‘The Sworn’ by Gail Z. Martin

The winner of the autographed copy of The Sworn by Gail Z. Martin has been randomly chosen and notified.

Congratulations to: Laura D> of New Jersey! Your book should arrive soon.

And thanks to everyone who entered.

Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Death and Resurrection’ vs. ‘Somewhere Beneath Those Waves’ vs. ‘Winning Mars’

Prime your engines, folks! It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best and why.

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.

VIDEO: A Cinematic History of the Future

Think of it as a video timeline…

[via T.N. Tobias]

Conversations with Dead Science Fiction Writers

While writing this installment, I learned of the passing of Martin H. Greenberg, science fiction’s most prolific anthologist. I never met Greenberg, but like many people I’ve never met in science fiction, I felt like I knew him, both through his own work, as well as through the voices of those who had worked with him, or who had been friends with him. It made me think about all of the science fiction writers I never got to meet, and what we might have discussed had a meeting been possible.Here is a list of six science fiction people that I wish I could have met. They are listed alphabetically by last name.

  • Isaac Asimov. Asimov is one of my favorite writers. I enjoy his fiction and nonfiction equally, although I will admit to a preference to his nonfiction. His Foundation series is one of my all-time favorites. If I’d had the opportunity to meet with him late in his life, I think I might have asked him how he might have concluded that series. After Foundation and Earth, he didn’t know where the series was going and so he went ahead and wrote two prequels. I wonder if he ever figured out what came after Foundation and Earth?

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FINALISTS: 2011 BFS Fantasy Awards

The British Fantasy Society has announced the shortlist for the 2011 BFS Fantasy Awards:

  • Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill – Pan McMillan
  • Demon Dance – Sam Stone – The House Of Murky Depths
  • The Leaping – Tom Fletcher – Quercus
  • Pretty Little Dead Things – Gary McMahon – Angry Robot
  • The Silent Land – Graham Joyce – Gollancz

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TOC: ‘Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction’ Edited by Ian Whates

Solaris has posted the table of contents for the upcoming anthology Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction edited by Ian Whates:

  1. “A Smart-Mannered Uprising of the Dead” by Ian McDonald
  2. “The Incredible Exploding Man” by Dave Hutchinson
  3. “Sweet Spots” by Paul di Filippo
  4. “Best SF of the Year Three” by Ken MacLeod
  5. “The One that Got Away” by Tricia Sullivan
  6. “Rock Day” by Stephen Baxter
  7. “Eluna” by Stephen Palmer
  8. “Shall I Tell You the Problem with Time Travel?” by Adam Roberts
  9. “The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara” by Lavie Tidhar
  10. “Steel Lake” by Jack Skillingstead
  11. “Mooncakes” by Mike Resnick and Laurie Tom
  12. “At Play in The Fields” by Steve Rasnic Tem
  13. “How We Came Back From Mars” by Ian Watson
  14. “You Never Know” by Pat Cadigan
  15. “Yestermorrow” by Richard Salter
  16. “Dreaming Towers, Silent Mansions” by Jaine Fenn
  17. “Eternity’s Children” by Eric Brown and Keith Brooke
  18. “For the Ages” by Alastair Reynolds
  19. “Return of the Mutant Worms” by Peter F. Hamilton

An 11-Minute Preview of ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’

Need I say more? Oh, OK…how about Torchwood: Miracle Day will air on Starz on Friday, July 8th at 10pm ET/PT.

“Torchwood: Miracle Day” begins with a day when nobody dies. All across the world, nobody dies. And then the next day, and the next, and the next, people keep aging — they get hurt and sick — but they never die. The result: a population boom, overnight. With all the extra people, resources are finite. It’s said that in four month’s time, the human race will cease to be viable. But this can’t be a natural occurrence – someone’s got to be behind it. It’s a race against time as C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson investigates a global conspiracy. The answers lie within an old, secret British institute. As Rex keeps asking “What is Torchwood?,” he’s drawn into a world of adventure, and a threat to change what it means to be human, forever.

STARZ’ newest original series is a reimagining of the UK sensation, which originally debuted in 2006 on BBC One. The show’s original creator, writer/producer Russell T Davies, serves as executive producer along with BBC Worldwide Productions’ SVP Julie Gardner, with Davies also serving as show-runner. “Torchwood: Miracle Day” is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions for Starz, BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Worldwide.

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Eureka Returns on July 11

Eureka is a SciFi show I continue to watch — it’s light and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which means it’s usually fun. I’m looking forward to the new season (which will feature guest stars Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton and Stan Lee) which begins on July 11th. Here’s a preview…