Author Archive

Convention Attention: Anime Midwest

Earlier this month, my husband and I attended Anime Midwest, in Chicago. As the name implies, the majority of guests, panels, and activities had a connection to Japanese anime shows and movies, Japanese culture, and Japanese fashion. Special guests included voice actors Caitlin Glass, Sonny Strait, Greg Ayres, Alexis Tipton, and Johnny Yong Bosch, the famous Japanese fashion brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and a number of independent fashion designers. There were also steampunk and comedy based musical guests, gaming experts on hand, webcomic artists and authors, and Japanese weaponry experts. If I listed all the panelists and other guests, you’d still be reading this column three hours from now
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Clarkesworld Year Six includes all 34 original pieces published in Clarkesworld Magazine during their sixth year. If you’re looking to get caught up on Clarkesworld, you can’t beat their yearly volumes.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Large variety of voice and style; good mix of famous writers and newer voices; includes many excellent examples of speculative fiction that pushes the boundaries; stories can be read in any order.
CONS: None. One of the strongest collections I’ve read in a long time.
BOTTOM LINE: This collection is jam-packed with Nebula and Locus award winners and Hugo nominated works. Well worth the money for that alone.

Skimming the table of contents of Clarkesworld Year Six, you’re going to recognize a lot of titles. The fiction that Clarkesworld published in their sixth year includes Nebula and Locus winners and nominees, Hugo nominees, and stories included in Gardner Dozois’ Years Best Science Fiction, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. So it easily goes without saying that the 34 stories included in Clarkesworld Year Six are some of the best of the best.

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You already know who New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox is, but you might not know it. If you’ve read the novelization of the recent Daredevil, Man of Steel, Godzilla, Ghostrider or Underworld films, you’ve read a Greg Cox novel. Beyond those, he’s written in the Batman, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Iron Man,  Xena, Terminator, X-Men, among other universes, and over 14 Star Trek novels.  Greg is an expert, he’s been doing this for over twenty years!  And he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions  about his newest novelization of the recent Godzilla movie, the movie tie-in industry, and more!

Let’s get to the interview!


Andrea Johnson: About a week after reading your novelization of Godzilla, I went and saw the movie. Your novelization expanded many  portions of the film, including extra introductory material, and further development of side characters. When writing a novelization, how do you know what areas you can expand on, and when to “stick to the script”?

Greg Cox: In general, the studios prefer that you stick to the script in terms of the overall plot and dialogue, but there’s often room to flesh out the characters and fill in more of their backgrounds, especially with the supporting characters who might not get as much screen time and development as the leads. On Godzilla, I also had the advantage of seeing early drafts of the scripts, including scenes that were cut or shortened in the final movie.

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Samit Basu is a writer of books, films and comics. His first novel, The Simoqin Prophecies, published by Penguin India in 2003, when Samit was 23, was the first book in the bestselling Gameworld Trilogy and marked the beginning of Indian English fantasy writing.

Samit’s other novels include Turbulence, Resistance, Stoob, and Terror on the Titanic. Turbulence was published in the UK in 2012 and in the US in 2013 to rave reviews. It won Wired‘s Goldenbot Award as one of the books of 2012 and was superheronovels.com’s Book of the Year for 2013. All five of Basu’s novels have been Indian bestsellers.

Samit was born in Calcutta, educated in Calcutta and London, and currently divides his time between Delhi and Mumbai. He can be found on Twitter, @samitbasu, and at samitbasu.com.

Samit was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his new novels, being a trendsetter within Indian publishing, and more!

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

Where did the time go? It’s hard to believe that 2014 is half over. With that in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: What were your favorite science fiction and fantasy titles that were published during the first half of this year?

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Remember last month when this column hosted a roundtable of people who had recently attended their first convention? Well, I got so many responses that I had to split the roundtable into two parts. And what a variety of responses I got! A Blogger who had a blast at Eastercon, Stargate and Star Trek fans meeting actors and writers, a first adventure at BEA and more! Here’s what I asked everyone:

Q: Tell us a little about the first convention you attended. Why did you choose this one to be your very first con? Did it meet your expectations, and if not, what changes would you like to see at future events? is this a convention you’d attend again?

and here’s what they said:

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Writer Dave Elliott is a constant innovator in the world of comics, with a long career as a writer, artist, editor, publisher and IP developer.  He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the development of his newest creation The Weirding Willows, the DeviantArt community, changes he has seen in the comics industry over the years, and more!

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James Morrow is the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Towing Jehovah, the Nebula Award-winning novella Shambling Twards Hiroshima, and the New York Times Notable Book Blameless in Abaddon. His recent novels include the Last Witchfinder, hailed by the Washington Post as “literary magic”, and The Philosopher’s Apprentice, which received a rave review from Entertainment Weekly. Morrow lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

After reading Morrow’s newest novella, The Madonna and The Starship, I was brimming with questions for him! Read on, as we discuss the evolution of the new novella, how Science Fiction finds a balance between logical positivism and theism, home movies, The Lord Of The Rings lesson plans, his soon to be released Darwin epic, and more!


Andrea Johnson: The Madonna and the Starship deals with themes you’ve touched on before: organized religion, humanism, atheism, and satire thereof. I’d like to know what made you decide to set this newest novel in the 1950s and give it a pulpy scifi twist?

James Morrow: I imagine I’ll go to my grave obsessed with embarrassingly large philosophical questions, conducting the discussion simultaneously in my head and on the printed page. It’s all so mysterious, this business of being a person with a private consciousness. None of the respectable answers satisfy me.

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Greg Egan was born in 1961. Since the early ’80s he has published twelve novels and more than fifty short stories, winning the Hugo Award for his novella “Oceanic” and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Permutation City. He lives in Perth, Australia.

Greg took a few minutes to chat with me about his recently completed Orthogonal trilogy, how easy and fun it is to mess with the laws of physics, e-book bells and whistles, Karen Burnham’s book on his works, and more. Famous for his hard science fiction, he has supplemented many of his works with additional material that is available on his website.

Let’s get to the interview!


Q: The world of the Orthogonal trilogy followed different laws of the universe that we do. For example, for Yalda and everyone on her planet, the speed of light isn’t a constant. What kind of research did you do to make sure the changed laws and new math would be consistent as the story progressed?

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

Stew. Beer. Earl Grey, Hot. I *know* there are more interesting science fiction and fantasy foods out there! With that in mind, here’s what we asked our panelists:

Q: What’s your favorite food or drink from the world of speculative fiction? Any thoughts on how you’d go about making it?

Here’s what they said…

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One of the reasons I enjoy writing this column is that I hope someone who is reading it, who has never been to a convention before will decide to go to one, be it a fan run scifi and fantasy convention, a writers conference, a large scale trade show (like BEA), a ComicCon, or any other kind of genre and/or fandom convention.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and with that in mind I e-mailed a few friends and put a call out on twitter to get in touch with people who had attended their first convention within the last year.

Here’s the questions I asked:

Q: Tell us a little about the first convention you attended. Why did you choose this one to be your very first con? Did it meet your expectations, and if not, what changes would you like to see at future events? is this a convention you’d attend again?

And here’s the first batch of responses!

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REVIEW SUMMARY: The second book in Stephanie Saulter’s ®evolution series answers many (but not all) of the questions readers were left with at the end of the first book, Gemsigns, gives us a lot of background information Aryel and Zavcka, and opens a new plotline that will get readers excited for the next book in the series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Gems are now legally equal to the norms, but society has a long way to go. Aryel’s foster family visits the city for medical advice for her brother’s crippling disease, and Sharon Varsi is investigating a strange theft involving out of date genestock. Meanwhile, Zavcka Klist is rebranding her company in an attempt to start a partnership with the Gems she is responsible for creating and then nearly destroying.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Touches on important political issues; a great balance between good pacing and a well-developed ensemble cast; plot is emotionally gripping.
CONS: Handling of one of character’s special ability is heavy-handed; sometimes it’s hard to tell who the characters in the flashbacks are.
BOTTOM LINE: Some books are good, some books are even great. This one is important.

In a recent guest post here at SF Signal entitled We Need Fiction to Tell The Truth, author Stephanie Saulter more so uses the column to talk about how too many people allow their discomfort, fear, or ignorance to color their interactions with others who have physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities, but the column’s title itself is a perfect summary of so much of what she touched on in Gemsigns, and now in Binary. Gems (genetically modified people) may not look like us, but they are just like us. Does this sound familiar? This is the same line we raise (or should be raising) our children with: that person may not look like you (different skin color, or different culture, or is in a wheelchair, or is deaf, etc.), but they are just like you. Needing fiction to tell the truth, indeed. Before you start worrying about a “message” novel, Saulter isn’t trying to make readers feel guilty or feel bad. She’s showing us what can happen when we do finally remember that we are all in this together, that it’s not “us vs them”, because we are all “us”.

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

Be it stand alone comics or an ongoing storyline, everyone enjoys a good webcomic. But I need some new ones to follow and explore. With that in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: Which webcomic should I be reading right now? What do you most enjoy about it?

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There’s been a lot of news lately — the Hugo ballot was announced, and the British Science Fiction Awards were presented at Eastercon! Awards season is upon us, which means it’s the perfect time to talk about other big genre awards, and which Conventions you can attend to watch the awards ceremonies. It’s one thing to see “Hugo Award Winner”, or “Philip K Dick Award Winner” on the front cover of the book you’re reading, but how awesome is it to actually watch that award be presented? Pretty darn awesome, that’s what.

In lieu of giving you paragraphs upon paragraphs of details of each and every award and convention, I have boiled this down to the basics: What is the award? At what Convention is it presented? Who has won it recently? I put in as many links as I could so you can learn more about the different awards and conventions at your leisure. For even more information about past winners, check out this meticulously curated awards database at the World without End Blog or Locus Onlin’s Science Fiction Awards Database.

In no particular order:

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BOOK REVIEW: The Memory of Sky by Robert Reed

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Reed’s newest novel offers astoundingly vivid world-building and visuals that set the stage for an unusual coming of age story.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Astonishingly unique world; interesting characters; a true blending of science fiction and fantasy elements.
CONS: Uneven pacing; world building descriptions can be infodumpy; ending won’t have as big an impact for readers unfamiliar with Reed’s previous Great Ship novels Marrow or The Well of Stars.
BOTTOM LINE: Reed presents a fascinating and alluring world, but muddled exposition gets in the way of enjoying every level of the story.

I’ve enjoyed every Robert Reed short story I’ve come across, so I figured it was time to try one of his longer novels. It’s very difficult to talk about this story without dumping a lot of plot on you, but please trust me when I say I’m barely scratching the surface of the plot and the far-reaching consequences. The world-building and sprawling plot are presented in a very dense way, and there is a lot to tell.

Let’s talk about world-building first, because it’s as stunningly vivid as it is complex.
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[Here's an addendum to the this week's Mind Meld that asked: Where would you take the T.A.R.D.I.S., coming from Rachel Swirksy]

Q: If you could take one trip in the T.A.R.D.I.S., where would you go?

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MIND MELD: Where Would You Take the T.A.R.D.I.S.?

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

It was the recent Mind Meld on Favorite Convention Panels, combined with the romance of the phrase “All of time and space. Everything that ever happened or ever will…,” that inspired me to ask our panelists this question:

Q: If you could take one trip in the T.A.R.D.I.S., where would you go?

Here’s what they said:
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Stephanie Saulter is a freelance business consultant who read biology at MIT before majoring in English Literature and minoring in Anthropology. Born in the Caribbean, she now lives in England. The first book in her ®Evolution series, Gemsigns, is currently available in the UK and will be published in the US in May. The second book in the series, Binary, will be available in the UK this spring, and she is currently working on the third book in the series. Learn more about Stephanie at her website, or by following her on twitter.

Stephanie was kind enough to answer some questions about the ®Evolution series.


Andrea Johnson: What can you tell us about Gemsigns and its sequel, Binary? What’s the elevator pitch for the ®Evolution series?

Stephanie Saulter: The bulk of the action in Gemsigns takes place a year after an international edict – think of it as an updated Declaration of Human Rights – resulted in the mass emancipation of genetically modified humans, or ‘gems’, from the biotech companies that had created and owned them.
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This month’s Convention Attention column is an open discussion thread. Your responses will help shape what I talk about in upcoming months.

Here are your discussion questions:

  1. Is attending conventions* important?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Who should attend them?

Sound off in the comments!

* By “convention”, I mean any regional, national, or international Convention, be it fan-organized or media sponsored (like a ComiCon), be it big or small, be it writing-focused, specific fandom-focused, or general. I’m not picky.

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time practicing piano, studying karate, and playing a variety of role-playing games.

Her many publications include over forty short stories, the Onyx Court series, and A Natural History of Dragons. Her second novel in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, The Tropic of Serpents, hit bookstore shelves on March 4th 2014.
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