MIND MELD: SF/F Writing Dream Teams

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

SF/F has a long history of collaboration ranging from two authors teaming up to shared worlds, we could list dozens of books that are the products of collaboration. But not everyone has worked on a story in this manner. We asked our panelists this question:

Q: What ‘dream’ writing team-up would you like to see?

Here’s what they said…

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of 26 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. Her fiction has won multiple Nebula and Hugo awards, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

The dream writing team I’d like to see is Ursula LeGuin and Karen Joy Fowler. Both have graceful, eloquent styles and a deep feeling for the human condition: perspicacity tempered with compassion, but never sentimentality. In addition, they would bring the perspectives of two different generations. That would be a story that I would give anything to read.

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MIND MELD: Which SF/F Series Are Too Good To End?

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

Recently I was talking to a friend who had just finished reading Patrick Lee’s Deep Sky. He commented that the series was so good, it was a shame it had to end. That’s an intriguing statement, which I totally stold and repackaged for this Mind Meld! Here’s what we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Which SF&F books/series do you think are so good that it’s a shame they had to end?

Here’s what they said:

Jeremiah Tolbert
Jeremiah Tolbert is a writer and web designer living in Northern Colorado. His stories have appeared in magazines such as Interzone and Fantasy Magazine, and in anthologies such as Way of the Wizard and Seeds of Change. Zelazny’s stories have led to a life long fascination with the idea of multiverses. He’s thinking of naming his next computer “Ghostwheel.”


I’m most often happy to finish a series or book; there are so many wonderful authors I want to read, it’s a blessing that good books actually do end so I can move on to the next one. Thank you, great, established authors, for giving newer authors a chance to captivate an audience by not dragging your series out to thirty-plus titles.

That said, if perhaps some lucky soul, while digging through an old and mysterious steam trunk, found the manuscripts to six more Chronicles of Amber books by Roger Zelazny — well, no earthly force could stop me from acquiring them and devouring their contents. As it is, I battle constant temptation to reread the existing 10 books in the giant omnibus collection I picked up in college as a graduation present to myself.

(Heading into spoilers territory here!), I always felt like the second Amber series ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. As a young teen in the 90s reading the books for the first time, the biggest question remaining for me was, what lies on the other side of Corwin’s Pattern? As a writer, this series has influenced me more than anything else, at least in terms of what I want to accomplish. If I can have the effect on some 13 year old kid the way Zelazny did me, then I’ll consider my work a success.

As much as I wish Zelazny had written another sub-series of titles before his death, I have never been tempted to read the prequels. It’s clear from accounts by authors such as George R.R. Martin that Zelazny intended Amber to end with him. But, perhaps, in another Shadow…alas, I have not walked the Pattern, and the way is closed to me.
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This week, we turned our attention to SciFi television when we asked our panelists this question:

Q: Which off-the-air science fiction television show deserves a remake? What changes would you make to update it?

Here’s how they responded…

A. Lee Martinez
A. Lee Martinez is a writer you probably haven’t heard of but really should have. He is the author of Gil’s All Fright Diner, In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch, The Automatic Detective, Too Many Curses, Monster and the upcoming Divine Misfortune. He credits comic books and Godzilla movies as his biggest influences, and thinks that every story is better with a dash of ninja.

I thought long and hard on this one, and with so many great candidates, it wasn’t easy. Manimal? The Night Stalker? Misfits of Science? Century City? Oh, the delightful possibilities. How can one man make such a controversial decision? Well, after much soul searching, meditation, and hours of telepathic communion with my ancient Martian spirit guide (his name is Jack), I can only find one worthy answer.

Darkwing Duck.

How would I update this classic show? Good question. I probably wouldn’t change it much. I’d give it a more action oriented update that wouldn’t lose the humor of the original. Something like Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Fun, retro, and sharp. I’d also expand Darkwing’s universe to include more superheroes and villains. In addition to the classics such as Liquidator, Bushroot, and Megavolt, I’d introduce new characters. And of course, you could never go wrong with a Gizmoduck team up on a fairly regular basis. All of this would inevitably lead to my ultimate spinoff series:

Justice Ducks Unlimited.

But one step at a time…

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MIND MELD: What’s the Best Story to Never Win a Hugo?

Awards are usually a good indicator of worthwhile and books and short fiction, but sometimes great stories get overlooked. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What’s the best story and the best novel never to win a Hugo since the inception of the award in 1953?

What would you choose? Read on to see what this week’s panelists picked…

C.J. Cherryh
C.J. Cherry has written more than 60 books since the mid-1970s, including the Hugo Award winning novels Downbelow Station (1981) and Cyteen (1988), both set in her Alliance-Union universe. Her latest novels are Conspirator and Regenesis. Besides writing, C.J likes to travel and try new things, like fencing, riding, archery, firearms, ancient weapons, painting and video games. She also has an asteroid named after her: 77185 Cherryh.

Can’t speak for story, but the best novel never to win a Hugo, imho, is Jane Fancher’s Groundties. Due to the fact it came out as Warner imploded, it got no distribution. Period. Debut novel—with no distribution.

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I hated being force-fed books in school because they rarely suited my tastes in speculative fiction reading. Today’s generation, however, has a much better chance of being assigned genre books in school. The following question was asked of this week’s panelists:

Q: If you were teaching a high school literature class, which science fiction or fantasy books first published within the past 10 years would you include on your syllabus?

Read on to see their what books should be on every high schooler’s radar…

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

The trick, of course, is finding books teenagers will love, which also reveal the diversity of the genre and its literary aspirations. And “high school” is a broad range–what’s appropriate for an eighteen-year-old is not always what’s right for a fourteen-year-old. But assuming for a moment we’re talking about a senior-level AP class, I’d want Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads (which I imagine would be challenging to get past the parents, with its discussions of syphilis and slavery, but well worth it); Ted Chiang’s Stories Of Your Life And Others; Justine Larbalestier’s Liar (I’m going on rep for that one, as I have not read it yet, but it’s on my list); Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (Which I would use, among other things, to talk about didactic literature, and I’d want to assign it in concert with Black Beauty, frankly); Christopher Barzak’s One For Sorrow; and a nice anthology in which there are a lot of fun stories in which stuff blows up, because this list is way too damned depressing already.

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MIND MELD: What Book Introduced You to Science Fiction?

We always remember our first. (Yes, I’m talking about reading!) We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What book introduced you to science fiction?

Check below to see their responses. And tell us what book got you started!

Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick is the author of 50 novels, 200 short stories, a pair of screenplays, and the editor of 50 anthologies, as well as the executive editor of Jim Baen’s Universe. According to Locus, he is the leading award winner, living or dead, of short fiction. His work has been translated into 22 languages.

Back when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was reading one of the EC horror comics, and my mother chanced to look over my shoulder, and it must have been a typically gruesome EC panel that she saw, because she ripped it out of my hands and took it away from me.

I argued that this was censorship, which she had always told me she was against, and she, dancing on the head of a pin, explained that it wasn’t censorship because the pictures would give me nightmares, and that she would never think of censoring my reading, just my looking (which, she pointed out, Hollywood’s code did all the time and no adults objected, or at least not any she knew of), and I could buy any horror book I wanted, just no more horror comics.

I went right out to the bookstore with a quarter clutched in my outraged little hand. I’m sure she thought I’d pick up something like Frankenstein, which is all but unreadable to the average ten-year- old…but instead I bought the first “horror” title I came across, which was the Groff Conklin anthology, Science Fiction Terror Tales. I still remember the first three stories: Ray Bradbury’s “Punishment Without Crime”; Fred Brown’s “Arena”; and Bob Sheckley’s “The Leech”. By the time I had read them, I was hooked on science fiction — and I remain hooked to this very day.

So I am now 58 novels, 14 collections, 236 stories, 2 screenplays, 1 comic book, 163 articles and essays, and 47 edited anthologies into my science fiction career, all thanks an unread horror comic and a read-again-and-again-and-again science fiction anthology.

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