In episode 204 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sneaks into an unused programming room to chat with the editor, publisher, and several contributing authors of the Beyond the Sun anthology, out from Fairwood Press.
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MIND MELD: Recent SF/F That Deserves More Attention

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It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the new SF/F that’s produced each year. To help broaden everyone’s horizons, we asked our panelists this question:

Q: What SF/F that you have read/seen/heard/played in 2013 do you think is deserving of more attention?

Here’s what they said…

Jessica Strider
Jessica Strider has worked at a major chain bookstore in Toronto for 10 years. Her in store SF/F newsletter, the Sci-Fi Fan Letter, eventually evolved into a blog where most Tuesdays she posts book reviews and on Fridays she alternates between author interviews, themed reading lists, New Author Spotlights and more. Other days she posts interesting SFF related stuff.

I’ve decided to keep my answers to only things that came out this year, which makes for a fairly small list as all of the movies I’ve seen and a few of the books (notably Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty and Ofir Touche Gafla’s The World of the End) have received a decent amount of attention. So here’s the stuff from 2013 that I’ve read/seen so far that I think could use more recognition.
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MIND MELD: The Successors of Orwell’s 1984

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This week, we decided to transcend Orwell by asking panelists to go beyond 1984.

Q: Recent events have caused the resurgence of George Orwell’s classic 1984. Ever since its original publication, however, genre has tackled and wrestled with the themes of dictatorship, totalitarianism, total war, and more. What works of genre since are worthy of exploring these themes?

Here’s what they said.

Nick Namatas
Nick Mamatas is an American horror, science fiction and fantasy author and editor for the Haikasoru line of translated Japanese science fiction novels for Viz Media.

Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s recent surge of popularity — Bookscan tells me that sales of the mass market paperback edition increased by 35 percent during the week ending June 9th, and a further 60 percent the week after, and other editions saw spikes as well — is a great sign. Both tyranny and collapse are as likely to sneak up on a populace as anything else, so I am pleased to see that people are wary of these horrific intrusions into their privacy by the state. The vision of waking up one morning to swastikas flying from every flagpole is a fanciful one. First we’ll be told, “Now now, Nazism is just a political view some intelligent, college-educated people have…”
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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

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This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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In writing, point of View matters. So we asked a large handful of authors these questions:

Q: As you see it. What are the strengths and weaknesses, for character, worldbuilding and setting in using 1st or 3rd person (or even 2nd?) Omniscient or limited? And how about the time frame of the tense, past or present or even future?

What kinds of Point of view do you prefer to write in? What types of POV do you like to read?

Note: Due to the large number of responses received, this is Part II of the Mind Meld Part I can be found here.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a British science fiction and fantasy author. He was born in Valletta, Malta, grew up in Britain, Southeast Asia and Norway in the 1960s and 1970s. He studied at Kingston College, then worked in publishing and as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent. He now lives in London and Winchester and is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker. He won a British Science Fiction Association award for Felaheen in 2003, was short-listed for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Pashazade the year before, and won the 2006 BSFA award for Best Novel with End of the World Blues. He was short-listed for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2002 for Pashazade. The Exiled Blade, third and final novel in his Assassini series, after The Fallen Blade and The Outcast Blade, comes out next spring from Orbit books. He recently signed a contract for a literary novel, The Final Banquet, which will be published by Canongate next Summer under the pen name Jonathan Grimwood.

About a decade ago I had a breakfast meeting in New York with a US editor who’d just bought three of my novels and wanted them slightly re-edited them for the American market. There were a couple of politically tricky points (climate change for global warming, etc) but the main request was that I edit a handful of scenes to make them more obviously from the hero’s point of view. Over coffee she told me she just didn’t get why European writers couldn’t do pov; all that going back and forth between the heads of different characters, often in the same chapter and sometimes the same scene was like watching tennis. She seemed slightly disbelieving when I said we liked it like that. It wasn’t incompetence on the part of European writers, as readers we were used to povs that switched… Recently – within genre – the introduction of a combined US/UK edit – which aims for something that works within both markets – has ironed out loose third and almost abolished omnipotent (at least that’s how it looks to me). For the moment first person and tight third rule.

First person grabs the reader from the off and drags her/him through the action at the same pace as the main character. However, the advantage of first is also its disadvantage; the reader can only know what the main character knows. Single character tight third allows us to wander a little from the character’s shoulder, but action happening elsewhere has to be kept to a minimum.
If you’re a great writer like James Lee Burke (changing to a different genre for a second), then you can combine first, with tight third and occasionally slip into omnipotent, as he does with the Dave Robicheaux novels, but you have to be very good indeed. Multiple tight third, which is what had my US editor ordering extra coffee, allows you some of the freedom of an omnipotent pov without actually using omnipotent.

Having just written a historical novel that alternates between first person present and first person past, sometimes on the same page and often within the same section, depending on how deeply the main character is immersed in the story he’s telling, I think tense is down to what works for that particular novel. Sure, there are rules but they get broken. I remember an editor, a very good UK one, saying he couldn’t imagine epic fantasy written in the first person present. I’m pretty sure a number of people are doing that now.

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A lot of recent science fiction appears to take place on Earth, and only a minority of space-based science fiction taking place outside the solar system. Novels and stories involving travel to the stars and interstellar travel seems to be out-of-date or out-of-fashion, and even Hard SF treatments of interstellar travel seem as realistic as Star Wars.

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Is interstellar travel (and space empires, etc.) now considered Science Fantasy? What does that say for the state of the genre?

Here’s what they said…

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.

I think that like everything else, fads in science fiction run in cycles, and lately there’s been a big ol’ dystopian wave going on. But it’s not as if deep space science fiction, or SF featuring far-flung space civilizations isn’t still being written. Charlie Stross, Iain Banks, Dan Simmons, Greg Bear, Chris Moriarty, C.J. Cherryh–heck, I’ve written a couple of books dealing with far-flung space travel myself.

If you were to nudge the focus of the question over to whether near-future and near-earth SF has been getting more *awards* attention lately, I think you’d be more accurate.

But there are fads in criticism the same as everything else.

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