Tag Archives: Nick Mamatas

[GUEST POST] Nick Mamatas Asks: Why Write Lovecraftian Fiction?


Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law, The Last Weekend, and the forthcoming mystery novel I Am Providence. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Weird Tales, Tor.com, Best American Mystery Stories, and many other magazines and anthologies. A significant number of his short stories are Lovecraftian—in addition to the ones collected in The Nickronomicon, he has pieces forthcoming in the anthologies Letters to Lovecraft and Shadows Over Main Street. After that, Nick will probably be done.

The Outsider and the Other: Why Write Lovecraftian Fiction?

by Nick Mamatas

Why would anyone write Lovecraftian fiction? is a question that goes unasked in these days of renewed attention for H. P. Lovecraft. Perennially popular within the field of speculative fiction, Lovecraft has been, over the last decade and a half, canonized. He’s been published by both the Library of America and Penguin Classics, and derivations are ubiquitous. Throw a few tentacles into a short story, or the final boss of a video game, and a significant fraction of Lovecraft fandom will materialize and consume. They’ll kibitz and complain, mind you, but with a mouthful of suckers. Writing about Cthulhu or cosmic horror generally is in essence like writing about sensual vampires, or generation starships that have been adrift so long that their inhabitants no longer realize that their home is an ark and not a planet-it’s a set of tropes. And here I am, with a collection of my own tropey and ropey Lovecraftian fictions, The Nickronomicon, just as the issue of H. P. Lovecraft’s racism and anti-Semitism are again coming to the fore.
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MIND MELD: Underappreciated Genre Authors

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Even great writers can get lost among the ever-growing stacks and stacks of genre literature or fade from memory in the course of time. Sometimes a writer’s talent far outweighs his or hers status among the reading public. With that in mind we asked our esteemed panel the following question…

Q: Which genre author, living or dead, do you think deserves more recognition? Why?

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MIND MELD: Our Non-Writer Influences

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We asked this week’s panelists about their influences outside of the literary world.

Q: Who are your non-writer influences? And how have they influenced your work?

Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: Why are Anthologies Important?

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This week, we asked our panelists the following:

Q: Why are anthologies important for writers and readers of Speculative Fiction? What have been some of your favorite anthologies?

Here’s what they said:

Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Benjanun Sriduangkaew likes airports, bees, and makeup. Her works can be found in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies such as End of the Road and Clockwork Phoenix 4.

I adore anthologies. As a reader still new to speculative fiction, it’s a quick way to discover writers, both established and up-and-coming, in one go. In any anthology though there’s a unifying theme there is also usually a huge range of styles, forms, and perspectives – diversity in every sense of the word. It can be exciting compared to reading a novel by a familiar writer; there’s something new every time you reach the end of a story and turn the page. Rapid-fire and heady!

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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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Small Press Spotlight: ChiZine Publications

I’ve taken to frequenting brick and mortar book stores more often since beginning this column. I find myself needing to peruse the stacks, to see what catches my eye and what’s being stocked. It should come as no surprise that few of the presses I’ll be covering find themselves en masse on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, but some do. ChiZine Publications is one of them.

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MIND MELD: Ticklish Subjects in SF

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Is there any subject science fiction hasn’t turned its eyes (or feelers, or antennae) to? Maybe not, but with the passage of time, habits change, mores change, worldviews change, new writers come to the fore bringing new questions, or new ways of asking old questions. There is always a flavor of the month, a subgenre favored by media or by writer’s movements now and then (cyberpunks and steampunks promptly come to mind, but we can also think of the New Weird and New Space Opera, to name just very, very few). On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are always delicate subjects, things that don’t give themselves easily to scrutiny, for a variety of reasons.

Bearing this in mind, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What are, in your opinion, the themes and subjects which science fiction never have delved into properly but should have? (sex, politics, religion, sports may be part of this list – or not) Is there an author or story in particular which you feel has treated said subject in the right way and could be an example to be followed among new writers?

Here’s what they said…

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Sensation, and Bullettime. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, New Haven Review, and many other venues. As an editor and anthologist, he has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and the Bram Stoker awards. His most recent anthology, The Future is Japanese, co-edited with Masumi Washington, is available now.

In a field as wide as SF, surely any mention of a taboo topic will only lead to someone appearing with a copy of a ragged pulp magazine from 1937 to declare, “Aha! You forgot this story! It’s been covered! We need never discuss this again!” But a few things come to mind.

SF in the US has long been a propaganda wing for, inexplicably, both the libertarian movement and US space program. A contradiction, to say the least, but it’s a contradiction that can be papered over by contending that both small-government classical liberalism and enormous government expenditure with military and propaganda purposes are part of the broader narrative of “Americanism.” It is quintessentially American to be a rugged individual, and to have a giant technocratic apparatus to project and extend this individualism. And there is plenty of SF in which America fragments, or collapses, or it superseded, but this is only rarely if ever depicted as a positive good for the world—despite very many people outside of the US who would be pleased if the country, or at least its political power on the world scene, went poof tomorrow. So the happy circumstance of an American implosion is one taboo that comes to mind, though the lack of SF with this theme might just be a case of writers and publishers knowing where their bread is buttered.

In Japanese SF, where the bread is buttered on the other side, the US occasionally shuffles off the scene to allow for a realistic near-future in which Japan predominates, but a lot of Japanese SF also features Japanese characters collaborating with friendly American rivals/partners. One book that approaches the happy end-of-America theme is Genocidal Organ by Project Itoh, which we just released over at Haikasoru.

Another issue not much talked about is the philosophy of science. In SF, it seems to stop with Kuhn. There’s not much discussion of Feyerabend or others of his ilk. Perhaps everything after Kuhn was nonsense, but at least we could expect to see some brickbats leveled at them then. Instead, SF seems happy to shoot spitballs at scientific non-entities like “young Earth” creationists. Kiddie stuff. SF writers and fans often prize their own rationality, but many of them are just mere rationalists.

Finally, the biggest taboo has nothing to do with content, but rather than form. The very notion that there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing, rather than just stuff some people like and others don’t, is looked at with a lot of skepticism in SF circles. It’s a taboo to valorize quality writing, or to claim that there is such a thing as a good reader, and a poor reader.

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MIND MELD: What’s Your Take on the Amazon/Macmillan eBook Disagreement?

The big news last week was the Amazon/Macmillan eBook Disagreement, so we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What’s your take on the Amazon/Macmillan eBook price disagreement and Amazon’s move to delist Macmillan books? What does this mean for publishers, authors and readers? Does this signal a change in the eBook market, and if so, what do you think is on the other side of this dispute?

Here’s what they said…

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas is the author of two novels, and his third, Sensation, will be published by PM Press in 2011. With Ellen Datlow, he is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Haunted Legends, to be published by Tor (an imprint of Macmillan) in September 2010. His short story collection You Might Sleep… was called the work of “an amazing writer with a singularly unique (i.e. twisted) imagination” by the Barnes & Noble blog Unabashedly Bookish.

Same as it ever was. Amazon did this before, delisting various Print on Demand titles in an attempt to get those authors to sign up for its internal POD service. We also saw something similar with Apple, when music labels tried to pressure that company to do price maintenance. The “big issue” has less to do with ebooks or readers than with the simple fact that e-commerce allows for instant manipulations of pretend inventory. Ultimately, Amazon will start selling Macmillan books again. They’re not Dumpstering the books already in their warehouses, they’re just refusing to fill orders and will probably only do it for a few days. Amazon pays taxes on its real inventory even if pretends on its site that no such inventory exists.

Kindle and other dedicated readers are ultimately not going to take off for the simple reason that there aren’t enough people who read books voraciously enough to support a market for readers-they represent a $200 surcharge one must pay to be allowed to read. Publishing makes most of its money on the one or two books a year that people who only buy one or two books a year buy. Those people will skip the next Twilight or Atkins-style instant diet book or other phenomenon if it requires a special machine to read. Amazon’s attempt to save Kindle in the face of smartphones and tablets that do all sorts of things as well as allowing for reading will ultimately work about as well as its attempts to sell short fiction and articles for 49 cents (Amazon Shorts, failed), its attempt to corner the POD services market (not working), its attempt to get everyone to buy Segways (when was the last time you saw one under the feet of a civilian?) etc. Amazon is a company that spent years selling “Zen gardens” via mail order-these gardens were fish tanks full of rocks. It took the firm quite a while to figure out why they had to keep shipping and reshipping these things to customers, who’d end up with a box of shattered glass and just order a free replacement. Amazon STILL sells sledgehammers and ships them for free. Macmillan shouldn’t be overly worried and really neither should anyone else. This is slow news day stuff.

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MIND MELD: Behind the Scenes…How the Hottest Short Fiction Anthologies Are Created (Part 1)

Short fiction anthologies come in many flavors: some contain original fiction and some are comprised of reprints; they can be themed or non-themed; they may restrict themselves to a certain sub-genre of speculative fiction… But one thing they all have in common is that it’s Editors that put them together.

This week, we asked a handful of Editors the following question:

Q: Can you describe what goes on behind the scenes – from conception to publication — when creating a short fiction anthology?

Read on to see their illuminating responses…

(See also Part 2 and Part 3)

Jeff VanderMeer
World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer grew up in the Fiji Islands and has had fiction published in over 20 countries. His books, including the bestselling City of Saints & Madmen, have made the year’s best lists of Publishers Weekly, LA Weekly, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more. He reviews books for, among others, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, and the Barnes & Noble Review, as well as being a regular columnist for the Omnivoracious book blog. Current projects include Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, the noir fantasy novel Finch, and the forthcoming definitive Steampunk Bible from Abrams Books. He maintains a blog at http://www.jeffvandermeer.com.

This is a tough question, because almost every anthology I’ve done with Ann or by myself or with someone else has been different from the others. Even Steampunk and New Weird involved completely different methodologies–in the case of the former, we were trying to identify iconic stories and in the case of the latter we were mapping/documenting the legitimacy of a “movement” that I’d been around to witness the inception of. Our current project, Last Drink Bird Head, is a flash fiction antho for literacy charities with over 80 contributors. Fast Ships, Black Sails was a straightforward commercial pirate story anthology. The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases played around with the whole idea of what’s fiction versus nonfiction and indirectly charted the life of its titular character. The Leviathan anthologies focused on surreal and proto-New Weird or post-New Wave fiction, but each with a different theme and focus. Album Zutique was unabashed Decadent and Surrealist-inspired fiction. Being guest editors for Best American Fantasy was another kind of challenge, because we’d never done a year’s best before, and that carries with it a different set of responsibilities. Our upcoming Clarion charity anthology, The Leonardo Variations, is both an anthology of fiction and a teaching anthology that, through its stories and nonfiction in the back, should be of great use to beginning writers. That poses its own challenges. I guess the point is, behind the scenes each of these books has gone through a different process, both in terms of its creation and in terms of the process of preparation. This keeps things fresh and interesting–I’m not particularly interested in repeating myself with regard to books, whether my own fiction or the anthologies I create with Ann, and I don’t think Ann is, either.

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SF Tidbits for 8/20/09

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SF Tidbits for 7/30/09

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