According to John Klima, he and I first met at the SFWA Authors & Editors Reception in 2001, perhaps introduced by Cory Doctorow. I have no memory of that. The first time I remember meeting John was at a party at a convention around that same time (I forget which one) where he was handing out free copies of his new zine, Electric Velocipede. I was dubious, eyeing the cheap, stapled covers, but everyone else around was acting like they'd just been given a gift of gold.

Electric Velocipede, Issue 1 Before I started reading that first issue, I had never given much thought to sending any of my stories to fanzine markets, or even really to the semipros. Electric Velocipede changed my mind. The fiction was good, really good, and John had a keen, idiosyncratic editorial eye. And an air of unlikely coolness somehow clung to the roster of names on the cover. I wanted to be a part of it.

And by Issue 4, I was, with a weird little horror story called "Mrs. Janokowski Hits One out of the Park," a story I believed in but that no pro editor seemed interested in. That was the first of five EV stories over the years (including one under my Perry Slaughter byline). Along the way another story appeared on the EV blog, and John also published my chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century, which contained two more original stories that no one else seemed to want to touch. (One of those, "Objective Impermeability in a Closed System," ended up reprinted in Hartwell & Cramer's Year's Best SF 13.)

All this is by way of saying that Electric Velocipede has played a crucial role in my short fiction career, and I owe John Klima a deep debt of gratitude. Now, after a Hugo Award win and something like four World Fantasy Award nominations, EV is publishing its 27th and final issue. It's a sad occasion, but I hope you'll join me and a boatload of other contributors on Friday, February 28th, at Bluestockings Bookstore, for a reading, release party, and memorial service. It'll be great fun, and besides me you'll get to hear from writers like Robert J. Howe, K. Tempest Bradford, Nancy Hightower, Matthew Kressel, Barbara Krasnoff, Richard Bowes, Mercurio D. Rivera, Jonathan Wood, and Sam J. Miller. There'll be raffles and snacks, and a chance to purchase an EV sampler with stories by all the participants.

Please join us in sending a great magazine off in a big way!

Electric Velocipede Issue 27 Release Party & Memorial Service
hosted by Sam J. Miller & Nancy Hightower
Friday, February 28, 2014, 7:00 pm
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002
facebook event listing | more info


Bill Shunn & John Klima, by Ellen Datlow on Flickr


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
New York's Hook & Eye Theater company is nearing the end of its run of its new play "The Summoners." A surreal, mindbending blend of Groundhog Day and Synecdoche, New York, "The Summoners" tells the thought-provoking story of what happens when the blanket of clouds that has shrouded America for three years parts for five blissful minutes over one Indiana town—and the chilling media circus that ensues.

Our friend Cynthia Babak is part of the terrific cast that together devised the story of this play, which was then turned into a script by Gavin Broady. But it's only running two more nights! See it tonight or Saturday at The C.O.W. Theater, 21 Clinton Street in Manhattan. Tickets are a mere $18! Don't miss it!

The Summoners


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
When I showed up to attend the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading on August 21st, the last thing I expected was to end the night in front of a radio mike. But that's what happened.

Rather than greeting me in a traditional fashion when I wandered up to say hello, Jim Freund said to me, "You're on the air at one-thirty."

"Tonight?" I said. "One-thirty A.M.?"

It seems he'd had a guest for his long-running WBAI program "Hour of the Wolf" drop out on him, and he needed a substitute. Well, fair enough. I'd done the show at least five times before, and I'd enjoyed it, so what the hell.

That's how I found myself in Harlem in the wee hours of Thursday morning, smack-dab in the middle of the beautiful City College of New York campus. Thanks to its highly publicized financial problems, WBAI is sharing studio space with WHCR until it either moves into a new space in Brooklyn or collapses altogether.

Jim and I discussed my recent move back to New York, Tuesday Funk, Orson Scott Card, and what I've been working on lately. I also read a couple of chapters from my recently completed novel Root. Here's what it all sounded like:




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
In case my comment on Paul Cook's ridiculous post at Amazing Stories does not pass moderation, let me reproduce it here.




Mr. Cook, you tip your hand early on, with your risibly shallow reading of Wolfe, that the insights to follow will be, at best, ill-informed.  Romance and intrigue have no place in science fiction?  I suppose Heinlein never included a bit of romance or military dress in his work, nor Asimov any palace intrigue.

Science fiction as you paint it, its precious bodily fluids uncontaminated by any less virile genre, would be a dreary, boring place indeed.  To truly be a literature of humanity and human potential, SF must address human concerns, and the human experience encompasses far more than just racing through space and blasting BEMs.  Tor editor Moshe Feder once passed a useful analogy along to me, that of science fiction as the "universal recipient" of literature, able to take in and incorporate elements from any other genre of fiction.  If science fiction is to represent more than one tiny, narrow slice of human experience, it must be able to represent any aspect of the human experience.  It must, at the highest level, be able to do anything that can be done in any other genre, whether romance, mystery, or mainstream literary.

But that's all pretty much beside the point.  You try to cloak your opinion in fancy justifications, but your argument basically boils down to this: "I don't like girly stuff in my science fiction."  That's fine, if close-minded, as far as personal preferences go, but when you attempt to justify closing science fiction off (incorrectly) to elements that "only women would find attractive," you expose yourself as a sexist of the rankest stripe.  Science fiction is infinitely bigger and more inclusive that you would allow it to be, and that's a damn good thing.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Novelist J. Robert Lennon wrote recently on Salon.com that young writers should avoid reading much contemporary literary fiction because most of it is terrible. (The essay, in fact, is headlined: "Most Contemporary Literary Fiction Is Terrible.") It's a well-argued piece, worth reading, but what really caught my attention was this passage:

But a fiction writer ought to engage with other parts of the culture, too. This includes reading outside one's genre — I happen to favor sci-fi and mystery, but I think it's fine for literary writers to read YA, romance, fantasy or whatever they please. Literary writers are in the privileged position of being permitted to raid any genre for tools to subvert and repurpose.
The emphasis there is mine, on a sentence I find troubling. I certainly support Lennon's contention that writers—all writers—should read widely, and read what they enjoy. What's problematic to me is that word privileged, as if writers of "literary" fiction inhabit in some class superior to writers of other genres, and they're the only ones permitted to reach down and rummage through the toolboxes of their inferiors, and then only for purposes of upending genre conventions.

This is a limited, and limiting, view of genre. It implies that no genre but literary fiction can amount to more than the sum of its tropes, and that the tropes of genre fiction are only useful to the literary writer insofar as they can be employed to ironic or postmodernist ends.

Both those implications are false. Central to Lennon's essay is the proposition that most of contemporary literary fiction is stuck in an insular, navel-gazing loop—in other words, that it continues to reinforce and perpetuate its own tropes. A few works might break out of that cycle and transcend it, Luminarium by Alex Shakar but if we accept that most works in the category are stuck inside a constraining boundary of accepted elements, then we are defining literary fiction as a genre. And if any works in that genre are capable of transcending its limitations, then why can't works in any other genre do the same?

Editor Moshe Feder once described the processing of borrowing and lending between genres to me in terms of blood types. (He in turn had borrowed the metaphor from someone else, and I'm sorry I don't recall from whom.) He said that genres all have different capacities for giving and getting. At one end of the spectrum is the mystery genre, the Type O or universal donor of literature, which can lend its tropes to any other genre. At the other end is speculative fiction*, the Type AB or universal recipient, which can take in tools and techniques from all other genres. Arrayed between are all other genres, including romance, western, spy, crime, and, yes, literary, each of which can give and receive to a greater or lesser extent.

China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh This is a useful and pleasing metaphor in some ways, but things are really more slippery and complicated than all that. I've always thought of the universe of fiction as a multidimensional spectrum, with all genres free to commingle and exchange their DNA. For every literary novel like Time's Arrow by Martin Amis that borrows fantasy tropes to ironic ends, there's one like Luminarium by Alex Shakar (last year's L.A. Times Book Prize winner for fiction) that imports science fictional tropes and treats them seriously and realistically. Likewise we have The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, When We Were Real by William Barton, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, and any number of other works of speculative fiction that borrow liberally from what we might call literary techniques to varied and stunning effect. (And need I even mention George Saunders these days?)

In fact, I like to take my spectrum one step further imagine something along the lines of Jorge Luis Borges's Library of Babel or Neil Gaiman's Dream Library—an infinite library containing all possible works of fiction. The portion of this library containing works set entirely within the world of our consensual reality would be vast, of course—but relative to the size of the library as a whole, it would be vanishingly tiny. A smaller portion of that tiny portion of the library would correspond roughly to what we think of as literary fiction. Everything outside of that? That would be what we think of as speculative fiction.

Viewed this way, speculative fiction becomes the superset of all possible fiction. What this implies is that for a writer of speculative fiction to work at the absolute top of his or her game, that writer must be able to employ all the tools, tropes, and techniques of all other genres of fiction. Far from inhabiting a literary ghetto, we really inhabit the outer sphere of all possible genres, encompassing everything else—or so we should aspire.

But even that view is too limiting and elitist. What I really want to say is that all writers should feel free to employ the most expansive palette they want. Artificial bookstore distinctions aside, good writing is good writing, and that should be the pursuit above all else for any writer. It's what the writers I like and admire the most have been doing all along.

Ultimately, we are all writers of speculative fiction.


*A more inclusive and descriptive term for what you might know better as the science fiction and fantasy genres.

#SFWApro


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Amid the staggering news of other losses this week, I want to remember to say a few words about Iain Banks, one my literary idols. (Two of my literary idols, really, if you care to think of his Iain M. Banks byline separately.)

I, like many of you, I'm sure, was stunned to tears on Wednesday morning by the news that Mr. Banks is suffering from late-stage cancer and probably doesn't have long to live. He broke the news in typically straightforward and mordant fashion, but that didn't make it any easier to take.

Iain Banks Iain Banks is an important writer. I can't think of another writer who so consciously, so prolifically, and so successfully divided his output between serious mainstream fiction and rigorous hard science fiction. He proved, at least in the U.K., that one need not confine oneself to a single genre or style of fiction in order to maintain a brilliant career. It would have been impossible to guess from his twisted 1984 debut, The Wasp Factory, that just three years later he would affix a giant M to his chest like some superhero of letters, fly into space, and bring Consider Phlebas back to Earth, introducing us to what may at the time have been the most mind-expanding and humane future society ever invented, The Culture.

And Iain Banks is an important writer to me. His books can be found all over our house—on the science fiction shelves, on the mainstream shelves, almost always in the to-be-read pile on my nightstand, and even, in the case of his whisky travelogue Raw Spirit, on the alcohol shelf. He's a model of professional productivity, putting out a book nearly every year, and he's as fearless in his contemporary novels as he is visionary in his science fiction. (In 2002's Dead Air, he was already riffing on the meaning of 9/11 before other writers dared even think about it.) And his work is a constant inspiration to those of us who find ourselves attracted writing in more than one world.

I had always hoped to meet him, and never moreso than when I was bumming around Edinburgh drinking whisky with some of his friends. The news that I probably never will, and that the forthcoming The Quarry will likely be his last novel, is heartbreaking. I hope it's not true, but even if it is, Mr. Banks, you've already accomplished more than most of us ever will, and in doing so have always made the implausible look more than possible. Thank you.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Just a reminder that I'll be hosting a special evening of speculative fiction readings tonight at Open Books in Chicago. It's the first in the Chicago Writers Conference's new quarterly readings series, and it's free. Arrive early if you want a cupcake. I hope to see you there!

Chicago Writers Conference Presents
An Evening of Speculative Fiction

Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013

Time: 6:30 - 9:00 pm

Place: Open Books Bookstore
213 W. Institute Place
Chicago, IL 60610
(1 block north of Chicago & Franklin el stop.)

Featuring:

Jody Lynn Nye
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Matt Darst
Holly McDowell
Wesley Chu
Richard Chwedyk
William Shunn

An Evening of Speculative Fiction, Open Books Bookstory, Thursday, February 28, 2013


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Hey, I'll be hosting a special evening of speculative fiction readings on Thursday, February 28th, at Open Books Bookstore in Chicago! It's the first in the Chicago Writers Conference's new quarterly readings series, and I'm delighted that they asked me to put together this program.

Please share the Facebook invitation with all your Chicagoland friends:

http://www.facebook.com/events/148595008632051/

And here's all the info, straight from the CWC itself:




This month, we're excited to kick off our quarterly events at Open Books Bookstore! Join us on Thursday, February 28 for an evening of short readings hosted by Hugo and Nebula Award–nominated author William Shunn. This evening will feature science fiction, fantasy, and horror readings by local authors. This free event gets underway at 6:30 p.m.

Featuring:
Jody Lynn Nye
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Matt Darst
Holly McDowell
Wesley Chu
Richard Chwedyk
William Shunn

For more information, visit our website.

The Basics
Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Time: 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Place: Open Books Bookstore
213 W. Institute Place
Chicago, IL 60610
(1 block north of Chicago & Franklin el stop.)

Mark your calendar. We'll see you there!

An Evening of Speculative Fiction, Open Books Bookstory, Thursday, February 28, 2013


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
First things first. You look fabulous. Happy Valentine's Day, you sexy thing, you!

Second—look, I don't know how many more ways to say this. It's time for you to help support our Kickstarter campaign for the Glitter & Madness anthology. There's less than two days left to hit our funding goal and get it done.

If you don't recall, Glitter & Madness is the new anthology edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas and John Klima, chock full of speculative stories about the secret history of 20th century nightlife and party culture. The book will be published by Apex Publications and will feature a standalone novella from New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire set in her InCryptid universe. There will also be stories by Alan DeNiro, Amal El-Mohtar, Daryl Gregory, Damien Walters Grintalis, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Jennifer Pelland, Tim Pratt, Cat Rambo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Rowland, Sofia Samatar, David J. Schwartz, Rachel Swirsky, and yours truly.

What's more, there are plenty of exciting recent developments. For instance, Amber Benson of Buffy fame, an accomplished writer and director in her own right, is going to write the introduction to the anthology. How cool is that?



Also, there are plenty of perks available to funders, including Tuckerizations from any of a dozen different contributors at the $250 contribution level. That's right! You could be a character in my story, or Diana Rowland's, or David J. Schwartz's, or Jennifer Pelland's, or on and on and on!

But all this glittery goodness can't happen without you! We still have over $4,000 to raise, and only 48 more hours in which to do it. So please, look into your glamorous heart and dig deep to support the party anthology of the year!




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Epidode #56 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill urges you with all urgency to support the Glitter & Madness Kickstarter campaign, then rewards you with a reading of his story "Care and Feeding of Your Piano."

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=56




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
William Shunn gets glittery at Icebar Tokyo It feels like we Glitter & Madness participants are, like, in NPR Fund Drive mode. I've already told you all about this anthology project, and if you still want to know more about it, you can head on over to the project on Kickstarter. What I'm here for now is to answer a quick Q&A designed by the editors of the anthology:

  1. What about the theme drew you to the anthology?
  2. Who doesn't love rollerskating and nightclubs and drugs and sex and debauchery? Who didn't enjoy copious amounts of them all in those gloden days of youth? Well, um, I guess I didn't. I was a Mormon. Okay, I did rollerskate, but I felt guilty about it.

  3. We're often told to write what we know. Did you draw your G&M story from your own nightlife experiences?
  4. I love to write things that I don't actually know. My clubbing experience was pretty much limited to once seeing Gene Loves Jezebel play at Club DV8 in Salt Lake City, and I was terrified for my soul the whole time. My story is actually about slippery souls in Chicago clubs of the '80s, which is why I'm writing it with my wife Laura Chavoen. She's the one who knows exactly what that scene was like.

  5. What's your favorite way to make life more glittery?
  6. I go to a comfortable bar with my wife and friends and drink classic-style cocktails until a glittery haze drapes everyone and everything in sight. Templeton Rye is involved.

  7. If you had to create a cocktail that reflected your story, what would it be?
  8. It would be a little sweet, a little bitter, a lot sour, and orangey-pink through and through. It would consist of Laird's Applejack, Clément Créole Shrubb Liqueur d'Orange, pomegranate juice, Peychaud's bitters, and probably a twist of lemon. It would be, in fact, the same cocktail I created in the video footage we shot for the book trailers. I'd call it a "Glitter & Madness."

  9. If you knew you were up for a surreal evening, what and whom do you bring with you, and why?
  10. I bring Laura because I wouldn't want her to miss it, and because I know one of us will get the other one home safely. And so we can all talk about this evening for years to come, I bring John and Shai and Ashir and Gretchen and Andrew and Cinnamon and Colin and Barbara Lynn and Norm and Rachel and Kevin and Mare and...


Oh, and one more thing—kick in a few shekels now, please! And watch this new video, where Daryl Gregory and others get all swanky and glittery...




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Love rollerdisco? Love science fiction and fantasy? Then you need to support the Kickstarter campaign for the Glitter & Madness anthology!

What's this, you ask? It's a new anthology edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas and John Klima, chock full of speculative stories about the secret history of 20th century nightlife and party culture. Think glam rock! Think rollerdisco! Think glitter! Think madness!

The book will be published by Apex Publications and will feature a standalone novella from New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire set in her InCryptid universe. There will also be stories by Alan DeNiro, Amal El-Mohtar, Daryl Gregory, Damien Walters Grintalis, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Jennifer Pelland, Tim Pratt, Cat Rambo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Rowland, Sofia Samatar, David J. Schwartz, Rachel Swirsky, and yours truly!

In fact, I'm writing my story together with my fabulous wife Laura Chavoen, so you can be among those contributing to support her fiction debut! And the anthology itself will debut this August at the San Antonio Worldcon, with an otherworldly party at the world-famous Rollercade! Groovy!

Only three days remain to make nearly the half the funding requirement! Be glamorous! Contibute now!

What's more, there are plenty of exciting recent developments. First of all, having reached the 50% funding goal, the anthology is now open to general submissions! If you want to be part of this spectacular publishing event, check out the submission guidelines now!

Second, having reached the $8,000 level, the first of two book trailers has been released. Check out the "scary" version below. If contributions reach $9,000 today, the "swanky" version will go live. (Keep an eye out for me in both!)



Also, there are plenty of perks available to funders, including Tuckerizations from any of a dozen different contributors at the $250 contribution level. What's a Tuckerization, you ask? It means we'll put your name in our story. That's right! You could be a character in my story, or Diana Rowland's, or Cat Rambo's, or Tim Pratt's, or on and on and on!

So what are you waiting for? Change into your best day-glo fashions, strap on those chunky roller skates, and pony up for the party anthology of the year!

And if you want to submit a story of your own for consideration, here are your writing prompts:

Roller derby, nightclubs, glam aliens, (literal) party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, etc.


Do it now!


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Some time ago, Halsted M. Bernard tagged me in the Next Big Thing meme that's been going around. The intent is to share details about one's current writing project by answering a canned set of questions, so here goes.

  1. What's the title of your latest story?
  2. I've actually been working on various non-fiction projects lately, big and small, including a new epilogue for my memoir The Accidental Terrorist (which, yes, is still being shopped around). I'll soon be diving into a new short story for the Glitter & Madness anthology project, but that one doesn't have a title yet. So instead I'll talk about the novel I finally finished in November, which is called Waking Vishnu.

  3. Where did the idea for the story come from?
  4. For more than a decade I've been envisioning a fictional universe where physical items can be "magically" manipulated via hand gestures, as if they were blobs in an object-oriented programming system. I'd tried again and again to work out the story of the person who stumbles onto this magic system, but when I finally pictured the protagonist as a teenage girl the whole thing started clicking into place.

  5. What genre does your story fall under?
  6. Young adult science fiction, though it's designed to look a whole lot like urban fantasy at first.

  7. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?
  8. This one is difficult for me to answer since most of the huge cast of characters are teenagers, and I'm not so familiar these days with what teen actors are out there. I guess my dream cast would include a bunch of young unknowns who all become stars as a result of Waking Vishnu. But I'd love to see the main villain of the novel, Ken "A.A." Sunshine, played by Christoph Waltz, who has the right combination of charm, smarm, and lunacy. I could see Danny DeVito and John Goodman as Lamm and Kray, two of the other important antagonists, and Emma Thompson as Principal Armisted.

  9. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your story?
  10. When an Indian-American girl named Hasta Veeramachaneni discovers she can control objects and people with hand gestures, she and her friends must race to discover the origin of the power while saving the world from destruction.

  11. Will your story be self-published or represented by an agency?
  12. The novel is represented by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary.

  13. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
  14. The first draft took me about 18 months and tipped the scales at 175,000 words—way too long for what it was. I've done two more drafts since then and trimmed it down to 120,000 words.

  15. What other stories would you compare it to within your genre?
  16. It's hard to make the most apt comparisons without giving a lot away about the story. If you compared it to something like Fair Coin by E.C. Myers, though, you'd be in the general neighborhood though not quite the same ballpark.

  17. Who or what inspired you to write this story?
  18. Two main factors conspired to inspire me to get started on Waking Vishnu. First and foremost is my wife Laura Chavoen, who works tirelessly to support my writing career. Second is the city of Chicago, which we moved to in 2007. Most of the novel is set in the same Chicago neighborhood where we live. Exploring the streets and alleyways while walking our dog helped me picture and block out a whole lot of the action of the book.

  19. What else about your story might pique a reader's interest?
  20. Again, I don't want to give too much away, but the book dabbles in Hinduism, hacking, and theories of consciousness. There are some awesome fight scenes (if I do say so myself), a helpful dog, an interlude at White Castle, a road trip to Mount Rushmore, killer demons (or are they angels?), a rebuke to God, various possessions, enemies becoming friends (and vice versa), a red Barchetta, and an implicit critique of a certain blockbuster sci-fi flick that I should not mention here (though its makers have a small, secret production facility in my neighborhood). Is that enough?
I'm not going to tag anyone else here, since all the people I was going to tag were tagged by Holly McDowell as I was about to tag them. (Don't worry, Holly. I'll get you back.) But if you want to be tagged, drop me a comment and I'll be happy to oblige you.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
I'm in New York City today to hang out with writers, editors, and agents at the annual SFWA Reception for Industry Professionals, so maybe it's an appropriate day to post this radio interview. Gary K. Wolfe and I appeared this past Thursday night on WGN's "Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg" to talk about science fiction, not to mention the new Library of America collection American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s which Gary edited.

We had a great time talking with Milt Rosenberg. You can listen to WGN's podcast of the interview online at WGNRadio.com, or hear the two segments of the show embedded below. Commercials and news breaks deleted!

10:00 - 11:00 p.m.  (43:59)


11:00 p.m. - midnight  (41:48)



Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
miltrosenberg.jpg Gary K. Wolfe and I will be appearing tonight on "Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg" on Chicago's WGN Radio 720 AM. We'll be talking about science fiction, of course—and particularly today's release of the Library of America's new collection, American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, which Gary edited.

Milt Rosenberg's show has run since 1973, during which time he's talked with an intimidating array of world leaders, prominent academics, and entertainment figures. I hope Gary ends up doing most of the talking for us. (Just kidding.)

The program airs live tonight from 10 p.m. to midnight. You can listen online, but I believe the discussion will also be available as a podcast in a few days.

(And for more information about the collection, please visit the American Science Fiction companion site, which Gary curated.)


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
My apologies if you've already seen this. Months ago—way back in March, as a matter of fact—I conceived of a poem that would incorporate hiphop-style rhymes with science fiction storytelling and would be called (as I knew even then) "Grand Motherfucker." I would write the poem sometime over the spring or summer, then perform it at the September 4th science fiction edition of Tuesday Funk.

I made a few notes, but somehow I managed to not start working on the poem in earnest until late in the morning of, er, September 4th. I worked furiously for the next few hours, finally suturing up the last rhymes at around 5:30 pm. The show began at 7:30.

Better late than never! Here's how the poem went over last Tuesday night. Or perhaps how it went down. I hope you like it.




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, gets underway tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Chicago! In case you're interested, I'm so far scheduled to appear on two panels:

Sunday, September 2, 4:30 - 6:00 pm, Columbus CD

Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction

If the sampling of short fiction presented and discussed in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast is any indication, mainstream literary writers draw heavily on events from their own lives, sometimes barely veiled, as inspiration for their work. Since science fiction is generally regarded as writing of ideas, is there any room for this same mining of one's personal experiences? Our panel will discuss to what extent when writing the fantastic they are writing about themselves.

Moderator: Cat Rambo
Panelists: Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak, Gwynne Garfinkle, Nick Mamatas, William Shunn






Monday, September 3, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm, Columbus EF

Getting the Most out of Writing Groups

There are all kinds of writing groups for all kinds of writers. What should you look for and what rules should you follow to get the most out of the experience? How do you handle conflicting suggestions and how do you comment on others' writing effectively?

Moderator: William Shunn
Panelists: Derek Kunsken, David McDonald, Sarah Stegall, Tim Susman






That first panel was a programming suggestion of mine, so I guess it's only fair that I should be part of it.

I've been told there may be an opportunity to get slotted in for a reading sometime this weekend as well. I'll be sure to post an update if that happens.

Also, and most importantly, on Thursday, August 30th (tomorrow!), I'll be leading a small group on an unofficial daytime pub crawl to various breweries and beer bars around the North Side. We'll meet in the front lobby of the Hyatt at a little before 11:00 am, then take cabs and trains to Haymarket Brewery, The Bad Apple, Revolution Brewing, and more. We should be back no later than 7:00 pm, probably earlier.

The route is subject to change at a whim, so if you can't meet us at the start, watch the hashtag #ChiconPubCrawl on Twitter and come join us along the way!


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Okay, sometimes it's fun to see yourself on TV. In 2004, the Trio network debuted a documentary series called "Parking Lot," which featured snippets of conversations with attendees at events like concerts or conventions. The show didn't last long, but it did last long enough for Scott Edelman and Bob Howe and I to end up in one episode.

Scott (who has written a longer post about our brief appearance) has just discovered that the producers of "Parking Lot" have been uploading segments of the show to YouTube. And voilà!, there we are outside of I-CON 22, a science convention at SUNY Stony Brook.

See if you can spot Scott and Bob and me, nine years younger, trying to sound all erudite and set ourselves apart from the rest of the madness. And, um, failing. Our bits are interspersed throughout the segment.




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
UPDATE!  After this blog entry was written, I emailed the text of it to John Hodgman on a whim. A few hours later, to my surprise, I received a response. His Honor told me he would endure my "gut punches" if I disagreed with him, but that I should not ask him to answer for Martin Amis.
Dear Judge John Hodgman:

I must take great exception to your summary judgment in a recent episode of the "Judge John Hodgman" podcast, to wit, that Shaun of the Dead is a comedy only and not a horror film.

Your Honor, this opinion is, if you'll permit me, patent hogwash. If we are to accept your definition of a horror film as one designed to provoke terror and dread in its audience and to help that audience confront and process their own existential fears as their on-screen proxies battle horrors from beyond the grave, then in what way does Shaun of the Dead not meet that definition? Yes, we may be laughing at the same time, and we may chuckle wryly here and there in recognition of nods to earlier classics in the zombie canon, but that in no way reduces our identification with Shaun, Ed, and the rest of our heroes, nor does it diminish our well-justified fears for their safety or our investment in their fates. Whatever yuks may be afoot, these characters are in very real peril, and we can't help experiencing that peril along with them. Shaun of the Dead clearly manages the feat of being effective comedy and horror both, at the same time.

shaun-meta-david.jpg I am weary to my bones of the tired assertion that a thing that is one thing cannot also be another thing, particularly when the one thing is seen as high art and the other as low. I recall years ago attending a lecture by literary enfant terrible Martin Amis at the NYU library. His New Yorker short story "The Janitor on Mars" had just been named by Locus Magazine as one of the year's top works of science fiction. During Q&A, a young woman asked Amis if the publication of that story meant that he was now a science fiction writer. Amis hemmed and hawed, eventually asserting that, while he had read and absorbed copious amounts of science fiction as a youth and certainly wasn't embarrassed by that fact, "The Janitor on Mars" merely deployed the tropes and language of science fiction to a higher literary end. It was not itself, he claimed, science fiction.

This, Your Honor, is so much mealy-mouthed rot. Something that quacks like a duck, though it may do so in an erudite, hipper-than-thou cadence with its bill raised snootily in the air, is nonetheless still a duck. There may be some "meta" purpose at work, but if we po-mo roughnecks have learned nothing else in the course of our rude existences, is it not that the very definition of "meta" is to be the thing being referenced? Have we failed to heed the lesson of the yin and the yang, which is that a thing can, nay, must embrace, embody, and give rise to its apparent opposite?

They in their towers of ivory glass may not like it, but I'm sure such an enlightened nerd as Your Honor must agree that science fiction can also be literature, that comedy can also be horror, and that from time to time even a judge can be wrong.

Yours humbly,
William Shunn
Science Fiction Writer


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
mayoremanuel-book.png Hugo Award nominations are now open, and that means it's time to make good on my threat promise to spearhead a campaign to get the @MayorEmanuel Twitter stream nominated.

As you may recall, Bob, @MayorEmanuel was the anonymous but highly popular tweeter who created a profane and fantastic alternate Chicago during the course of our 2010-11 mayoral election season. Though it started out as something of a lark, by the time it wound down on the night of the election the stream had grown into one of the most absorbing works of science fiction of the year.

The author soon revealed himself to be Chicago journalist and educator Dan Sinker, and late that summer the tweets appeared from Scribner in book form, collected and annotated, as The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

I think this innovative story is deserving of a Hugo. At the very least, a nomination for this most Chicago-centric of SF works would be appropriate in a year when Worldcon comes to our fair city. I've consulted with experts, and we agree that we're best off to nominate @MayorEmanuel in the Best Related Work category. If you're with us, then for consistency please fill out your nominating ballot in that category exactly as follows, including the asterisks:

TITLE: The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel
AUTHOR: Dan Sinker
PUBLISHER: Scribner

The book is essentially a work of non-fiction that describes and fully annotates the process of writing the original work, even though the tweets are included in full. For that reason, calling the book a Related Work seems to fit best. We think it would be dicey to attempt to nominate a Twitter stream in one of the fiction categories.

Anyway, if you're not familiar with @MayorEmanuel and want to catch up, the annotated book is a terrific place to start. And here are a few other relevant links to get you going:
@MayorEmanuel in 2012! Together we can make a difference.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

April 2014

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