Forthcoming Books, Associational Roundup
Sunday 1 April 2001
Paul Di Filippo
If advance galleys are any indication, this year is shaping up to be the start of a mass exodus from SF by some of the field's veteran writers. As publishers' fiction lines collapse in the wake of the stock market meltdown, smart authors are moving into non-fiction, where big sales and high profits have historically endured even during recessions.
Here are some of the highlights of the upcoming year.
The Unsurrendered Fembot, by Richard Calder, Taschen, $25.95, 215 pages.
A combination beauty makeover book, marriage manual and French Symbolist rant, Calder's instructive treatise seems aimed at a Generation Y audience of young women who find all the old role models unfulfilling and just not edgy enough. Advocating such disturbing styles as "Leprous Waif," "Neurasthenic Harlot," "Traitorous Jezebel" and "Laura Bush on Absinthe," Calder advises his wannabe-ultravixen readers to inflict pain, uncertainty, and sexual madness on the opposite gender--and that's just during the courtship! With some of the most shocking photos ever captured by the lens of Helmut Newton, this volume should hit the bestseller ranks right out of the gate.
The Big Book of High-Tech Texas Bar-B-Q, by Bruce Sterling, Chronicle, $35.00, 178 pages.
Ribo-ribs. Iced Tea with Nutriceuticals. Lab-baked Beans. Mad Cow Chili. Butterfly-Killing Cornbread. If the names of these dishes are causing your mouth to water already, even as you grow a little queasy, you'll find a hundred more between these pages that will provoke a similar mix of anticipation and unease. Turning his razor-sharp analytic mind to the impact of bioengineering on the state cuisine of Texas, Sterling does not preach the expected gloom-and-doom message, but instead tries to make the most of the new Frankenfoods. His chapter on what to do with a pig after you've harvested its transgenic organs for human reimplantation is a classic of cookbook writing that even Julia Child would envy!
A History of Science Fiction and Fantasy in The New Yorker, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harcourt, $14.95, 26 pages.
Featuring an introduction by John Updike, this is the inside story from one of the few genre authors ever to crack the pages of the mainstream's most elite publication. Le Guin charts all the highlights of the literature of the fantastic as found over the course of many decades in this classy, money-losing magazine. After separate chapters on Shirley Jackson, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Ursula K. Le Guin and Stanislaw Lem, the author exhausts her topic and retires to her atelier to commune with the goddess.
Faith-Based Fictions: A Conversation, by Orson Scott Card, Andrew Greeley and Barry Malzberg, Shambhala, $32.95, 666 pages.
Gathered together at the religiously neutral territory of a Las Vegas casino, these three authors held a wide-ranging conversation on many fascinating topics over the course of eight hours, twelve rounds of drinks, six trips to the buffet, five to the men's room, and eight requests from the manager to please keep it down. Faithfully transcribed and edited by a committee of priests, rabbis and the Angel Moroni, their talk ranges over such subjects as best catering schemes for a bar mitzvah, the Pope as action hero, and unobtrusive methods of inserting genealogical infodumps into historical fictions. Sure to cause controversy: the chapter discussing which male editors are circumsized!
Women Write Fantasy, Men Write Science Fiction, by Nancy Kress and Charles Sheffield, Writer's Digest, $25.00, 189 pages.
In alternating chapters, this husband-and-wife team stake out diametrically opposed positions on which gender does each kind of fiction best. (Kress has to recant everything she's ever written since her first three novels, but does so gracefully and convincingly.) Sheffield's chapters tend to rely heavily on equations, big dumb arguments and invocations to a "sense of wonder," while Kress appeals to feminine intuition and "daintiness," metaphorically weeping and stamping her feet on the page until she gets her way. But eventually thesis meets antithesis in a charming synthesis of brains and beauty. Never since Lucy wrapped Ricky around her little finger has such good-natured hilarity reigned!
I Was a Teenaged Pornographer!, by Robert Silverberg, Grove, $26.00, 514 pages.
Scheduled to be written over the course of a single week shortly before publication, this candid memoir will finally spill the beans on Silverberg's fabled stint during the 1950s writing the softcore smut of the period. Learn what famous names in the New York SF community provided him with sexual escapades and techniques he could use in his quickie novels. (Discovering the secret behind "The Asimov Maneuver" alone should be worth the price!) Find out what effect all this priapic fiction had on Silverberg's own sex life. (His affairs with Sophia Loren, Brigette Bardot and Mamie Eisenhower come to light.) And study the appendix of over a thousand euphemisms and salacious synonyms for body parts ("milk warmers"; "rod of Moses"; "velvet vestibule"). This book also comes with a free DVD of a B&W stag film based without authorization on one of Silverberg's paperback originals, Brooklyn Stickball Tramp ("She'd squeeze anybody's spaldeens!").
Boy Magnate, by Gordon Van Gelder, St. Martin's, $24.95, 305 pages.
How did he do it? How did a lowly lad who started his career just a few years ago as the assistant to the proofreader at Archie Comics become one of the most respected and influential figures in the world of magazine publishing? The whole field has been abuzz with such questions ever since Ed Ferman sailed away on a swan boat to Hy Brasil, leaving his empire to the young unshaven heir. Now in his own words, the mystery wrapped in a riddle concealed in an enigma that is Van Gelder comes clean. A combination of business-management text and Horatio Alger story, Van Gelder's autobiography reveals all the quirks of fate and brilliant strategies that have propelled this shy, unassuming, twenty-first-century Bennett Cerf to his current catbird seat atop a worldwide empire.
Great Mafia Science, by Ben Bova, Casa Editrice Nord, 75,000 Lira, 160 pages.
Blending his dual interests in both the cool, rational world of scientists and the bloody, vicious underworld of gangsters, Bova presents a history of the best Mafia-funded research of the past century. Did you know that the quick-setting concretes that have revolutionized the building trades were first designed specifically for mob disposal of corpses? Or that depleted-uranium ammunition now used so effectively by the U.S. Armed Forces in such theaters as the Balkans was originally created so that the Medellin cartel could take down Columbian tanks? In this compulsively readable volume (the reader is literally compelled to finish it, as he or she must leave a family member hostage until the final page is turned), you'll learn how Richard Feynman arranged funding for the Manhattan Project from Lucky Luciano and how Albert Einstein's affair with Lana Turner sparked the Stompanato murder. Sure to be a hit with the Sopranos crowd!
How to Pick Up Guys, by Samuel Delany, Black Ice Books, $12.00, 98 pages.
Can't summon up a semiotic quip fast enough in your favorite leather bar? Finding it hard to make friends even when the fleet's in port? Worried where to go for fun now that Times Square has been cleaned up? Get all the help and advice you need from kindly, dirty-minded "Professor Dhalgren" in this handy pocket guide to the mating game, and you need never feel "Bellona-ly" again!
Corn Likker, Drag Racin' and Coon Huntin', by Andy Duncan and Michael Bishop, Longstreet, 210 pages, $45.00.
A celebration of the authors' Southern roots, this lavishly illustrated book (photos by Sally Mann) evokes a little-heralded world of double-wide trailers, NASCAR groupies, barefoot pregnant teens, Moon Pies, basement meth labs, junkyards full of snarling dogs and marijuana-filled "hollers." Duncan and Bishop recount many amusing tales and anecdotes from their America, some personal, such as the time they sold one hundred pounds of frozen mudbugs from a polluted "crick" to a snobby New York restaurant. Put on your gimme cap, mix yourself a mint julep, and enjoy "southern culture on the skids."
Andre Norton's Smackdown!, by Andre Norton, New York Times, $32.99, 115 pages.
Who would ever have suspected from her fiction that this little old lady liked to rumble!?! But by the evidence of this riotous, raunchy, rocking exploration of the WWF milieu, she surely does! The sparse text presents Norton's wild-eyed enthusiasm for the whole WWF scene, as she kisses and disses every wrestler from Chyna to Ivory, from Stone Cold to Sexual Chocolate. But as rollicking as the prose is, the pictures here are even wilder, as we witness Norton entering the ring to take on all comers, under the nom du canvas of "High Halleck." (For one infamous match, Norton paired up in a tag team with Anne "Dragonrider" McCaffrey, and wiped the floor with Sable and Miss Kitty.) A chair to the head, a fist to the kidneys, a boot to the spleen! Witch World was never like this!