A friend once told me she couldn’t get interested in a book unless it was about people just like herself. She meant 21st-century African American women, but the demographics were not the point. Her comment made me realize I am exactly the opposite: I read books to become something I am not. To capture my attention, a book has to take me to a time or a place or a ...Read MoreRead more
For me, it was all about learning, never about teachers, but I couldn’t stop hoping there was a magical How-To-Book-That-Explains-It-All-To-You. Or a great coach who would love to tell me all about How It’s Done.
P.S., there wasn’t, although there used to be a Famous Writers School claiming that for a down payment and your monthly contribution, they would. I did a story about their correspondence course for the New ...Read MoreRead more
Horror is the unloved hound of literature. It’s hard to find it in bookstores, beyond the names that have been representing the form since the seventies and eighties: King, Rice, Koontz, and Barker. Forget about specifically designated shelves; those days are gone. It’s got a bad reputation. Some of that’s due to the lingering effects of the paperback horror boom of the eighties, which nearly choked the market to death, ...Read MoreRead more
Timothy Zahn saved my life.
The story was called “Unitive Factor,” and Google tells me that it appeared in the May 1982 issue of Analog. To be honest, I can’t remember much about it, but the space horses made a hell of an impression. That’s right, space horses: giant vacuum-dwelling whale-like creatures that could jump instantaneously from one star to another, handy for harnessing to your space craft if you ...Read MoreRead more
There certainly are periods more auspicious for collaboration than others. Perhaps a fledgling writer with a few sales under her/his belt gets the opportunity to collude with an older established author, with a contract already on the table. Or perhaps one writer conspires with another writer of equal worth to tackle an elaborate novel, one requiring, say, a scientific proficiency one of the two can’t fake and the other can ...Read MoreRead more
I was lucky enough to be at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend, and one of the highlights was a panel on diversity, with fellow panelists Jamie Ford, Ramon J. Terrell, Garth Reasby, and Sarah Remy, moderated by Anna Alexander. It wasn’t the only panel on diversity–there were, by my count, four panels that touched on the topic over the course of the three day con.
I wanted to share ...Read MoreRead more
I recently launched a Kickstarter for a one-of-a-kind history-making anthology, Speculations KC for the 2016 Worldcon, a return to Kansas City after 40 years. One of the joys of moving here has been discovering the rich connections to genre history and fandom that the area has. The Midwest may sometimes not be the first place to come to mind when you think about genre, so I thought it might be ...Read MoreRead more
Truth: I’ve been sitting for two hours in front of this blank page, unsure where to start or what to write about. There may have been a few side trips to Facebook and Twitter during that time, but I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a subject as opposed to just talking about my short fiction collection.
Non-fiction doesn’t come easy to me, and every topic I ...Read MoreRead more
I was not a fan of The Book of Life. I will not elaborate too much on this point except to mention that when I watched it I recalled a bit from an article by Sophia McDougall published in The New Statesman:
I remember watching Shrek with my mother.
“The Princess knew kung-fu! That was nice,” I said. And yet I had a vague sense of unease, a sense that ...Read MoreRead more
I often think of writing as a process of entering into a contract with your readers: when you persuade someone to read your work, you’re making promises to them that your work will deliver in certain ways. Certain genres, it seems to me, make specific contractual demands on a writer–for example, I doubt that Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light is going to end with Henry VIII abdicating and ...Read MoreRead more
Now that I have five completed anthologies under my belt, the number of questions I get–from friends and strangers alike–about various aspects of anthology editing has turned from an occasional drip to a steady trickle. And while I would love to presume it’s because I’m such an awesome anthologist, the truth is, there’s fairly little information on the web regarding this niche topic. I thought it might be a good ...Read MoreRead more
In December 2014 I approached our esteemed panelists with the following:
On his blog Michael Swanwick recently addressed a reader-inspired question: “How do I cope with the despair endemic upon being an unpublished or little-published writer?” In an essay first published in 1991, Robert Silverberg wrote about spending his adult life as a successful professional writer but still facing the “long despair of nothing well.” The word “despair,” and related ...Read MoreRead more
Being close to the end of the year, it occurs to me it might be interesting to talk about some of the books we’re most looking forward to in 2015, and why. I will mention three to get the ball rolling. Daryl Gregory’s Harrison Squared (March 24, 2015). I love Daryl’s writing, and this Lovecraftian teen story promises to be dark, comical and poignant all in one. Kit Reed’s Where ...Read MoreRead more
While the print and online versions of this magazine do an excellent job of monitoring and reviewing new SF/F/H texts, and non-fiction books closely tied to SF/F/H, it occurs to me that at times there might be other “associational” books that are worth bringing to the attention of readers. This is one of those items.
First, a book related to Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Interstellar (2014), reviewed here by Gary ...Read MoreRead more
In late October various fine publications (including this one) reported that a previously unpublished essay by Isaac Asimov had appeared in the MIT Technology Review. In a prefatory note to the essay, Arthur Obermayer describes how he was the one who suggested, back in 1959, that Asimov be approached to join a group of “out of the box” thinkers on an ARPA-related project. Asimov participated briefly, and wrote the piece, ...Read MoreRead more
An aspiring writer recently asked if there was any value in doing short fiction, as a way to break into SF/F publishing. Versus merely penning novels and pitching them at the editors in New York.
Once upon a time, doing short fiction was the established path. From the 1920s through the early 1980s, almost everyone who was anyone came up through the magazines first: short stories, novelettes, novellas, and serialized ...Read MoreRead more
Sitting down to write this article was a debate between expressing an observation and my willingness to be metaphorically punched in the nose if I didn’t express myself well enough. This is because diversity is a hot topic and there are vocal opinions on both sides. There are two looming concepts that I’m looking at: “How do you make an anthology that actually sells?” and “Making sure that the anthology ...Read MoreRead more
On March 18, 2014, Lucius Shepard passed away. Since then a number of touching tributes have been penned, focusing on his life, personality and accomplishments. I thought it would be fitting for our Roundtable group to celebrate Shepard’s rich literary body of work. What are some of Shepard’s finest pieces, and why are they worth visiting and revisiting? Overlooked or out-of-print gems we should hunt down? Where should readers unfamiliar ...Read MoreRead more
At no point during the slow learning curve of my writing career have I ever said to myself, “I want my writing to be the weirdest anyone has ever seen.”
At first glance my influences seem quite mundane by the standards of a genre writer: as a kid I did, after all, read The Lord of the Rings, The Foundation Trilogy, numerous novels by Stephen King.
And yet somewhere along ...Read MoreRead more
Years ago, long before I was published, my writing group the Dorks of the Round Table coined a very insightful and totally unique motto: “Writing is hard.”
The whinier it is said, the better. Especially if you drag out the last word and it devolves into a sobbing cry. At best, short stories are annoying buzzing insects set upon this world to distract us fantasists from our BIG BOOK DEADLINES. ...Read MoreRead more
In writing about a life as rich and varied as Ray Bradbury’s, a biographer quickly learns that not everything in the notepads or the interview tapes will make it into the final book. It was a difficult challenge for both Becoming Ray Bradbury (2011) and Ray Bradbury Unbound (2014), where I had to make decisions to condense and even eliminate some of the detail of an incredibly fascinating life. Many ...Read MoreRead more
At the 2014 Cannes film festival press conference, film-maker Quentin Tarantino talked about how he periodically puts “the state of film under a microscope.” Riffing off an e-mail exchange he describes, I’d like to pose the following forward-looking question to this group: Who are the ten currently working writers that most excite you today? To be more specific: these should be writers about whose every new work you feel genuinely ...Read MoreRead more
I recently asked writer X to point me to X’s fiction. X replied:
“Based on the tone/handling of your story Y, the only one of my recent stories that I think may speak to you is, possibly, ….”
As one of Wodehouse’s characters once said, “?”
The tone/handling of every story I write has much more to do with the story, I’d like to think, than the teller (me), for ...Read MoreRead more
Daryl Gregory: We’re having this conversation by email, but I’m going to pretend we’re sitting in a bar. Even though we live in the same town, and not even a very big one — that’s State College, Pennsylvania, for you readers — I think we see each other more often in other cities, at cons. Is that sad, or just typically science fictional?
James Morrow: I think it’s both sad ...Read MoreRead more
You always remember your first time.
My first short story — “Madre de Dios” — came about through what might be called an act of spousal self-defense, although he wasn’t quite my spouse at the time.
It was 1986. I had just moved to the SF Bay Area. After a decade of working as a journalist–a newspaper reporter and, later, senior editor at an art magazine–I had kissed my old ...Read MoreRead more
Last weekend at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, a would-be short story writer cornered me with a question. His critique group keeps telling him that his short stories read more like chapters from a novel, he said; does this mean he is just not cut out to write short stories? I gave him a quick set of diagnostics for things that might actually be wrong (too much exposition, not a complete ...Read MoreRead more
My career is just weird. I write books for adults, and I write books for middle-grade readers (generally defined as aged 9-13). From time to time I get asked by other writers what the difference is. Some are just curious about a field outside their own. Some want to try their hand at middle-grade because they have fond memories of the books they read when they were kids. Or they’ve ...Read MoreRead more
Once, waiting to go up to the office where I worked in Manhattan, I was reading a paperback when my boss stepped into the elevator. He was an elder statesman type in the environmental movement and I was junior fundraising staff, so he rarely spoke to me and didn’t need to know my name. Still, after a few seconds he broke the groggy morning silence by asking, aghast, “Isn’t that ...Read MoreRead more
The recent return of the BBC’s Sherlock from its long hiatus gave television audiences our first chance to see new episodes of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s modernization of Sherlock Holmes airing alongside new episodes of its American counterpart, Robert Doherty’s Elementary. The two-year gap between Sherlock‘s second and third seasons may have acted in Elementary‘s favor, because it allowed the CBS series a season and a ...Read MoreRead more
1) Award Jinxes
The 2014 Academy Awards made me think of various “curses” that have become associated with the Oscars over the years—the “F. Murray Abraham syndrome,” for example, named after the actor, on failing to develop a high-profile career after winning the award, or the “Oscar love curse,” a superstition regarding the Best Actress categories that foretells an imminent divorce after receiving the statuette. Are there any such jinxes ...Read MoreRead more
I have… opinions.
That probably won’t come as a shock to anybody who has ever met me, or seen me on a panel, or read my blog. Or read one of my books.
Those opinions are the reason I write those books.
Specifically, I write books in order to have arguments with myself, or with other books, or with the world at large. While there’s certainly a place in the ...Read MoreRead more
Locus Online has very kindly asked me inaugurate their new series of guest blog-posts by talking about my just-released short-story collection, Questionable Practices.
The stories, of course, concern well-intentioned but highly questionable decisions on the part of people who act faster than they think. If they’d thought twice, or maybe three times, they would never have followed the sasquatch into a cave, or gone bowling with frozen turkeys, or set ...Read MoreRead more