sf

RIP Fred Pohl

Science fiction writer, editor, and agent Frederik Pohl passed today, at 93. (See Locus, io9, Wikipedia). He was one of the great voices whose career spanned the Golden Age to the present day, and the impact of his work as an editor, agent, and shaper of the science fiction field cannot be overstated.

I still remember the first time I read The Space Merchants, the devastating critique of advertising he and C. M. Kornbluth wrote in the early 50s. I read it twenty years later and it was frighteningly prescient then — in any world that valued speculative fiction appropriately, it would be taught alongside 1984 and Brave New World. His amazing literary output spanned the 40s to the present, with the final entry on his blog posted the morning he passed away.

Not only a writer, Pohl was an editor, agent, and anthologist who helped shape and publish some of the defining works of the field as his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction attests.

09022013_pohl_sturgeon_sm.jpg
Fred Pohl's unimaginably generous autograph on his 1996 Sturgeon remarks.

He was also a gracious, warm, generous person. When I won the Sturgeon in 1996, Pohl presented the award (there's a picture on the Midamericon site, if you scroll down a bit, and here's a PDF of his remarks). Having the opportunity to spend that weekend just hanging out with one of the greats of science fiction and talking about writing is a treasured memory.

All of the science fiction field stands on his shoulders. His family, friends, and fans are in my thoughts today.

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Clarion Write-a-thon wrapup: many words, much money for a good cause

12jun24_clarion_badgeIt's the last night of the Clarion Write-a-thon, the third annual event that raises money to support the the legendary Clarion Writers' workshop for new science fiction authors, and the good news is that the effort has raised nearly $16,000, thanks to the efforts of more than 200 writers (and more than 230 sponsors!)

I'm happy to report that my total word count was 6,761, which is less than I hoped, but I spent the time focusing on a key chapter of the book, and wrote two entirely new scenes that weren't even in the outline. So personally, I'm happy.

And I have to thank the folks who sponsored me: Bill Bly, Karen J Fowler, Fran Wilde, Kari Maaren, and Cory Doctorow. Their donations mean so much for the Clarion workshop, and to me personally.

Thank you Bill, Karen, Fran, Kari, and Cory.

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Clarion Write-a-thon 2012 (Goal: finish the monster *sans* box)

12jun24_clarion_badgeToday, the 2012 Clarion Write-a-thon kicks off to support the Clarion Writers' workshop, science fiction's premiere training experience for new authors. Now in its third year, the write-a-thon helps raise money to support this vital workshop (last year, the dozens of writers and their awesome sponsors raised $17,000 to keep this program going.) So, starting today, and for the next six weeks, I'll be cranking text along with the participants in this year's workshop. (Waves)

I'm aiming for 30K words, and to finish my alternate-history novel in progress, Fist of the Ape, and I could use your support. You can pop on over to my Write-a-thon page and make a donation (secure online credit card and PayPal options available.) I'll be matching (at least) the first $100 in pledges to support this very worthy cause.

Gotta go. Words to write.

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RIP Ray Bradbury (update)

Sf site io9 is reporting the death of the brilliant writer Ray Bradbury, author of classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury was 91.

I devoured Bradbury as a kid, and particularly loved his short story collections. For me, his fluid, dreamy, gem-like short fictions, like The Veldt or There will come soft rains or A Sound of Thunder were doorways to a universe of wonder.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and a world of fans.

Update: NY Times moves their obit.

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Madeline Ashby's debut novel "vN" scores awesome io9 review

The awesome vN cover. Click to embiggen.

Major science fiction site io9 ran a glowing review yesterday of Madeline Asby's debut novel, vN, due out in July from Angry Robot books. Calling it "the most messed up book about robot consciousness ever," reviewer Charlie Jane Anders says:

"It's a strange, dazzling look at the world through the eyes of a rogue artificial woman, who sees things in an off-kilter fashion, and becomes the most dangerous robot in the world as a result. You get drawn into the lush, disturbing world, seeing it through the eyes of a robot, and soon enough you're losing your whole sense of reality. The familiar human world will never look the same again."

Anders offers comparisons to Blade Runner and Battlestar Galactica and tips the essence of the book, which, like all great artificial consciousness stories, is really about us humans: "It's actually a pretty great coming-of-age novel wrapped inside a robot adventure."

As you have probably inferred by now, I've read this book, and think it's awesome. Ashby brings the kind of life to her vN (von Neumann) robots that only comes from keen observation, empathetic insight, social consciousness, and immense craft.

Available July 31 from Angry Robot books or you can pre-order from Amazon now; folks here on the Island can order through Island Books and support our great local book store.

Full disclosure: I had the privilege of workshopping with Ashby and had the chance to read this in manuscript. It was one of the few times I was so totally blown away that I just couldn't find anything to critique. Artificial consciousness stories are one of my soft spots, and this just nails it. I cannot wait for book two...

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Hugo final ballot announced

Finalists for this year's Hugo Awards® were posted this afternoon on the web site for Chicon, the world science fiction convention. Winners are selected by attendees and announced at a ceremony at the con, Labor Day weekend.

And what an awesome array of finalists. Congratulations and best of luck to all.

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2011 Nebula nominations announced

This morning, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) posted the final ballot for the Nebula Awards, and it's an awesome assembly of the year's best stories, novels, and media: Check it out.

The Nebulas are chosen on by the membership of SFWA. I haven't read many of these, but I'm sure going to have fun catching up before the voting closes on March 30. Congratulations, and best of luck, everyone!

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In memoriam: John Christopher

One of my heroes passed this week, the brilliant British science fiction author John Christopher, 89, best known for his Tripod trilogy which has been amazing young readers for more than 40 years. (Read the first chapter here.)

The three books — The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire offered my generation of young-adult sf fans a powerful mix of alien invasion, thought control, organized rebellion, and post-apocalyptic shocks-of-recognition. (OMG! Chemin de fer! Holy crap! Panama! )

Like much of the sf writing of the day, some aspects haven't aged quite as well — it's a boys novel that doesn't have the diverse cast we expect in today's fiction — but what's there is rock solid sf, which gazes with unblinking steadiness at the horror of human subjugation and death. Looking back as an adult, it's easy to nod and thoughtfully classify this as a highly-encrypted alternate post-WWII England, but when I read it for the first time, at about 10 years old, it just took the top of my head off and poured in a steady stream of cognitive estrangement. It is not too much to say that my interest in media theory dates back to this book, and Neil Postman would have found Christopher's explanation for the ease of the Tripod's takeover quite sensible.

Sf has lost another golden age writer who shaped our field. Thanks, Mr. Christopher. We shall do our best to pay it forward.

Read appreciation at io9 and obit at the New York Times.

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My schedule for the Arisia science fiction con in Boston this weekend

This weekend, fans of science fiction, fantasy, anime, gaming, costuming, and filk take over the Westin Boston Waterfront for the 23rd annual Arisia convention. As usual, it's an amazing program, and this con is always fun.

Oh, and I'm on a couple of panels, so, hey, stop by.

Army of Davids: The Role of New Media
Room: Revere
Sat 1:00 PM
With the FCC suggesting taxes and subsidies for legacy media, the new media is
increasingly successful in setting the agenda and breaking news stories. What
does this new media mean for the consumer and the political world? Will online
news media, generated by an increasing number of citizen journalists, be the new standard? Or will something or someone take their place? What about quality control? Are social networks and the hive mind aggregate the best models for investigative journalism?
David J. Friedman, David Larochelle (moderator), John G. McDaid, Maddy Myers, James Zavaglia

The Legacy of Steve Jobs
Burroughs
Sat 7:00 PM
Steve Jobs passed away last October, but his influence will last for years to come. He was most identified with Apple but don't forget NeXT (if you use a MacBook, you can't), and Pixar wouldn't exist without him, either. How did he "think differently" and will Apple continue to do so without his guiding hand? Will he be remembered with rose-colored glasses or as the demanding perfectionist that he was? Is anyone in the tech world ready or able to step into his shoes?
William "Ian" Blanton, John G. McDaid (m), Richard Stallman, James Turner

Kolchak the Night Stalker
Alcott
Sat 10:00 PM
After two TV movies, a short lived series in the 1970’s and an even shorter resurrection in the 2000’s, *Kolchak the Night Stalker* has shown its staying power with its fan base, influencing such shows as the X-Files along with graphic and regular novels. Panelists and the audience will give their views on this legacy.
Dr.Chris, Catherine Kane, John G. McDaid, Charlie Spickler, James Zavaglia

Marshall McLuhan Centennial
Independence
Sun 2:30 PM
The medium of the future is still the message. This year is the centennial of Marshall McLuhan's birth, and his views on media have had a huge influence. Let's look ahead at the future of media and in what ways McLuhan's insights may be overtaken by events or, on the contrary, continue to be relevant.
Lex Berman, David Larochelle (m), John G. McDaid, Ira Nayman, James Zavaglia

Full disclosure: Yes, I'm sometimes still reduced to gibbering awe that I get to sit on panels with people like these.

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Localblogging, 02871, sf, Arisia

"Umbrella Men" briefly reviewed in Locus

Locus, the trade paper of the science fiction field, reviews most of the short fiction in the major markets, and this week, Lois Tilton had a brief but positive note about "Umbrella Men"...

"A story of family and of human ties. The plot avoids predictable routes, and the characters are very appealing, especially the nascent SF writer João."

Tilton can be a tough reviewer — color me chuffed.

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