Not a Blog

RIP Mike

January 14, 2020 at 7:33 pm
Profile Pic

I was deeply saddened this week to read of the death of Mike Resnick, one of the true giants of contemporary science fiction.  Mike has been battling serious illness for some time, so the news did not come as a complete surprise… but it came too soon, too soon, and our field and our community will be the poorer for his absence.

I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago.  I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer.  There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike.   What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me.   Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then.  Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.

And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.

He was fine writer, and a prolific one, as all his Hugo and Nebula nods will testify.  After they started giving out those little rocket pins for Hugo nominations, Resnick would wear them on his shirt like medals: pointed up for a story that won, down for a story that lost.  That always charmed me.  Mike won the Hugo five times; once for novella, once for novelette, thrice for short story  (like me, he never won the big one, Best Novel).   He lost a lot more (we had that in common as well).   He took that in stride, with a shrug and a smile, in the true spirit of a Hugo Loser.

He never won for Best Editor either, and as best I recall he was nominated only once, under unfortunate circumstances.   That was a pity.  He deserved more recognition for his editing.   He edited something like forty anthologies, I believe, and he always made a point to fill them with a lot of young aspiring writers, new names and no-names making their first or second or fifth professional sale.  I can’t say how many careers he helped launch, but it was a lot.  In modern times, only Gardner Dozois was more assiduous in searching out new talent.   Mike called his discoveries his “writer babies” and they called him their “writer daddy,” and many a time I would see him  in the lobby of a con hotel, with a dozen of his literary children sitting around his feet as he shared his wisdom with them… along with a funny story and ribald anecdote or two.

His last great act as an editor was the founding of GALAXY’S EDGE, a new SF magazine that he launched… in an act of madness that was all Mike… at the time when the old magazines were struggling to survive.   GALAXY’S EDGE always featured a lot of new writers too, and Mike paid them decent rates… a feat he accomplished by twisting the arms of old coots like me to give him reprints for pennies, to free up more money for the newcomers.  (Lots of us old coots were glad to do it.  Like Mike, we believe in paying forward).  I hope and trust that GALAXY’S EDGE will keep going strong, as a lasting testament to his legacy.

These days, all too often, I meet writers who come to conventions only to promote themselves and their books.   They do their panels, and you bump into them at the SFWA Suite, but nowhere else.   Not Mike.  Mike Resnick was fannish to the bone.   You’d find him at publisher’s parties and the SFWA suite, sure, but he’d also pop up at bid parties, in the bar, in the con suite.  He made more than one Hugo Loser party, both before and after the days I was running it.  You’d see him in the dealer’s room, at the art show, at the masquerade… his Chun the Unavoidable costume, from Jack Vance’s DYING EARTH, was a classic.   When he appeared on panels, he was funny, sharp, irascible, irreverent, always entertaining… and he would do entire panels without once plugging his own new book, a trick more program participants should learn.  The place you’d find him most often at worldcon was the CFG suite, the redoubt of the Cincinnati Fan Group.  He was the professional’s professional, sure, but Mike was also the fan’s fan.   For some writers conventions are for selling, selling, selling… for Mike, they were more about giving, giving, giving.   And having fun.   That too.   Mike always seemed to be smiling or laughing.   He loved science fiction, fantasy, fandom, writing, reading, cons… and he shared his passion with everyone around him.

Science fiction has lost a fine writer, a unique voice, a magnificent mentor… and a profoundly good and decent man.

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Hugo Nominations Open

January 6, 2020 at 2:57 pm
Profile Pic

CoNZealand, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, has announced that nominations are now open for the 2020 Hugo Awards.   To nominate, you need to be a member of either this year’s worldcon, or last year’s Dublin convention.  You can nominate either electronically, or with a paper ballot (though very few chose the latter method these days).

Details can be found at https://conzealand.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2020-Hugo-Nominations-Ballot-Printable-US-Letter.pdf

Members can nominate for the Hugos themselves, the two “Not A Hugo” categories, and for the Retro-Hugos that honor outstanding works published during the years when no Hugos were awarded.

First given in 1953, the Hugo is not only the oldest SF and fantasy award, but by far the most prestigious.   The list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who of our genre (and, honestly, the list of past losers is equally amazing).   No, you don’t need to read everything that was published last year to nominate.  You don’t need to nominate in every category either.  Just nominate the works you read and loved, and you’ll be fine.   Other fans will take care of the rest.

Even if you only nominate a single work in a single category, I urge you to NOMINATE.  Let your voice be heard.  The Hugo is fandom’s award, worldcon’s award, one of the greatest honors our community can bestow.  Winning a Hugo is an amazing experience… but earning a nomination is almost as exciting.   Far fewer people take part in the nomination round than vote on the final ballot, so this is the stage of the process where you can have the greatest impact.   There have been instances in the recent past when a single nomination was the difference between making the cut and being left off the ballot.   Just last year, my own imaginary history FIRE & BLOOD came six votes short of being nominated in Best Related Work (though, as it happens, I was later informed that it would have been disqualified in any case, for having too much fictional contest).   Almost only counts in horseshoes and grenades, as we all know… you wouldn’t want your favorite story off the year to be left off the ballot because you forget to send in a ballot.   So NOMINATE.

Speaking of which… for the last decade or so, I have been making recommendations of my own favorites (in certain categories, at least) on my Not A Blog.  There’s so much good work being published each year it is easy to get overlooked, so I wanted to do what I could to draw attention to worthy books, movies, and individuals.   I will not be making any recommendations this year, however.   I am going to be the Toastmaster this summer at CoNZealand, the guy on stage emceeing the event and handing out all those nice shiny rocket ships.  It would not be appropriate for me to go on record as favoring certain nominees (and, by implication, dis-approving of others… though that would be a shaky assumption, since I don’t always get around to reading everything in every case).   It behooves the Toastmaster to be neutral, I believe.  Which is not to say that I won’t be cheering on some winners and being aghast at others… but not in public.

I expect that I will go back to recommending work next year, when worldcon moves to Washington and it is someone else’s turn in the barrel as Toastmaster.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

Toolbox Opens

December 16, 2019 at 3:57 pm
Profile Pic

Walter Jon Williams informs me that he is now taking applications for the 2020 version of the Taos Toolbox, his “graduate level” workshop for aspiring writers of science fiction and fantasy.   This year’s gathering will be June 7-20… not actually in Taos, confusingly, but nearby in Angel Fire, in the Land of Enchantment.  Walter Jon and Nancy Kress will be the instructors, once again, and I’ll show up myself one day for a guest lecture and a meal.   You can find all the information here:  http://www.taostoolbox.com/

This year, once again, I will be sponsoring the TERRAN PRIZE, a full scholarship for a promising writer from a non-English-speaking country.   The winner will need to write in English, however…but we’re all Terrans here, and we all share this planet, and a love of imaginative fiction.   The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and lodging, but not travel or meals.  Applications can be made through the link above.

 

Current Mood: busy busy

You Can Go Home Again

November 22, 2019 at 10:02 am
Profile Pic

The last stop on my October travels was Asbury Park, New Jersey, where I was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

I was born and raised in Bayonne, as most of my readers probably know by now, but I left New Jersey in 1966 for Evanston, Illinois, to start my college education at Northwestern University.   I never really returned, except for visits… but I do visit often, since almost all of my family is still in Jersey, along with a few old friends, a lot of memories (mostly good, some less so), and a big piece of my heart.   Also, New Jersey still has the best pizza in the world (New York and Connecticut are very close, though).   You can take the boy out of Jersey, I guess, but you can’t take Jersey out of the boy.

Asbury Park is one of the iconic Jersey shore towns.  When I was growing up, a lot of my friends and schoolmates spent their summers down on the Jersey Shore.   If not at Asbury Park, then at Atlantic City, Seaside, Tom’s River, Keansburg, or one of the other shore towns.   Splashing on the beaches, eating salt water taffy, strolling the boardwalks, riding roller coasters and other rides in the old amusement parks.   Not me.   We were projects kids, we did not even own a car, so we spent our summers in Bayonne, mostly.   Water all around, but no beaches (though once or twice each summer we’d get to take an excursion boat from Brady’s Dock across the street from the projects to Rye Beach or Far Rockaway).   The only amusement park I got to visit was Uncle Milty’s, right down First Street, where I could blow my allowance playing Skee-Ball… and would eventually land my first job, running the Tubs O’ Fun for the kiddies one summer.   I think I got paid twelve dollars a week (in a pay envelope, with a ten and, yes, a two-dollar bill).

I had never been to Asbury Park before this visit, but I have to say, I was charmed by the place.   The sand, the surf, the boardwalk… iconic old bars like the Stone Poney and the Wonderbar… lovely grand houses and old hotels, a downtown that felt like stepping back in time… all in all, a cool town to visit.  And of course the awards ceremony was great fun.  As a Mets fan, it was a great honor for me to be inducted by Ed Kranepool of the Amazin’ Mets of 1969, and Todd Frazier of the current squad… and to share the night with Jason Alexander, Harry Carson, Bart Oates, Martha Stewart, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and many more incredible Jerseyites.

Before the ceremony, I was also thrilled to be able to meet a couple of my favorite Giants from the Superbowl champions of 1986, Harry Carson and Bart Oates.   Bart actually let me try on his Superbowl ring!  And Harry showed me his Hall of Fame ring, which was big enough for four of my fingers.

Having my family present for the induction ceremony made it even more special.

I am told the permanent home of the New Jersey Hall of Fame will be in American Dream, the new mega-mall that just opened in the Meadowlands across the parking lot from Giants Stadium.   Yes, the former Xanadu, decades in the building.   Meanwhile, there are plaques of us at Newark Airport.   That’s cool.   I like the idea of being on an airport wall down from the Boss.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

World’s Greatest Award

November 16, 2019 at 9:17 am
Profile Pic

In between Washington and New York City on my awards tour of America, I dropped by my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey to visit my family.

While I was there, my sisters Darleen and Janet presented me with the WORLD’S GREATEST AWARD.  They said they did not want to be the only stop I made in October where I did not get an award.

It’s a wonderful award, and I was delighted.   The trophy was accompanied by a Jersey bar pie (best pizza in the world) and some Judicke’s sprinkle donuts (best sprinkle donuts in the world).

I also got to check in with the youngest members of my family… my great nephew Brady and my great nieces Arielle and Emma.   Yes, my nephews Jeff and Sean have been busy.   I am a great uncle three times over.   Grunkle George.

Current Mood: amused amused

Tags: ,

On to Washington

November 8, 2019 at 2:39 pm
Profile Pic

After Chicago, I moved on to Washington, D.C. with my faithful minion Sid.   There, on the evening of October 17, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation presented me with the 2019 Sir Arthur Clarke Imagination Award.  Scott Shannon of Random House, my publisher, came down from New York to introduce me and help present the award, to my delight.

(It should be noted that there is another Arthur C. Clarke Award.   That one is a juried award given in the UK for the best novel of the year.   This award is not that award, though both of them are sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation).

I never had the honor of meeting Sir Arthur C. Clarke, but of course I read his work… pretty much all of his work, to the best of my recollection.   Clarke was one of the giants of science fiction, and his stories and books had a profound influence on generations of writers who came after him.  CHILDHOOOD’S END, A RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA, “The Nine Billion Names of God,” “The Star,” 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, AGAINST THE FALL OF NIGHT… the list goes on and on, a body of work that has few equals.  He was also an articulate and progressive voice on the issues of the day, and an unfailing champion of science… something sorely needed in these troubled times.   I am pleased and proud to be the winner of an award bearing his name.

Imagination is also sorely needed in these times, a subject I spoke about after receiving the award, while being interviewed by Alyssa Rosenberg, the arts and culture columnist for the Washington Post.   This was the first time I’d met Alyssa, but I’ve been reading her for years; her columns about GAME OF THRONES were always accurate and insightful, and she conducted a terrific interview… albeit one that got somewhat dark towards the end, as I contemplated the future of our planet.   Not a lot of laughs there, truth be told, but I hope we gave the audience some things to think about.   Clarke was all about thinking.

I did not attend any baseball games in Washington, but it was a kick being in town when the Nationals won the pennant and punched their ticket to the World Series.  The whole town was giddy.   And we also enjoyed our visit to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum.  It’s being renovated at the moment, so some exhibits were closed… but the remainder was just as wondrous as I recalled it from my last visit, years ago.   The curators seemed somewhat surprised that I knew so much about the Bell X-1 and Friendship 7 and the various rockets on display.   Hey, long before I set foot in Westeros, I was writing SF about starships, aliens, and distant suns.   Pinto Vortando loves his rocket ships!

Thank you, Washington, for the warm reception, and thank you, Clarke Foundation.

 

 

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

A Visit to Chicago

November 6, 2019 at 9:16 am
Profile Pic

On October 10, in the City of Big Shoulders, I was presented with the Carl Sandburg Literary Award at the annual gala sponsored by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

It’s a lovely award, and quite an honor.   Last year’s winners were Judy Blume and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.   Previous winners have included such luminaries as Alice Walker, Larry McMurtry, Margaret Atwood, Scott Turow, Isabel Allende, Roger Ebert, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, and many many others.   That’s a club that I am thrilled and proud to belong to.

I was also happy to share the evening with the amazing Dr. Eve Ewing, who won the foundation’s 21st Century Award, along with 82 other writers from Chicago and the surrounding area, all of whom were brought on stage for a bow (among them were several folks from the SF world, including Mary Robinette Kowal and Alec Nevala-Lee).

The gala was lovely and the award prestigious, and I also got to meet Chicago’s new mayor.  But  the very best part of the evening was being told afterward that we had raised two-and-a-half million dollars for the Chicago Public Library.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment-and-culture/2019/10/9/20906847/george-r-r-martin-sandburg-award-chicago-public-library-game-of-thrones-humanities-festival

The day after the Sandburg dinner, I appeared at the Chicago Symphony as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.  One of the most amazing things about that event was the way they sent out the invitations to it — by raven.

The birds did their job admirably, and a huge crowd attended.  Once again I shared the stage with the incredible Eve Ewing, who did a terrific interview of me.   But the fun started with our entrance.   They took us down into the basement and stood us on a riser, and as the Spektral Quartet played the theme to GAME OF THRONES, Eve and I rose up dramatically from below through clouds of dry ice mist.   Now if only I could persuade CoNZealand to do the same next August, when I emcee the Hugo Awards.

http://https://depauliaonline.com/43361/artslife/george-r-r-martin-gives-candid-look-at-what-informs-his-craft-during-chicago-humanities-festival/

After the two big events, I went up to Evanston one day to meet with the dean of the Medill School of Journalism on the Northwestern campus (quite a few changes since my day), and talk to some current Medill students, all of them impossibly young and formidably smart.   Back in the Loop, I also met with some M.F.A. candidates from the Communications department about writing for television and film, and even sat down with the VISTA Volunteers now serving with Chicago Legal Aid… where I served as a VISTA from 1971-1973.

And of course I had to make a couple of visits to Greektown for saganaki and moussaka.  Opaa!  Opaa!  Nobody sets fire to cheese better than the good folks at the Greek Islands.

Chicago remains one of my favorite cities in the world, and it was wonderful to return there for a few days.  While I failed to find my lost youth, it was fun to revisit the scenes of the crimes and meet some of my successors.   My thanks to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and Northwestern University for all their hospitality.

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Irish Book Awards

October 7, 2019 at 11:30 am
Profile Pic

The days are rushing by faster and faster, it seems.  We’re already into October and I haven’t yet mentioned all the highlights of our travels to London, Dublin, and Belfast in August.

One of those highlights, beyond a doubt, was when I was presented with the An Post Irish Book Award in Dublin.

The presentation was made at Dublin’s historic General Post Office, the center of the 1916 Easter Rising… the Irish Alamo.  The significance of the site was not lost on me, and inspired my remarks, which centered around history and the need to learn from it.

Accounts of the presentation can be found online at:

https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/2019/0820/1069905-george-rr-martin-to-receive-irish-book-awards

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/george-r-r-martin-wins-international-recognition-award-irish-book-awards-1070641

https://www.irishpost.com/news/game-thrones-author-george-r-r-martin-honoured-irish-book-awards-170445

In addition to the trophy shown in the photographs above, I was also presented with a marvelous bronze statue of the Irish warrior  hero Cuchulainn.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Double Butter, Please

October 6, 2019 at 4:30 pm
Profile Pic

I am tickled to report that GAME OF THRONES has taken another award.

This time it’s the MTV Golden Popcorn Award.

Here’s the list of this year’s winners.

http://www.mtv.com/news/3128177/2019-mtv-movie-tv-awards-winners-list/

The trophy just arrived, and it is certainly eye-catching.  (And heavy!)

I usually take butter (real butter please, not “golden flavor”) on my popcorn, but gold makes for a nice substitute.

Thank you, all.

I want my MTV.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

Emmy Times Four

October 2, 2019 at 10:01 pm
Profile Pic

I’m just back from ten days in LA, and the Emmy Awards… where GAME OF THRONES once again won the Big One as the Best Drama.  It’s the fourth win for GOT… and, along with Peter Dinklage’s fourth victory as Best Supporting Actor in a drama, and all the trophies our amazing crew snagged the previous weekend at the Creative Arts awards, helped HBO once again take home more Emmys than any other network, channel, or streaming service.

Of course, we lost a few as well.   Alfie Allen and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau were also finalists in Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Peter.   GAME OF THRONES had three directors nominated (David Nutter, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and Miguel Sapochnik), David & Dan were up again for writing, and  we had no fewer than FOUR finalists in Best Supporting Actress in a drama (Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, and Gwendoline Christine, all of them superb), but as often happens when a show has more than one nominee in a category, they ended up splitting the GOT vote.  Kit Harrington was nominated as Best Actor in a leading role, and Emilia Clarke as Best Actress, but the Emmys went to others.   The Emmys are nothing if not competitive, and there were some wonderful performances last year… from a whole host of shows.

But it IS a honor just to be nominated, especially now, in this day and age of peak television… a sentiment all of our finalists share.   They can all be proud of the work they did, and of the recognition they received from the members of the Academy.

After eight seasons, GAME OF THRONES leaves the air with more Emmys than any other primetime series, comedy or drama, in the entire history of television.   Not too shabby, I’d say.   I am very pleased to have been a part of setting that record.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, though… it was wonderful to share the moment with all the friends I’ve made during our run, but there was a bittersweet feel to the occasion as well, knowing that this would be the last time all of us would be together.   I could not help but think back to my days on TWILIGHT ZONE and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in the 80s.  I still see some of the writers and actors I met on those shows from time to time, but others I have lost track of entirely.   That’s the way it goes in television and film.  Will I ever again have the privilege of working with some of these incredible talents who helped bring my books to life?  One never knows…

One thing I do know.   I’m not done with Westeros, and HBO isn’t either.   I have WINDS OF WINTER to finish… and A DREAM OF SPRING… and more Dunk & Egg stories… and the second volume of Archmaester Gyldayn’s history.   And we hope to have some exciting news about the successor shows soon as well.

Stay tuned.

Current Mood: bouncy bouncy