Not a Blog

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

January 24, 2018 at 2:43 pm
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I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great SF and fantasy writers of the past half century.

Over the years, I had the honor of meeting Le Guin a few times, but I cannot claim to really have known her as a person. Our encounters, such as they were, were all at conventions or Nebula banquets or writer’s workshops, and they were all brief and forgettable.

But I certainly knew her work… as anyone who calls themselves an SF fan surely must. She was one of the giants. A gifted storyteller, dedicated to her art, she influenced a whole generation of writers who came after her, including me. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS ranks as one of the best science fiction novels ever written, in my estimation, and THE DISPOSSESSED and THE LATHE OF HEAVEN were splendid works as well. The original Earthsea trilogy occupies a similar lofty position in the fantasy pantheon (though it was badly served by its television adaptation).

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

The world is poorer today.

Current Mood: sad sad

Aliens In Taos

January 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm
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When astronauts look down on Earth from orbit, they don’t see borders, national boundaries, or linguistic groups; they see one world, a gorgeous blue globe spinning in space, streaked with clouds. I don’t know if humanity will ever reach the stars (though I hope we will), but if we do, it won’t be Americans who get there. It won’t be the Chinese or the Russians or the British or the French or the Brazilians or the Kiwis or the South Africans or the Indians or the folk of any other nation state either. It will be humanity; in the language of the SF of my youth, it will be Terrans or Earthlings or Earthmen. The future belongs to all the peoples of the world.

With that in mind, I want to announce that I am sponsoring a new scholarship, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress run every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The TERRAN AWARD, as I am calling it, will be given annually, and will cover all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (travel and meals not covered, alas). Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language. Walter Jon and Nancy and the Toolbox staff will select the winner. For more information on applying for the workshop, and the scholarship, check out the Toolbox website at http://www.taostoolbox.com. If you have further questions, you can contact WJW at wjw@taostoolbox.com

Oh, and while we’re speaking about Walter Jon Williams… he’s got a new book out, volume one in a new fantasy series, called QUILLIFER, and he’ll be signing copies of it on Sunday at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

The event starts at 3:00 pm on Sunday. I’ll be there as well, so we’ll open with an interview and discussion, then open for some questions from the audience, then put Walter to work signing.

See you at the JCC on Sunday… and in Angel Fire come summer.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Deep Ones and Night Gaunts and Shuggoths, Oh My

January 8, 2018 at 2:04 pm
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Early applications are now being accepted for this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, for aspiring writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. See here for details:

http://www.odysseyworkshop.org/workshop.html

Odyssey is held in the hills of New Hampshire, not far from Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth, with all their associated horrors. With that in mind, I am sponsoring the MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP, for some new talent who wants to walk in the footsteps of HPL and explore vistas of cosmic horror. Let’s bring the Mountains of Madness to New England.

You can read more about Odyssey and the scholarship in my post from last April, here:

https://grrm.livejournal.com/534795.html

Good luck, all you shambling horrors. I hope you make your sanity rolls.

Current Mood: artistic artistic

NIGHTFLYERS at the JCC

October 23, 2017 at 3:53 pm
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The SyFy channel will start filming their new NIGHTFLYERS series late this year or early next, I am informed. The series is based on my novella “Nightflyers,” first published in 1980.

“Nightflyers” was one of my Thousand Worlds stories, part of the future history that formed the background for most of the science fiction I wrote and published in the 1980s. The earliest version of it was a 23,000 word novella originally published in ANALOG, with a gorgeous cover by Paul Lehr.

That version of the story was a finalist for the Hugo Award at Denvention II (that’s me and Parris at Denvention in the pic). It lost our to a Dorsai story by Gordy Dickson, but as always it was great to be nominated… and it did get me back in the Hugo Losers Club, after I’d disgraced myself my winning two the year before. 😉

The story had a lot of fans, though. One of them was editor Jim Frenkel, who was doing a new series called ‘Binary Stars,’ a sort of revived Ace Double concept with two ‘short novels’ sharing a single book. He wanted to use “Nightflyers,” but needed it to be longer. I was thrilled to oblige, since I’d always felt the original needed a bit more room to breeze. I happily expanded the novella to 30,000 words, and in that form it was paired with Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” in a Binary Star, and later reprinted as the lead story in one of my collections from Bluejay Books.

((I kinda hate that cover. For various seasons, which I will explain at the JCC)).

I don’t know where screenwriter/ producer Robert Jaffe first encountered the story… in ANALOG, or via my collection… but somehow he did, and reached out to be in 1984 to option, and then purchase, film and television rights. The movie was filmed in 1986 and released in 1987.

NIGHFTLYERS… the movie… was not a huge hit. But it’s a film that I have very warm feelings toward. NIGHTFLYERS may not have saved my life, but in a very real sense it saved my career, and everything I have written since exists in no small part because of that 1987 film.

Tomorrow night we’ll be screening at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, with Robert Jaffe flying in from Los Angeles to talk about the making the film with me.

Come join us.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

A Sadness

September 10, 2017 at 3:51 pm
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Jerry Pournelle has passed away. He was 84.

It would seem that he attended Dragoncon in Atlanta, caught some kind of bug, and died in his sleep on September 8, after complaining of feeling unwell in his last blog post, on the 7th.

Pournelle has been a major figure in the field for as long as I have been a part of it. I first met him in 1973 at the worldcon in Toronto, where both of us were finalists for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer (along with Lisa Tuttle, Ruth Berman, George Alec Effinger, and Robert Thurston). That was the very first year the award was given. To the surprise of no one, Pournelle won, though Geo. Alec Effinger finished so close behind the con gave him a special second place plaque, the only time THAT ever happened. (How close, you may ask? Ten votes, two votes, a single vote? No one knows. In those days, worldcons did not release vote totals).

The Hugos were given at a banquet in those days. I could not afford a ticket, so I came in after the meal for the awards. It was rather an unusual ceremony. The Hugo rockets had not arrived, so the winners received only empty bases… except for Jerry, since the Campbell sponsors (Conde Nast, in those days) HAD managed to come up with a plaque. There’s Jerry holding it, above.

The other weirdness about that night was that toastmaster Lester del Rey, for reasons only known to himself, chose to present the awards backwards. In other words, he started with Best Novel (the ‘Big One,’ then as now), working his way though short fiction and to the fan awards, and ended with the brand-new never-given-before Campbell. Thing is, people started leaving after each award was given, and by the end, there was hardly anyone left in the hall except me, Jerry Pournelle and his party, and the other nominees and their friends (I think Lisa Tuttle and Ruth Berman were there, but Thurston and Effinger were not, someone else accepted the plaque for Piglet).

I came out of the night all right. It was an honor, a huge honor, just to be nominated. And in the aftermath I came up with the idea of a Campbell Awards anthology. A couple editors told me it was an idea worth pursuing, but of course I needed to get all the nominees to sign on… and the key one was Jerry, the winner. So I bought him a drink and pitched him the notion, and he said yes (though, being the consummate pro, he made that contingent on me being able to pay competitive professional rates). Eventually that conversation led to my NEW VOICES anthology, and launched my career as an editor and anthologist… and I’m still going strong there, forty-four years later.

The Hugo voters knew what they were doing when they gave Pournelle that first Campbell; he went on to have an amazing career, both on his own and in collaboration with other writers, particularly Larry Niven. With INFERNO, LUCIFER’S HAMMER, FOOTFALL, and (especially) MOTE IN GOD’S EYE, the two of them helped transform the field in the 70s. They were among the very first SF writers ever to hit the big bestseller lists, and among the first to get six-figure advances at the time when most writers were still getting four figure advances… something that Jerry was never shy about mentioning. Though he was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards in the years that followed, he never won one… but if that bothered him, he did not show it. “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” he said famously.

Pournelle was fond of talking about all the help Robert A. Heinlein (whom he always called “Mr. Heinlein,” at least in my hearing) gave him when he was starting out, and he was a passionate advocate of RAH’s “pay it forward” philosophy, and did much to help the generations of writers who came after him. He served a term in the thankless job of SFWA President, and remained an active part of SFWA ever after, as part of the advisory board of Past Presidents and (even more crucially) on GriefCom, the Grievance Committee. Jerry could be loud and acrimonious, yes, and when you were on the opposite side of a fight from him that was not pleasant… ahh, but when you were on the SAME side, there was no one better to have in your foxhole. I had need of SFWA’s Griefcom only once in my career, in the early 80s, and when we met at worldcon with the publisher I had Jerry with me representing Griefcom. He went through the publisher’s people like a buzzsaw, and got me everything I wanted, resolving my grievance satisfactorily (and confidentially, so no, no more details).

His politics were not my politics. He was a rock-ribbed conservative/ libertarian, and I’m your classic bleeding-heart liberal… but we were both fans, and professional writers, and ardent members of SFWA, and we loved SF and fantasy and fandom, and that was enough. You don’t need to agree with someone on everything to be able to respect them. And while MOTE IN GOD’S EYE may not have won the Hugo in its year, it remains one of the great classics of space opera, destined to be read and re-read for as long as people read science fiction (it IS an honor just to be nominated).

The last time I saw Jerry was at Keith Kato’s chili party at MidAmericon II. He loved Keith’s chili as much as I do, another point in his favor.

R.I.P. Jerry. You were one ornery so-and-so, but you were our ornery so-and-so. Hoist a pint for me at that Secret Pro Party in the sky, and say hello to Mr. Heinlein.

Current Mood: sad sad

Dragon Award Winners

September 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm
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Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Dragon Awards, presented at Dragoncon in Atlanta. You can find the list here: http://awards.dragoncon.org/2017_winners/

I understand that 8,000 votes were received this year, twice last year’s turnout. If that trend continues, the Dragons may have a long and successful future ahead of them as the People’s Choice Award of science fiction and fantasy, a broadbased popular anyone-can-vote award that will complement the Hugo Awards (the Oscars of science fiction and fantasy) and the Nebulas (the guild awards, like the DGA/ WGA/ SAG awards in film and TV).

I was especially pleased to see BABYLON’S ASHES take the Dragon for the Best SF Novel of the year. A terrific piece of work, as all the EXPANSE books have been. James S.A. Corey, that two-headed monster, is doing something remarkable there, and if they stick the landing with the final books I think they will have created a classic.

Congratulations also to STRANGER THINGS, which won the Dragon as the best SF/ fantasy TV show. I don’t know the people who do the show, but I’ve certainly enjoyed and admired their work.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Talking Over Thai

July 21, 2017 at 6:09 pm
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So a couple of months ago, while I was out at Stokercon in Long Beach, on the mighty Queen Mary, I went out with Scott Edelman for Thai food (yum), and he recorded our conversation for his EATING THE FANTASTIC podcast.

The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:

http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/07/21/down-drunken-noodles-with-george-r-r-martin-in-episode-43-of-eating-the-fantastic/

Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there’s a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Off to Angel Fire

June 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm
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Been a while since I posted here, I see. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Quite the contrary; it means lots of things are happening, and I’ve been way too busy to worry about my Not A Blog.

I seem to have an insane amount of things on my plate. Would that there were more of me. Would that there were more hours in the day. The work is actually going well, I think… but there’s so MUCH of it, on so many different fronts…

Anyway…

Today will be a pleasant interlude. I’m taking the Tesla up north to talk to the students at Walter Jon Williams’ Taos Toolbox workshop… which no longer seems to be in Taos, but further north in Angel Fire. But it’s a beautiful day and it should be a beautiful drive, and I always relish the opportunity to corrupt some young minds.

A Horrifying Announcement

April 26, 2017 at 12:53 pm
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A long long time ago, in the projects of Bayonne, New Jersey, I fell in love.

I fell in love with comic books and superheroes, thanks to Stan Lee and Julie Schwartz. I fell in love with science fiction, thanks to Robert A. Heinlein, Andre Norton, and Eric Frank Russell. I fell in love with fantasy, thanks to Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and J.R.R. Tolkien. And I fell in love with monsters and scary stories (later in life, I’d learn to call them ‘horror’ or weird fiction, but as a kid, they were just monster stories to me)… thanks to a gentleman out of Providence who had died before I was born.

I first encountered the work of H.P. Lovecraft in a paperback anthology entitled BORIS KARLOFF’S FAVORITE HORROR STORIES. I knew Boris from his Frankenstein movies and from TV’s THRILLER, the scariest show on television at the time, but I had never heard of HPL until I read “The Haunter of the Dark” in that volume. I had never read a story that scared me more… so of course I sought out more Lovecraft wherever I could find it (not an easy task in those days). No werewolf, no vampire, no thing going bump in the night could give me chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked in tales like “The Whisperer in Darkness,” “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Shadow Out of Time,” “The Rats In the Walls,” “The Strange High House in the Mist,” and so many more. I have read a lot of horror since, some good, some bad, some indifferent… but only the best work of Stephen King has ever equalled Lovecraft, and that in a very different way.

Our world of imaginative fiction is fortunate in having several terrific writer’s workshops specializing in science fiction and fantasy, where aspiring authors can hone their talents and learn from established professionals… but New Hampshire’s Odyssey workshop is one of the few that gives equal emphasis to horror, to the monsters and scary stories.

I’m excited to announce that I will be funding a new horror-writing scholarship for the Odyssey workshop. Founded 22 years ago, Odyssey’s six-week program is held each summer on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Combining intensive, advanced lectures with in-depth feedback on students’ manuscripts, Odyssey has become legendary for the challenges it sets for students and the enthusiasm with which they meet those challenges. And all that writing, learning, critiquing, and sweat yields great results. Among Odyssey’s alumni are New York Times bestsellers, Amazon bestsellers, and award winners.

It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.

The Miskatonic Scholarship will be awarded to a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Let us be clear: we are not looking for Lovecraft pastiches, nor even Cthulhu Mythos stories. References to Arkham, Azathoth, shoggoths, the Necronomicon, and the fungi from Yuggoth are by no means obligatory… though if some candidates choose to include them, that’s fine as well. What we want is the sort of originality that HPL displayed in his day, something that goes beyond the tired tropes of werewolves, vampires and zombies, into places strange and terrifying and never seen before. What we want are nightmares new and resonant and profound, cosmic terrors that will haunt our dreams for years to come.

The Miskatonic will be a full scholarship, given annually, and covering tuition, fees, and lodging for a single student each year. The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The only criteria will be literary. A panel of three judges will select the winner from among the applicants who have demonstrated financial need, solely on the basis of their story samples. Since this year’s class of students has already been selected from among the pool of applicants, the Miskatonic Scholarship will be awarded for the first time next year, to a student from the class of 2018.

H.P. Lovecraft himself during his lifetime gave generously of his time and talent to many a younger writer, including Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, Donald Wandrei, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, and many more. It is our hope that the ongoing annual Miskatonic Scholarship will provide the same sort of encouragement and inspiration to a new generation of writers, for all the long dark nights ahead.

George R.R. Martin

A Sense of Wonder

April 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm
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I’ve made my life in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, and an awful lot of people helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. But if I may echo something that Robert A. Heinlein once said, you can never pay back the people who helped you when you were starting out… but you can pay forward, and give a hand to those coming after.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce that I will be funding a new scholarship for the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop. Held every summer at the University of California San Diego under the auspices of the Clarion Foundation, the workshop’s roots go back the 1960s and Clarion College in Pennsylvania, where it was founded by Robin Scott Wilson, Damon Knight, and Kate Wilhelm. Its alumni include more professional sf and fantasy writers than I can possibly hope to name, and the list of Clarion instructors over the years is a veritable Who’s Who of our genre.

Many of the students at Clarion already receive financial aid through a variety of existing scholarships and grants that cover all or part of their expenses, but there’s always need and there’s never enough money, and it’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to one more worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the experience. It will be a full scholarship, given annually, and covering tuition, fees, and lodging for a single student for the full six weeks of intensive writing and criticism that is Clarion.

We’ll be calling it the Sense of Wonder scholarship.

The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The only criteria will be literary.

The first science fiction novel I ever read was Heinlein’s HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL, a book that begins with a boy named Kip in a used spacesuit standing in his back yard, and goes on to take him (and us) to the moon, and Pluto, and the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, along the way encountering aliens both horrifying (the Wormfaces) and benevolent (the Mother Thing), as well as a girl named Peewee. In the end it’s up to Kip and Peewee to defend the entire human race when Earth is put on trial. I had never read anything like it, and from the moment I finished I wanted more; more Heinlein, more science fiction, more aliens and spacesuits and starships… more of the vast interstellar vistas that had opened before me.

Since then I have read thousands of other science fiction novels, and written a few myself. Modern imaginative fiction is a house with many rooms, and I’ve visited most of them. Cyberpunk, New Wave, magic realism, slipstream, military SF, dystopias, utopias, urban fantasy, high fantasy, splatterpunk, the new weird, the new space opera, you name it. I’ve sampled all of it, and I’m glad it’s all there, but when it comes right down it, the SF I love best is still the SF that gives me that sense of wonder I found in that Heinlein book almost sixty years ago, and afterwards in the works of Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Alfred Bester, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance, Andre Norton, the early Chip Delany, Jack Vance, Frank Herbert, Robert Silverberg, Jack Vance, Eric Frank Russell, Cordwainer Smith, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, and so many more. (Did I mention Jack Vance?) I love the aliens, be they threatening or benevolent, the more alien the better. I dream of starships, strange worlds beneath the light of distant suns. I want the sights and sounds and smells of times and places and cultures colorful and exotic. That was the sort of science fiction that I tried to write myself with the Thousand Worlds stories that made my name in the 70s, when I was just breaking in as a writer.

It’s my hope that this new Clarion scholarship will help find and encourage young aspiring writers who dream the same sort of dreams, that it will give a small boost up to the next Roger Zelazny, the next Ursula Le Guin, the next Jack Vance.

One student will be selected every year. The recipient of the first award is LUCY SMITH, an English writer and recent student of archaeology who has been making stories for most of her life. She has just begun tweeting at @subterranape, and can usually be found in London. I have yet to meet her, but I hope that she enjoys her six weeks at Clarion, and that the lessons she learns there will help her develop her talent and master her craft. And in the years and books to come, I hope that Lucy Smith will take us to the stars, and show us wonders.