Not a Blog

A New Hope

January 20, 2021 at 1:22 pm
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No, I am not talking about STAR WARS.

I’ve spent the morning watching Joe Biden being sworn in as president.

Joe is not the orator that Obama and JFK were, but I found his speech profoundly moving.   He said all the right things.

I do not envy him.   Very few presidents have faced the sort of challenges he does.   Lincoln, perhaps.  FDR, taking over in the deep of the Great Depression.  No one else.   The road ahead will not be easy.   The sort of problems that America faces cannot be solved easily, nor overnight.   But if anyone can solve them, I think it is Biden.   He is experienced, intelligent, and above all compassionate.

These are dark days in America, but this morning, for the first time in a long while, I am feeling a little hope.

A Farewell to Phyl

January 18, 2021 at 5:04 pm
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My old friend Phyllis Eisenstein died on December 7, in Chicago.   The cause of death, I am told, was Covid-19, but Phyllis had been hospitalized for most of the year, following a cerebral hemorrhage last January.

I have been trying to write a memorial to her since her passing… trying, and struggling with it.   The holidays interfered, as they will, and of course I have so much on my plate… but mainly it was just hard.    There was so much to say, and it seemed that only days had passed since I wrote about the deaths of Kay McCauley and then Ben Bova.   Each one of those was a blow, and coming so soon one after the other… I confess, it left me in a dark place.   The closer you are to someone, the harder it is to do justice to their memory.  And Phyllis and I were close.

My old friend, I said… and damn, but that is true.   I had known Phyl for  half a century, I’ve realized, looking back.   We first met in Boston in 1971, at Noreascon I, the first worldcon I ever attended.   She was working the SFWA table at the con, greeting members and telling them about SFWA… a volunteer, giving of her time and effort to help out.   Phyllis did a lot of that; she had a generous soul.   I had only sold two stories when I turned up at Noreason and I was not yet qualified to join SFWA.  I had only attended one previous sf con, so I knew almost no one at worldcon… but Phyllis was warm and friendly, and I spent a lot of the con hanging around her at the table, and she introduced me to other writers, editors, artists, all sorts of people.   Phyllis, and her husband Alex, had been a part of fandom for a long time, and she seemed to know everyone.

I mean to write about all that, and more, but I also wanted to say something about her work, for Phyllis Eisenstein was a gifted and accomplished writer, one who never got the attention that I think that she deserved.    There’s a lot to say about that as well.   And I will.

The days have been flying by, though, and the demands on me have been building, and finally I concluded it was better to post this short notice than say nothing at all.   I will return to Phyllis and write her a much longer memorial, I promise… when I can.   Soon, I hope.

There has been too much death.   Phyl is the third friend I lost in the last two months of 2020, that most dismal of years.   And three other friends, people very near and dear to me, are struggling with very grave health issues even now.  It seems there is darkness everywhere.  The COVID death count keeps rising, there are fascists in the streets; the best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity, and Kay and Ben and Phyl are all gone.

Be well, my friends.

 

Current Mood: sad sad

Words for Our Times

January 13, 2021 at 10:02 am
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Current Mood: anxious anxious

Moveable Feasts

January 11, 2021 at 8:15 am
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A few weeks ago, while up in my mountain fastness, I rewatched MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the Woody Allen film about a struggling writer visiting modern Paris (played by Owen Wilson) who finds himself travelling back in time to Paris of the 20s, where he finds himself bumping into Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Dali, Picasso, and the other artists and writers who made that such a special time.   It’s a lovely, entertaining movie about nostalgia.  I have enjoyed it before and I expect I will enjoy it again.

Watching it, however, made me realize that I had never read Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST, his memoir about his days in Paris as a hungry young writer in the 20s.   That book, and the times it chronicles, were obviously what inspired Allen to do MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.   I have never been a huge Hemingway fan, as it happens — I have read several of his novels, of course, though by no means all, and when I look back on the writers of that era, I find I much prefer F. Scott Fitzgerald — but I was curious, so I went and ordered the book and devoured it as soon as it arrived.

A few random thoughts–
— Woody Allen really nails Hemingway in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, hoo boy,
— I liked A MOVEABLE FEAST more than I have any of Hemingway’s novels, truth be told.   It was a vivid glimpse back into a vanished time and place, and into the author himself as a young man.   The book was not entirely what I expected.   Parts of it were moving and nostalgic, but other parts were surprisingly funny, like Hemingway’s efforts to assure Fitzgerald that his dick was not too small by showing him statues in the Louvre.   Other parts were sad, like the account of his estrangement from Gertrude Stein.   And his thoughts on life, love, and writing are always fascinating,
— Hemingway could not have been an easy friend; his judgements of others could be scathing and acidic.   Alice Roosevelt Longworth would have wanted him sitting near her, for certain,
— whatever golden glow might light the moveable feast of Paris in the 20s, I can never escape the knowledge that after the 20s came the 30s, when the lights went out all over Europe.   You know.  Nazis.   And that makes me think of the world today, and shiver.

Thing is, while A MOVEABLE FEAST is about Paris in the 20s, it was not written until decades later.   It was, in fact, published posthumously, after Hemingway took his own life.   He was writing and editing it during the last years of his life… an old man, rich and famous and sad, looking back on his youth when he was poor and struggling and unknown, but alive and vital, in love with his first wife and with Paris, drunk on dreams of what the future might hold, of all the possibilities that lay before him.   The whole book very much exemplifies what Woody Allen was talking about in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.   Papa, in those final years, is writing of the time and place when he was happiest… or at least the time and place he remembers being happiest…  but I do wonder whether or not he is only remembering the good stuff.

Reading it, I could not help but reflect on my own life.   We all have our own moveable feasts.   For me, I think, it was science fiction fandom in the 70s.   I was a struggling writer then, just as Hemingway was in the 20s; writing, writing, going to workshops, collecting rejections, trying to get better, never knowing when the next sale might come.   No, I did not get to hang with Scott and Zelda, or Hemingway, or Gertrude Stein, or Dali… but I had Howard Waldrop and Jack Dann and Lisa Tuttle, I drank with the Haldemans, I hunted the hallways of worldcon with Gardner Dozois looking for the Secret Pro Party, went skinny-dipping in hotel pools and met Parris in a sauna.   When I got hungry I went looking for an editor with an expense account who might buy me a meal (elsewise I was scrounging in the con suite).   Giants walked the halls in those days, and I had the good fortune to meet a few of them, if only to tell them what their work had meant to me.  I shook the hands of C.L. Moore and Edmond Hamilton and Murray Leinster, I had actual conversations with Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury and Ted Sturgeon, I got to share meals with Julie Schwartz and Wilson Tucker, with Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg.

Like Hemingway in Paris, I never had much money.   I shared rooms at cons, slept on floors or in a bathtub, got to the cons on a bus or in the back seat of a friend’s car… walked to the hotels from the bus station, lugging my suitcase in my hand (no wheels on luggage in those days) since I did not have the money for a cab.   Were those the bad parts?  Or the good parts?  From 2020, it is not easy to say.   They make me smile now, as I look back.   But if I try, I know that there were really bad parts too.   Like Hemingway, though, I choose not to dwell on them.  The world was a fucked-up place, then as now, but fandom was a refuge; warm, welcoming, strange (but in a good way), a community unlike any I had ever known, united by a shared love of our peculiar little branch of literature and the people who wrote it.

To quote one of Hemingway’s contemporaries, however, you can’t go home again.  By the time Hemingway sat down to write A MOVEABLE FEAST in those last years of his life, he surely knew that the Paris he had known and loved in the 20s was gone forever… and the fandom that I knew and loved in the 70s is gone as well.   This year the worldcon is in Washinton DC, in the very same hotel where the 1974 worldcon was held… the worldcon where I lost my first Hugo, accepted Lisa Tuttle’s Campbell Award, and prowled the halls till dawn with Gargy, looking for parties we never found.   There is a part of me that somehow hopes that going back to the same hotel in the same city, I might somehow recapture something of those nights.   But my head knows better.   My head knows those days are gone forever, along with so many of the people that I shared them with.    I wonder how often Papa Hemingway returned to Paris in the 40s and 50s, and what he thought of the place when he did.

Anyway… I quite like MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, and I loved A MOVEABLE FEAST.   Maybe you will too.

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

The Republic Under Attack

January 6, 2021 at 2:25 pm
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What is happening in Washington right now is shocking and dismaying… but I can’t say I find it entirely unexpected.

There have been all too many days, these past couple of years, when I feared that the United States was going the way of the Weimar Republic.

And now the moment of coup is at hand.   Rioters breaking into the Capitol, even the floor of the House and Senate.   One of them trying to haul down the American flag and replace it with a Trump flag.  Congressmen and senators being forced to recess and seek safety.

Sickening.

This is an attempted coup.  Make no mistake.   I am still hopeful that it will end as a failed coup, a Beer Hall Putsch, but we shall see.   The inaction of law enforcement thusfar has been shocking.

Make no mistake, these are not protestors, these are not patriots, these are rioters attempting to destroy our democracy.

They are traitors.

And the traitor in chief is Donald J. Trump.

He should be arrested, removed from office, tried for treason, convicted, and imprisoned.   And Rudy with him.   This is their work.

Current Mood: angry angry

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The Deuces Return!

January 4, 2021 at 8:10 am
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The deuces are back.  Puddleman and Chuckles, Cash Mitchell, Gary Bushorn, Father Henry Obst, the Jokertown Boys, the Myth Patrol, and all their friends will be returning… with Croyd Crenson and Demise, and some brand new characters that Wild Card readers need to meet.  Come January 5, Tor will be releasing a brand new edition of DEUCES DOWN, one of the scarcer volumes in the Wild Cards series… with three brand new stories, published for the first time.

The wild card virus, as all readers of the series know, affects every victim differently.   Ninety per cent of those stricken draw the black queen, and die.   Those who survive their transformation are generally classified either as jokers, twisted and malformed by the xenovirus, or aces, who emerge with superpowers of one sort or another.   But there is a fourth category: the so-called deuces, whose powers are trivial, seemingly useless, sometimes ludicrous.   DEUCES DOWN tells their stories.

The Wild Cards series got its start in 1987 with a twelve-volume run at Bantam Spectra.   Then we moved to Baen for three books, the “Card Shark” triad.   After that, however, there was a seven year break in our publication history, until Byron Preiss picked the series for iBooks.   Preiss reissued a number of the early Bantam volumes in new editions, and also published two brand new installments in the series: DEUCES DOWN and John Jos. Miller’s solo novel DEATH DRAWS FIVE.   When Byron was killed in a tragic automobile accident, however, iBooks did not long survive him.    With the company going under, neither DEUCES DOWN nor (especially) DEATH DRAWS FIVE received much in the way of distribution.   Brick Tower Press later acquired the iBooks backlist, but the two iBooks originals have remained very difficult to find… so all of us in Wild Cards are thrilled that the two books will now reach the readership they deserve with these new Tor editions.

The original iBooks edition of DEUCES DOWN was pretty much a straight anthology: a collection of stories about deuces largely unrelated to one another, save by theme.   The contributing authors were Melinda M. Snodgrass, Walton (Bud) Simons, Stephen Leigh, Michael Cassutt, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Daniel Abraham, and John J. Miller.

The new Tor edition will include all that and more.   We’ve added new stories from Mary Anne Mohanraj and Caroline Spector… and an original linking interstitial narrative from Carrie Vaughn than brings all the tales together, to transform the book into a true Wild Cards mosaic novel.   I loved the new content, and I hope you will as well.

DEUCES DOWN will be on sale at your local bookstore, and from your favorite on-line bookseller… and of course autographed copies can be had from Beastly Books in Santa Fe at https://jeancocteaucinema.com/beastlybooks/

 

Current Mood: pleased pleased

2022 Calendar Art by Arantza Sestayo

December 31, 2020 at 9:06 am
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Heres something beautiful and fun to help us all look forward to the future a little bit more.

Artist Arantza Sestayo has delivered gorgeous visions of Westeros and beyond, which will feature in the A Song of Ice and Fire 2022 Calendar. Here is the cover, showing 1 of 13 new illustrations.

On sale 7/27/21 at your favorite bookstore.

Pre-order now: https://bit.ly/2KYE7Ch

Arantza Sestayo was born in San Sebastián, Spain and currently resides in Valencia. She has worked in the fantasy genre for 20 years, focusing on publishing, where she has illustrated many covers. Arantza has also been assigned to create private commissions. Many of her paintings are featured in Wicked Kisses and Vampires published by Norma Editorial. Arantza is greatly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters and the Art Nouveau era in general. Her beautiful and romantic characters are often trapped in a dark and dangerous gothic world.

For more of her work please visit:

www.alanlynchartists.com/arantaza-sestayo

THIS MESSAGE HAS BE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE MINIONS OF FEVRE RIVER

Current Mood: happy happy

Back in Print Again

December 29, 2020 at 9:24 am
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I have been an editor almost as long as I have been a professional writer (I have been a writer since forever, but I was not a pro until I made my first sale to GALAXY in 1970).

The first anthology I ever edited was NEW VOICES IN SCIENCE FICTION, featuring original stories by the finalists for the very first John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  (I was one of those finalists.  I lost, but editing the book made up for that).   That came out in hardcover in 1975.  I would ultimately edit six of those annual (well, in theory) Campbell Award anthologies.   Five were actually published.

My longest running editorial gig is, of course, WILD CARDS, which started in 1987 and is still going strong today.   (We did have a seven year hiatus in there, but never mind).   Over the decades, twenty-nine volumes of Wild Cards have been published, and I’ve edited twenty-seven-and-a-half of them.  (Melinda Snodgrass edited THREE KINGS, and we co-edited LOWBALL).   The thirtieth book in the series, JOKER MOON, will be released in 2021, and the thirty-first, a collection of stories from Tor.com, will follow in short order.   Three more volumes are under contract and I am working on them now; look for them in 2022 and 2023.   Wild Cards is a shared world.   Editing the mosaics, weaving the stories together, is the most difficult and demanding sort of editing there is, in my opinion, but I love it.

The most enjoyable editorial work I’ve ever done, however, was on the crossgenre anthologies I co-edited with Gardner Dozois.

Gardner was an old friend, and a dear friend, the first person I ever met at the very first SF con I ever attended, and the guy who fished me out of the slushpile.  He was also one of the greatest editors in the history of science fiction and fantasy.   He edited ASIMOV’S for decades, and put together his massive landmark BEST volumes annually.   He won the Hugo for Best Professional Editor sixteen times, a record unlikely to be broken.   Working with him was always such a joy.   Gardner and I had hoped to do many more anthologies together… but he was taken from us in 2018.

I still miss him, still mourn him.   I always will.

Editors, like writers, survive in their work, however, and I am pleased to announce that one of the books we did together, SONGS OF LOVE & DEATH, has just been re-released in a new edition.

This one was Gardner’s idea, as I recall.   He wanted to title it STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, which I rather like, but the publisher wanted “Death” in there, and of course the “Songs” in the title evoked many of my own collections.   A rose by any other name, however…. whatever the title, it was a fun book to edit, and we put together a wonderful lineup of contributors.   As with WARRIORS, ROGUES, and DANGEROUS WOMEN, this was a crossgenre book, featuring writers from many different fields.   We were very pleased with how it came out.

If you have not read it, check it out.  Copies available from your local bookstore or favorite online bookseller… and, of course, from Beastly Books at https://jeancocteaucinema.com/beastlybooks/ 

Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

Well Played

December 27, 2020 at 11:15 am
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In the deep of winter, the nights are long and dark… and we all need good books to read, good shows to watch.   We cannot go to the movies or to the theatre so long as the pandemic lasts (not if we are sane), but we still have television, with more choices than ever before.

Looking for something good to watch?   Then let me recommend that you check out QUEEN’S GAMBIT, if you have not done so already.

It’s an adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel about a chess prodigy in the 60s and 70s.   A very faithful adaptation (yay) of a very strong novel (yay), beautifully written, acted, and directed.   I think you will all like it.   If there is any justice, the series should contend for awards.

It also resonated with me very strongly.   I know that world.  Chess was a huge part of my life in high school, in college, and especially in the years after college, the early 70s.    QUEEN’S GAMBIT brought it all back to me vividly.   Like the protagonist, I learned chess when I was still quite young, and got pretty good pretty fast (though never nearly as good as her).   I was the captain of my high school chess team, the founder and president of my college chess club.  I wrote and edited the club’s newsletter, GLEEP.  The first two great loves of my life were girls I met at the chess club (but that’s another tale for another time).

The heroine of the Tevis novel becomes a Grandmaster and contends for the world championship; I topped out at Expert, and that only very briefly before falling back down to a lower ranking.   There was even a time, back in college, when I played with the notion of devoting myself to chess after graduation.   I chose writing instead.   I think I made the right call.   If I had lived and breathed and studied chess all day every day for years, I could have become a better player, I have no doubt… but only to a point.   It was not in me to climb the heights attained by the protagonist of QUEEN’S GAMBIT.

But even after I had stopped playing, chess was a big part of my life.   Back in the first half of the 70s, when trying to establish myself as a writer, I directed chess tournaments all over the midwest and south for the Continental Chess Association.   Indianapolis, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Madison, Milwaukee, Lincoln, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland… I was living in Chicago then, but every Friday I was on a plane (or a Greyhound) with a suitcase full of score sheets to set up and run another tourney in another city, usually in the center of the city in some grand old hotel that had known better days where the rooms… and the ballrooms… were cheap.   Most young writers had to work day jobs five days a week so they could write on the weekends.   I was lucky; I worked on the weekends and had the week to write.   Running chess tournaments did not make anyone rich, even in the Fischer heydey, but I made enough to pay my share of the rent on the rundown Uptown apartment I shared with half a dozen college friends and roommates.    And there was one point where I crossed the streams, where my two lives met: my first sale to ANALOG was not a story, but rather an article about computer chess called “The Computer Was A Fish.”   (Half a century out of date now, of course).   The first thing Ben Bova ever bought from me.  I never sold another article to ANALOG… but it opened the door for all the stories I would place there in the years that followed.

It has been many many decades since I last ran a chess tournament or even played a game of chess, and the memories had faded… but QUEEN’S GAMBIT brought them all back.   It’s a fine series in all respects, I think, but I was especially impressed that the producers and directors got the chess right.   All too many of the chess games one sees in films and television are crap.  Supposedly great players are shown making elementary mistakes, the pieces on the board are in impossible positions, the game is obviously over yet no one has resigned, and so forth, and so on.   Not here.   The games one glimpses in QUEEN’S GAMBIT are real.   It must have been a challenge for the actors.   Not only did they have to learn their lines, they had to learn their moves, and make them in the right order.

All in all, a terrific piece of television, says this old patzer.

 

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

So True

December 21, 2020 at 9:14 am
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Current Mood: stressed stressed

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