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A Sad Day for SF

May 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm
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It is a sad day for fans of science fiction and fantasy.

Word has just gotten out that Jack Vance, one of the grandmasters of our genres, and IMNSHO one of the greatest writers of our times, passed away on Sunday. He was 96.

I had the honor of meeting Jack a few times, but I cannot claim to have known him well. But he had a huge influence on me and my work, and for the past fifty-some years has ranked among my very favorite writers. Every time a new Jack Vance book came out, I would drop whatever else I was doing and read it. Sometimes I did not mean to, but once you cracked the covers of a Vance book, you were lost.

It pleases me no end that Gardner Dozois and I were able to do our tribute anthology, SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, when Jack was still alive, so he could hear how many of today’s fantasists he had inspired. Vance’s Dying Earth ranks with Howard’s Hyborian Age and Tolkien’s Middle Earth as one of the all-time great fantasy settings, and Cugel the Clever is the genre’s greatest rogue, a character as memorable as Conan or Frodo (either of whom Cugel would likely swindle out of their smallclothes, had they ever met).

Vance was equally adept at writing SF and mystery, and will be remembered as one of the very few writers ever to win an Edgar Award along with Hugos and Nebulas. The output was prodigious, and there is scarcely a bad book among them. If you haven’t read Jack Vance… well, I pity you, but I envy you as well. You have some amazing adventures ahead of you. The Dying Earth, Lyonesse, the Demon Princes, BAD RONALD, Liane the Wayfarer and Chun the Unavoidable, Emphyrio, Showboat World, Big Planet, the Dirdir and the Pnume and the Chasch and (yes) the Wankh, the Last Castle, the Dragon Masters, the Moon Moth… the list goes on and on and on and on.

Jack Vance left the world a richer place than he found it. No more can be asked of any writer.

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Headed for Conquest

May 21, 2013 at 11:24 am
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I hear that everything’s up to date in Kansas City, so I’ll be headed that way tomorrow to see for myself.

ConQuest beckons; KC’s annual regional convention, one of the best. Should be a good time. Patrick Rothfuss is GOH, John Picacio will be there, along with Brad Denton, Caroline Spector, and all of my old KC friends and partners in crime. I’ll be doing a reading, doing a panel, eating too much barbeque, drinking too much bheer.

And even before the con, we’ll have the road trip. I will be hitting the road with my Aussie friends, and driving right through the heart of Tornado Alley, which should be an… ah… adventure. If you’re in Oklahoma or Kansas and think you see me passing by, you may be right. The Big Well beckons… along with Dorothy’s House, Pancake Boulevard, the Cosmodrome, and the Elevator of Terror (you can’t make this stuff up).

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More Wild Cards Goodness

May 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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Here’s a fanfare for all of you Wild Cards fans out there.

There’s a brand new, never-before-published Wild Cards story just up on Tor.Com.

This one was penned by Cherie Priest. It’s called “The Button Man and the Murder Tree.”

The ‘cover art’ by the amazing John Picacio.


This one is a sort of ‘origin story’ for Cherie’s Button Man character, last seen in FORT FREAK.

You can read it here:

More Wild Cards coming on… and of course on the shelves of your local bookshop.

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The Great Gatsby

May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am
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Went to see the new Baz Luhrmann version of THE GREAT GATSBY last night.

The film is doing good business, but getting decidedly mixed reviews from the critics. Some love it, some are cool, a few are tearing it to pieces. And the sides don’t necessarily line up with those who liked or didn’t like the source material, the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Count me with those who loved it. I think this is a great film. AND a great and faithful adaptation of the novel, which is not necessarily the same thing. I’ve never seen the two oldest versions of GATSBY, but the Luhrmann films stands head and shoulders above the beautiful but curiously empty Robert Redford/ Mia Farrow version.

Visually, this GATSBY is just amazing, something even its harshest critics have been forced to allow. (Though some of them do not like that). I don’t think it would be correct to say that it brings 1920s New York to life, since I doubt that 1920s NYC was ever so saturated with color, life, sound. This is a dreamscape, everything bigger, brighter, noisier, drenched in life and color… but that’s perfectly appropriate here, since the entire narrative is couched as Nick Carraway looking back on a formative time in his life, and dreams are always more intense than reality. Golden ages are never as golden as we remember them.

I’m a word guy first and foremost, though, and it is the words that sing for me here. There are a lot of Fitzgerald’s own words in this GATSBY, in the dialogue, in the voiceovers, in the frame, and that’s more than okay with me. There’s never been a more lyrical writer than F. Scott and that lyricism is captured here.

The performances were also terrific. Carrie Mulligan’s Daisy made me understand Gatsby’s obsessions in a way that the Mia Farrow’s Daisy never did; I would be have been obsessed as well. I will confess, I had my doubts about Leonardo diCaprio going on. The central flaw with the Robert Redford GATSBY is Redford himself. A fine actor, certainly, but far too handsome, graceful, self-assured, and in command of every scene to be convincing as Jay Gatsby. Robert Redford is one of the golden people, and Jay Gatsby is desperately TRYING to be one of the golden people, to aspire to everything that comes naturally to Redford, and that distinction is crucial… and ultimately as one of the things that sank the Redford film. I was afraid the Luhrmann version would suffer the same way. I’ve liked Leonardo diCaprio ever since I first saw him in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (a guilty favorite) as The Kid, but in that, in TITANIC, and in all his major roles, he’s comes across as cocky, brash, self-assured, handsome, with a swagger to him that suggests that he knows who he is and is unafflicted by doubts or fears… all of which is the antithesis of Gatsby.

He wasn’t here. This is a new, mature Leonardo, as I have never seen himself before, and he does a great turn here. The Kid and Jack and all of those vanish, and there’s only Gatsby… trying so hard, dreaming so fiercely.

I loved it.

And at the end, it broke my heart, the way the novel always does ever time I reread it, the way it did the first time I read it, back in the early 70s.

Now I will admit, I am prejudiced. This is one of my favorite books. This is a book that has vast personal meaning to me, one that has affected me deeply. The romantic in me identifies strongly with Jay Gatsby (and sometimes with Nick Carraway). I know what it is to chase after that green light. So I will not pretend to be disinterested.

But I love the book, I love the story, and I loved this movie. Go see it.

“… And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter !” tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning !” So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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The ROGUES Are Coming

May 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm
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Gardner Dozois and I have just delivered the completed manuscript (well, e-manuscript, it being 2013 and all) for our latest big cross-genre anthologies, ROGUES, to our editor at Bantam Spectra.

Once again, we’ve got a really kickass lineup of contributors, and some terrific stories.

The table of contents:

George R.R. Martin !œEverybody Loves a Rogue! (Introduction)
Joe Abercrombie !œTough Times All Over!
Gillian Flynn !œWhat Do You Do?!
Matthew Hughes !œThe Inn of the Seven Blessings!
Joe R. Lansdale !œBent Twig!
Michael Swanwick !œTawny Petticoats!
David Ball !œProvenance!
Carrie Vaughn !œThe Roaring Twenties!
Scott Lynch !œA Year and a Day in Old Theradane!
Bradley Denton !œBad Brass!
Cherie Priest !œHeavy Metal!
Daniel Abraham !œThe Meaning of Love!
Paul Cornell !œA Better Way to Die!
Steven Saylor !œIll Seen in Tyre!
Garth Nix !œA Cargo of Ivories!
Walter Jon Williams !œDiamonds From Tequila!
Phyllis Eisenstein !œThe Caravan to Nowhere!
Lisa Tuttle !œThe Curious Affair of the Dead Wives!
Neil Gaiman !œHow the Marquis Got His Coat Back!
Connie Willis !œNow Showing!
Patrick Rothfuss !œThe Lightning Tree!

This one was an enormous amount of fun. We’re got something for everyone in ROGUES — SF, mystery, historical fiction, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, comedy, tragedy, crime stories, mainstream. And rogues, cads, scalawags, con men, thieves, and scoundrels of all descriptions. If you love Harry Flashman and Cugel the Clever, as I do, this is the book for you.

If there’s any bloody justice, some of these stories will contend for awards.

(And it’s one more monkey off my back, hurrah, hurrah)

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May 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm
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Hot damn.

GAME OF THRONES has just won the Radio Times BAFTA Award:

The BAFTAs, for those unfamiliar with them, are the British Emmys. Despite the fact that we shoot in Belfast, Northern Ireland (and Morocco, Iceland, Croatia, and Malta) and that half of our cast is British (most of the rest being Irish, with here and there a Dane, a Norwegian, a German, and even a token American), we are considered to be an American show, I guess because HBO is an American company, and therefore ineligible for the BAFTAs.

However, this one category, the Radio Times award, is for the best international show, and unlike the other BAFTAs, it is chosen by popular vote.

Which I guess just proves that a lot of Brits are watching, even if we are an “American” show.

Congrats to all!!

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Buying a Cinema

May 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm
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For those of you interested in following my Adventures in the Screen Trade, the SANTA FE REPORTER has uploaded a short clip from the press conference wherein I announced my purchase of “Santa Fe’s most beloved movie theatre,” the Jean Cocteau.

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FYI, there was a lot more to the press conference than that. Most notably, I announced the hiring of Jon Bowman, the founder and former director of the Santa Fe Film Festival, who will be managing the Cocteau. Jon is already hard at work. We hope to reopen the theatre this summer. Besides an eclectic menu of films both old and new, we also plan to have midnight movies and children’s matinees, and some very special events, including music, comedy, and author readings.

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Aces Take Russia

May 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm
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The first three volumes of the Wild Cards series were published in Russia back in 2005-2006. . . but that was as far as the series went, no doubt to the frustration of our Russian readers.

But after a long hiatus, the aces and jokers are returning once more to Russia, I am delighted to report. The first three volumes have already been reissued, with nifty new eye-catching covers featuring the artwork of D. Borozdina. And our Russian publisher is about to release volume four, ACES ABROAD.


That’s another Borozdina cover, this one featuring Fortunato. Who has never looked more kickass.

Even if you don’t speak Russian, this one’s worth getting for the cover alone.

Russian editions of volumes five, six, and seven are scheduled to follow. After that, well, it all depends on sales… but then, what doesn’t?

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May 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm
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Nowadays they call ’em graphic novels. Which is a fancy way of saying “big thick trade paperback or hardcover comic books sold in bookstores instead of comic shops,” really. When I was a kid we called them “funny books,” but I don’t think anyone but me and Howard Waldrop still remembers that. Never mind. I ramble.

The point is, I have all sorts of cool news on the funny book/ comic book/ graphic novel front. Which I am not going to spill here all at once, because, well, it’s more fun to torment you guys with one announcement at the time.

Here’s the first: MEATHOUSE MAN, the graphic novel.

Those of you who know me only from A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE may be wondering, what the hell is MEATHOUSE MAN?? The short answer is, “one of my old SF short stories.” (Actually, a novelette).

The long answer is, “the darkest, bleakest, sickest, most twisted thing I ever wrote.”

I wrote it back in the late 1970s, in response to an invitation from Harlan Ellison, who wanted something of mine for THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Most of my own visions, back then, were more romantic and melancholy than dangerous, but I wanted in that book, so I took up the challenge, opened a vein, and with my very own blood (no, not really) wrote this disturbing tale of zombie necrophilia, and… well, it was a painful story to write, and painful to read as well. When I sent it to Harlan, he rejected it… but Damon Knight bought it, and it was published in ORBIT 18. I’ve reprinted it a few times since. I really cannot say I “like” the story (it is not the sort of story that lends itself to liking), but it is a powerful piece.

And now it is going to be a funny book… er… graphic novel.


For that, blame must go to Raya Golden, my talented (and somewhat twisted) Second Minion, a terrific young artist. Raya wanted to adapt something of mine as a comic, so when I offered her the choice of all the stuff in DREAMSONGS not already under option, she surprised the seven hells out of me by choosing “Meathouse Man.” (And she seems so sane and happy). Then she took the ball and ran with it.

Raya broke down the story, adapted it to comic form, wrote the script, did the pencils, the inks, the coloring, the covers. This is her MEATHOUSE MAN as much as it is mine.

Amazon’s publishing arm 47 North will be bringing it out in October… as an e-book for Kindle for sure. Raya and the gang at Amazon have done some interesting and innovative stuff to marry the medium to the format; this whole e-comic thing is a brave new world. (E-funny books? Who woulda thunk it?) A print edition is also possible, but not definite, waiting on final word on that.

So that’s the first of my funny books making its way toward you. Raya’s done an an amazing job on it, I think… I hope you’ll check it out, and… well, “enjoy” may not be the word, the story is kind of a punch in the gut, but…

That’s MEATHOUSE MAN. Coming this October to a Kindle near you.

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Breaking Records

May 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm
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HBO’s GAME OF THRONES continues to build.

Sunday’s episode recorded our strongest ratings to date, breaking the record set the previous week, which broke the record set the week before that, which…


Let us hope the trend continues this Sunday with my own episode, AUTUMN STORMS… er, CHAINS… no, THE BEAR AND THE MAIDEN FAIR. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

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