Not a Blog

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:

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:


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, 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 

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


I’ve Been Parodied

December 10, 2020 at 8:22 am
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Way way back in 1969, when the world and I were young, the Harvard Lampoon did a hilarious send-up of Tolkien and LORD OF THE RINGS, called BORED OF THE RINGS.   It is still in print all these years later.   Spam and Dildo, Arrowroot son of Arrowshirt, Pepsi and Moxie… a hoot.

And now, I guess, it is my turn.

The Harvard Lampoon has turned its sights on A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE and come up with LAME OF THRONES.

Yes, they sent me a copy.

No, I have not looked at it yet.   I am working up the courage.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say… but parody is right up there, so…

Thanks.   I guess.

Current Mood: amused amused

More Sadness

December 7, 2020 at 8:49 am
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The deaths just keep on coming in this worst of all possible years.

I was very saddened to read of the death of Ben Bova, another victim of Covid-19 (and Donald J. Trump).

Bova was a major science fiction writer, a hard science guy, talented and prolific.   I could not begin to name all his novels; the list is longer than my arm.   He wrote some good short fiction as well, including his collaboration with Harlan Ellison, “Brillo,” which became the basis (uncredited) of a short-lived TV series and one of Harlan’s famous lawsuits.

For all his accomplishments as an author, however, it was as an editor that Ben Bova had the most profound impact on the field… and on my own life and career.   When the legendary John W. Campbell Junior died in 1971, the Conde Nast Publications, publishers of ANALOG, chose Bova to succeed him.  For all his accomplishments, JWC had become increasingly idiosyncratic in his last couple of decades, and ANALOG had become moribund and out of touch.   Ben Bova came in and revitalized the magazine, welcoming a whole new generation of writers who Campbell most likely would never have touched (myself among them).   The changes were not without controversy.   During the first couple of years of his editorship, ANALOG’s lettercol was full of angry “cancel my subscription” letters from readers who insisted that JWC would never have published this or that story.   My own stories were the subjects of some of those complaints, along with work by Joe Haldeman and many others.   The complainers were not wrong; odds were, Campbell would never have bought the stories Bova did.

Back in the 70s, I was selling to all the magazines and most of the original anthologies, but ANALOG became my major market, and Ben Bova was the editor who had the biggest influence on my work.   Previous generations of SF writers were writing for JWC or H.L Gold or Boucher & McComas.   If I was writing for anyone, I was writing for Ben… at least some of the time.

My first sale to ANALOG was actually a piece I did for a journalism class at Northwestern, about computer chess: “The Computer Was A Fish.”   But fiction soon followed, lots of fiction… thanks in large part to Ben Bova.

I got my first cover on ANALOG with “The Second Kind of Loneliness.”   Ben bought that.   The cover was by Frank Kelly Freas.

My first Hugo- and -Nebula nominee (lost both) was “With Morning Comes Mistfall.”   Also published in ANALOG, by Ben.

The second Nebula loser, and first Hugo WINNER, was “A Song for Lya,” a novella from ANALOG.   Bought and published by Ben.   That year, worldcon went to Australia for the first time.   I was still directing chess tournaments to supplement my meagre (growing, but meagre) income from writing, and there was no way I could afford a trip down under, so I asked Ben Bova to accept for me if I won.   I did!  And he did!

Ben also bought “The Storms of Windhaven,” the first my Windhaven collaborations with Lisa Tuttle.   Got a cover for that too.

Oh, and “Seven Times Never Kill Man.”   That one got a Schoenherr cover (one that alledgedly inspired George Lucas to create the Wookiees).  And lost a Hugo, the same year as “Storms.”

Ben serialized my first novel, DYING OF THE LIGHT, in an abridged version called “Mockman.”   With a cover by Vincent di Fate.

And along about 1978, when Ben left ANALOG to take on the editorship of a new slick science fiction/ fact magazine called OMNI, he took me with him.  I published several stories there as well, most notably a novelette called “Sandkings” that some of you may recall.   It won the Hugo and Nebula both, and was the most successful thing I ever wrote until I began A GAME OF THRONES.

Looking back, it is amazing to realize how many of the stories that made my name were edited and published by Ben Bova.   Without him, I cannot say for certain that I would have had a career at all    He won four Hugo awards in a row as Best Editor, as I recall, and deserved every one.   If he had continued to edit, I have no doubt he would have won more… but writing was his first love, and in the 80s he returned to his own work.

His family and friends have my condolences.   I know he will be missed.

These are dark times… for science fiction, as well as the world at large.    I am still reeling from Kay McCauley’s death last month… from Gardner Dozois’s death in 2018… and now this.   The lights are going out.   Giants are passing.   We shall not see their like again.



Current Mood: sad sad

Hammer and Tongs and a Rusty Nail

December 2, 2020 at 4:16 pm
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As promised, the latest Wild Cards original is now up on

Wild Cards fans… and the rest of you… head on over and have a look at Rustbelt’s entry into politics, co-starring the late Vic Milan’s Harlem Hammer, Mordecai Jones.   It’s by Ian Tregillis, and you can read it for free.

Hammer and Tongs and a Rusty Nail

Current Mood: amused amused