Not a Blog

One of Our Aces Has Fallen

February 10, 2017 at 3:29 pm
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Very sad news out of Denver for all readers of science fiction and fantasy, and for Wild Cards fans in particular. We’ve just received word that Ed Bryant has died.

Ed did reviews for LOCUS for years, and they’ve posted an excellent obituary for him… more complete than what I could have cobbled together. Find it here: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/02/edward-bryant-1945-2017/

In addition to all his other considerable accomplishments, however, Ed was also one of my Wild Cards writers. He’s been part of the series since the very beginning, contributing a story (a collaboration with his dear friend Leanne C. Harper) to the very first anthology, and appearing off and on in other volumes over the years. He created or co-created numerous Wild Cards characters, but the one he used most was Sewer Jack, the gay Cajun subway worker who turned into a twelve-foot long alligator in times of crisis.

Always a fan favorite, Sewer Jack was last seen in volume twelve, DEALER’S CHOICE… but, perhaps fittingly, he will be back for one last hurrah in the forthcoming volume MISSISSIPPI ROLL, in a story penned by David D. Levine. Ed read and approved David’s handling of his character, and was pleased to see him back on stage.

Here’s Ed at happier times, from the 1988 worldcon in New Orleans, when WILD CARDS was a finalist for a Hugo Award. We all dressed to the nines that night, and had a hell of a celebration afterwards, even though we lost to Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN.

I first met Ed in 1971 or 1972, either at a worldcon or perhaps at Harlan Ellison’s house. After so many decades, the details fade. But he’s been a friend for decades. We partied together at more cons than I can recall, competed for Hugos and Nebulas and occasionally for women, attended Milfords together and critiqued each other’s work. He visited Santa Fe and stayed at my house, I visited Denver and stayed at his.

Out here in the west, Ed was often asked to preside at cons as a toastmaster and master of ceremonies, a task at which he excelled. He had a wry, dry wit, always funny, never cruel. No one who attended the 1981 worldcon in Denver will ever forget Ed in his maroon tails presenting the Hugo Awards on roller skates. So far as I’m concerned, he’s right up there with Connie Willis and Robert Silverberg as the Best Hugo Hosts Ever.

Ed’s health had been failing for some years, sadly, and he was not able to attend as many cons as he had in the past. But I was fortunate enough to see him in November at Tuscon in Tucson, Arizona, where he was once again the toastmaster, and at MidAmericon II in Kansas City a few months before that. He was frailer than he used to be, but still the same old Ed, sharp and funny as ever

Fandom and the world of science fiction will miss his gentle wit, his easy laugh, his talent. For for those of us who were his brothers and sisters in Wild Cards, our universe will never be the same. One of our aces has fallen.

A Bad Year Gets Worse

December 27, 2016 at 5:21 pm
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Death, death, and more death… this year just keeps getting worse and worse.

There is not much I can say about the death of Carrie Fisher that a thousand other people have not said already. She was way too young. A bright, beautiful, talented actress, and a strong, witty, outspoken woman. Princess Leia will live as long as STAR WARS does… probably forever…

And the world lost one of its great fantasists today as well: Richard Adams, the author of WATERSHIP DOWN. Gardner Dozois ranks WATERSHIP DOWN as one of the three great fantasy novels of the twentienth century, right up there with LORD OF THE RINGS and THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, and I agree. A truly amazing book… and one that somehow always seems to get forgotten when fans discuss the great fantasies. Maybe because of the talking rabbits? No idea…

Adams was a wonderful writer. Yes, WATERSHIP DOWN was his masterpiece, but it was by no means his only great book. He wrote two terrific epic fantasies with human characters, SHARDIK and MAIA, both of which are criminally underrated, as well as an erotic ghost story, THE GIRL ON A SWING. His other “animal book,” THE PLAGUE DOGS, also has some wonderful sections… though it is such a dark, depressing, angry, gut-punch of a novel that I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ it.

Adams was not ‘one of us,’ in the sense that he was never a convention-goer or part of our genre fantasy community, which may be why he was never honored with a life achievement award by the World Fantasy Convention. Nonetheless, he deserved one. I’ve been suggesting him for that honor for at least twenty years… in part because I wanted to meet him. Now I never will. That’s sad (though not as sad as PLAGUE DOGS).

A wonderful actress, a great writer. The world is poorer tonight.

Please, let this wretched year come to an end.

Three Thoughts

December 12, 2016 at 5:36 pm
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Just a grab bag of thoughts and opinions I’ve been meaning to share…

I never had the honor of meeting John Glenn, but his death saddened me. The last of the Mercury Seven. I am old enough to remember when NASA first introduced them to the world… and incidentally coined the term “astronaut” (before that, we called them “spacemen”). The dawn of the space age! An age, sadly, that now seems to be passing, at least insofar as manned exploration is concerned. If you had asked me in 1961, I would have said by 2017 we would certainly have a base on the moon, and maybe one on Mars. Hard to believe all seven are gone. They were all heroes to me.

Now that WESTWORLD has finished its first season, I see that HBO is going to be rerunning its crime and courtroom drama, THE NIGHT OF. If you missed it last time, don’t make that mistake again. Yes, it’s very dark, but damn, this is brilliant television, with a bravura performance by John Turturro at its heart that ought to win him a whole shelf full of awards, if there is any justice.

Emily St. John Mandel appeared at the Jean Cocteau Cinema last month (you can find my post about her downstream), and I had the honor of interviewing her. I had long been an admirer of her SF novel, STATION ELEVEN, which I thought deserving of a Hugo nod… but at the time of her appearance, I had not read any of her three earlier novels. She was such a charming and fascinating guest, however, that I made up for that lack afterward, and now I am even more impressed with her talent than I was before. LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, THE SINGER’S GUN, and THE LOLA QUARTET are not science fiction or fantasy — don’t know how to characterize them, “literary noir” is about the best I can do — but damned, they are good. Fascinating characters, original stories, and such gorgeous prose. Rich, evocative, beautiful writing, but never intrusive. She makes her people and her places come alive in a way that draws you in and will not let you go. I can’t wait to read what she does next.

R.I.P. Leonard

November 10, 2016 at 10:31 pm
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Leonard Cohen is gone, and the world is a little poorer.

I’d say “a little sadder,” but Cohen was the bard of sadness. He spoke to all the broken hearts out there, sang of shattered dreams and lost hopes. There was no one better to listen to when you were melancholy, depressed, lonely, despondent, or suicidal.

There was a certain time in my life when I listened to Cohen’s SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE album obsessively, drowning in his voice and his words. That was in the Age of Vinyl, and I believe I wore out several needles on that one.

I’ve loved so many of his songs… “Hallelujah,” of course, and “Famous Blue Raincoat.” But I will leave you with my favorite:

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Back in the day, when I was young and music was good, a number of my short stories were inspired by lyrics in my favorite songs. “Suzanne” was the inspiration for my short story “Bitterblooms,” which remains one of my favorites to this very day.

Goodbye, Leonard.

Not Dead Yet

March 9, 2016 at 11:52 am
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While it is strangely moving to realize that so many people around the world care so deeply about my life and death, I have to go with Mark Twain and insist that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

It was Sir George Martin, of Beatles fame, who has passed away. Not me.

He will be missed. I never met Sir George (I did meet Paul McCartney once, for about a minute, while waiting for the valet to bring my rental car up at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills), but like many millions of others, I loved the Beatles, and Martin’s contribution to their music is worthy of recognition and honor.

In his memory:
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As for me, I am still here, still writing, still editing, still going to movies and reading books, and I expect to hang around for quite a while yet, thank you very much.

But thank you all for caring.

RIP Pat Conroy

March 5, 2016 at 3:13 pm
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I was very sad to hear this morning that Pat Conroy had passed away.

The NEW YORK TIMES has his obituary:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/05/books/pat-conroy-who-wove-his-family-strife-into-novels-of-carolina-dies-at-70.html

Conroy was a brilliant man, and a great great writer. His PRINCE OF TIDES ranks among the greatest novels of the twentieth century, in my opinion, and many of his other titles were damned fine as well — BEACH MUSIC, THE GREAT SANTINI, LORDS OF DISCIPLINE, THE WATER IS WIDE…

A number of them were made into films. Some better than others, but even the worst of the movies was pretty damned good, which not many writers can boast. The troubled relationship with his family, and his father in particular, was the emotional core of much of his best work. There has seldom been a clearer case of an artist transforming his own pain and suffering into something transcendent and beautiful. I do not think he was a happy man, sad to say, but he was a courageous and outspoken one, who left the world a better place than he found it.

I met Conroy only once, when I had the honor of hosting him for a booksigning at the Jean Cocteau.

It’s a memory I will long treasure… and when Pat said how much he admired A GAME OF THRONES and its sequels, well… I could not have been more flattered if F. Scott Fitzgerald himself had returned from beyond the grave to say he liked my stuff.

Rest in peace, Pat. Your words will live.

RIP, Dave

January 22, 2016 at 6:56 pm
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The news of David G. Hartwell’s sudden and tragic death has been all over the net for the past few days. Most of you reading this probably know already. He fell while carrying a bookcase section down a flight of steps, hit his head, and died of a massive brain bleed.

For those of us who knew him, the news was as shocking as it was sad. Just a few months ago, David was dancing at the Hugo Losers Party at Sasquan, and seemingly having a great time. He was 74, it is true, but he was still strong and sharp and vital, and should have had a lot more years. Dozens of moving tributes to David’s life and career have already been posted. There’s not much that has not been said, but I feel compelled to add my own few words.

I have known David for a long, long time. I first met him at a con… a worldcon, or perhaps a Lunacon, it is hard to recall. I was a young writer, and he was a young editor… at New American Library (Signet) in those early days. Later he moved to Berkley, and still later to Pocket Books, where he founded the prestigious Timescape line.

In the early days, the NAL and Berkley days, David and his first wife Pat were also resident proctors at Bard Hall, a graduate dormitory at Columbia University. There were always a few empty rooms at the dorm, so when impoverished young SF writers came to NYC, David and Pat would put them up. One Christmas season I was the impoverished young writer in question, and I stayed in a dorm at Bard Hall for a week. The best part of that stay were the nights I sat up talking with David. I was greener than summer grass in those days, still years away from my first novel; I got a graduate course in publishing that week, and learned more about the history of science fiction on his couch than from all the books I’d read. (Heard some choice gossip too).

Some years after that came Tor, where he has been a mainstay for oh, these many decades. Tor’s long long track record as the preeminent publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the United States is based in no small part to the work of David G. Hartwell. Oh, and he did a lot more than that too. With Robert Weinberg and Kirby McCauley, he founded the World Fantasy Convention and has continued to supervise and help run it ever since. He administered the convention’s award, the Howards, for decades. He helped to start THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION, one of the premiere critical journals in our field.

Professionally, our paths crossed a number of times. At one point David was editor of a short-lived SF magazine called COSMOS, where he bought my story “Bitterblooms” (still one of my favorites) and made it the cover story. At Berkley, he was a bidder when my first novel DYING OF THE LIGHT was put up for auction. He didn’t win — Pocket Books and another publisher both outbid him — but as fate would have it, he became my editor anyway a few year later when he moved to Pocket to found Timescape. He was the editor on my second novel, WINDHAVEN, my collaboration with Lisa Tuttle. And thanks to that, he had an option on my next book, which turned out to be FEVRE DREAM. But when I turned that one in, David did something very ballsy and unselfish… he passed it along to another editor at another imprint at Pocket, Anne Patty of Poseidon Press, because he knew that she could pay me more and get out more copies (Poseidon was a bestseller imprint) than he could. FEVRE DREAM turned out to be my biggest success to date, in no small part thanks to David’s gesture. Shifting it over was not necessarily the best thing for Timescape, or for David himself, but it was the best move for me and my career. Not everyone would have done what he did. It was a remarkable kindness.

I never worked with David again after that, but we remained friendly through all the years that followed, though the only time we ever really saw each other was at cons. David was a great editor… but he was also a fan. He never missed a worldcon that I can recall, nor a World Fantasy once those got rolling, and he could be found at many a Philcon, Boskone, Lunacon, and Readercon as well. Some editors go to cons for strictly professional reasons; they do panels, take their writers out to dinner, and then repair to their rooms. Not David. He was as much a fan as a pro, and you’d find him at the SFWA suite, the Tor party, the Baen party, the bid parties, the bar, the Hugo Losers party… wherever there was good fellowship and good cheer and good talk to be found. David G. Hartwell was a trufan.

And when two a.m. came rolling around, he would sing.

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Good night, David. You’ll be missed.

Buy Tor Now

July 7, 2015 at 12:30 pm
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While I have been travelling, talking, touring, reading, writing, editing, and listening to great music these past few weeks, Puppygate has continued to fester, growing ever uglier.

In one of the more recent developments, the Rabid Puppies and some of their allies and fellow travellers have declared a boycott of Tor Books. I say “Rabid” here because Beale is backing the boycott, while Larry Correia says the Sad Puppies are not boycotting anyone… though Correia and some of the other Sads certainly seem deeply sympathetic to the boycott.

I am not, needless to say. Neither is most of fandom.

Which makes this a perfect time to BUY SOME TOR BOOKS!!

You can do that at your local bookstore, of course, or from your favorite online bookseller. There is an incredible range of great SF and fantasy to choose from in the Tor catalogue. Tor won the “best publisher” award in the recent LOCUS poll, for like the twentieth year in a row; there’s really no other publisher in a field with a backlist to compare, whether you are looking for epic fantasy, space opera, military SF, literary SF, Hugo winners, Hugo losers, or what have you.

And, hey, you can even buy some AUTOGRAPHED Tor books by me. My Wild Cards series is published by Tor, as it happens, and we have signed copies of INSIDE STRAIGHT, BUSTED FLUSH, SUICIDE KINGS, FORT FREAK, and LOWBALL available through the Jean Cocteau… along with hardcovers of our award-winning anthology, DANGEROUS WOMEN, also published by Tor. You can find them all at the cinema bookshop, here: http://www.jeancocteaubooks.com/

So if you would like to strike a blow for free speech and decency, and support all the good people at Tor, go ye forth and buy a book today… from the Cocteau, or Amazon, or anywhere… and let your voice be heard. You’ll get some damned good reading out of it too.

Fare Thee Well

July 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm
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Parris and I spent the weekend in Chicago (one of my favorite cities), hanging around Soldier Field for the last three performances of the Grateful Dead, the Fare Thee Well shows.

(I went in disguise, forsaking my usual Greek fisherman’s cap for a series of baseball caps, but somehow people recognized me anyway).

What can I say? Amazing shows, and the end of an epoch. I felt privileged to be there. And the music… well, words can never truly capture the feel of great music, as I discovered long ago when I wrote my rock novel, THE ARMAGEDDON RAG.

It was the RAG that brought me to my first Dead show, back in the 1980s. There was a time when the late great Phil DeGuere, the writer/ producer who brought me out to LA to write for THE TWILIGHT ZONE, hoped to make a feature film of the RAG, working with the Dead. That never came to pass, but it did get us backstage at many a Dead show.

Phil is gone now, alas, and so is Jerry Garcia, Cap’n Trips himself… and now the remaining members of the Dead have played their final shows together. But the memories will Not Fade Away, and the music will live on as long as people listen to rock and roll.

You will be able to buy a boxed set of those three last shows, I understand. Don’t hesitate. They were amazing performances.

Meanwhile, here’s my favorite Dead song (a hard choice, since I love so many)… from a 1980 show at Radio City Music Hall (not one I attended, alas):

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Catching Up

June 4, 2015 at 3:41 pm
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Can it really be June already?

Guess so. Where do the days go? Where do the months go?

I’ve been so busy since getting back from Kansas City that I’ve hardly had time to breathe, let alone blog.

In broad strokes —
— the trip through Kansas was a lot of fun. The highlight was our visit to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. For those of you who have not heard of it (most of you, I assume), this is an air and space museum second only to the Smithsonian. Truly an amazing collection. They have a V-1 and a V-2. They have the backup Sputnik. They have a Bell X-1… not the original, no, but the one used in THE RIGHT STUFF, which is almost as cool. They have a Blackbird. And they have, yes, the original genuine Liberty Bell 7 and Apollo 13, as well as all sorts of other amazing stuff. I know that Hutchinson, Kansas is not on many “places you have to see” lists, but the Cosmosphere makes a visit there well worth the while. (The salt mine on the other side of town is pretty damn cool as well),
— Conquest was cool. The KC fen throw a great con. And I was heartened by all the people who came up to thank me for my posts about the Hugos. Even in the nation’s heartland, it seems, there is considerable fannish anger about the Sad and Rabid Puppies pooping on our awards,
— Yes, Puppygate has continued, though I’ve been too busy to post about it. The Sad Puppies continue to be clueless, moving their goalposts almost daily. The Rabid Puppies continue to be venomous. Lots of other people are reading the Hugo nominees and reviewing the finalists. That’s what I am doing myself, though I am way behind in my reading,
— MAD MAX:FURY ROAD did some great business for the Cocteau, despite showing on eight other screens around town. Third highest-grossing picture we’ve had since I reopened the theatre, behind only INTERSTELLAR and THE INTERVIEW. We’ve very pleased.


–Last Sunday, we hosted “Remembering Roger,” a moving and memorable day in remembrance of our friend Roger Zelazny, one of the great SF writers of all time, who left us twenty years ago. Parris McBride, Walter Jon Williams, Melinda Snodgrass, John Jos. Miller, Shannon Zelazny, Jane Lindskold, Stephen Gould, and Trent Zelazny spoke and gave readings from Roger’s work, Joe and Gay Haldeman and Steven Brust joined us via Skype, and Neil Gaiman read one of Roger’s stories on video from London. We also played an audio of Roger himself reading from SIGN OF THE UNICORN, paired with a slide show of Amber art and Roger’s own life and times.

And that evening, the Cocteau presented a marvelous staged reading of GODSON, the musical play that Roger wrote not long before his passing. It was an incredible performance, and got a terrific reaction.

We hope to stage a couple more performances in the weeks to come. Watch this space, and the Cocteau website, for further announcements.