PW reviews "Dancing Through the Fire"

Just found the Publishers Weekly review of Tanith Lee's Dancing Through the Fire (official publication date: September 19th), scant days too late to quote it on the cover of the book. PW says, in part, "Lee's decadent, Gothic-inflected pieces range from delicate fantasias about the whims of a personified death to straightforward, suspenseful sword-and-sorcery featuring resourceful but outmatched thieves.... The collection's most emotional and most recent pieces are meditations on the power of art.... But it's difficult to read the stunning new piece "Burn Her," in which a dead painter's right arm refuses to either stop painting or succumb to fire, as anything other than Lee's graceful acknowledgement and defiance of her own mortality, a very high point in this uneven swan song." The full review is available here.

Is reality for those who can't imagine?

I saw a commercial for the forthcoming Muppets series (which I'm dreading for its reality format), and had a thought about the rise of so-called reality TV. Is it a result of an increasingly jaded television audience? Specifically, is it because television viewers can no longer watch the story, the characters portrayed, without thinking about the actors as actual people? In reality television, the characters talk to the camera, explaining their feelings and thoughts (since apparently the viewer can't tell what they're feeling through their acting). But they're also pushing away the conceit of the viewer looking in on another world, and instead inviting the viewer in to the behind-the-camera side of making the television program in this world.

As I'm writing this, I'm also wondering if the appreciation of reality TV is related to a decreasing interest in reading fiction. Specifically, the willing suspension of disbelief that we fiction writers expect of our readers, and that film-makers expect of their viewers. If you can fully immerse yourself in the made-up world of the television program, you accept the characters the actors are portraying as people, and ignore the actors portraying them (just as you can accept clothes draped on a mannequin without thinking about the mannequin). But in the reality version, you're not watching the story; you're watching the people who are making the story. You're not interacting with the characters, you're interacting with the actors portraying the characters.

So, what do you think? Is reality television for people with lazy imaginations? Or have I completely missed the mark again?

They're not hacktivists, they're religious extremists

Using the term "hacktivists" to describe those who stole the private data from Ashley Madison and posted it on the internet is imputing to them a certain nobility they do not deserve. They are not champions of an honorable cause: they are the moral equivalent of the taliban, al qaida, and the terrorist group isis. These "hacktivists" have determined what is "moral" and what is "immoral," and are trying to impose their view on the world, just as those other, more recognized terrorist groups have done. But with so many focusing on "cheating" as the main thrust of the story, we're in danger of ignoring the true criminals involved in the act. And if we do accept their action "because the only people injured were 'cheaters'," what happens when these religious zealots in hackers' disguise decide that another secretive group should be outed, perhaps members of Alcoholics Anonymous, or people who've sought abortion counseling, or Masons? Stop using the term hacktivists and call them what they are: religious terrorists.

Midwest Book Review recommends The Heads of Cerberus

It's one of our reprinted public domain titles (although with a new introductory essay by editor Darrell Schweitzer), but the Midwest Book Review has just recommended The Heads of Cerberus by Francis Stevens, writing, in part "This novel should be much more available than it has been. It does stereotype its characters, but the author stayss away from insulting stereotypes. It certainly works as a dystopian novel, and is very much worth the reader's time." See the full review in their August 2015 issue.

Hurry up, election day is coming!

I'm a big political junkie, even though I rarely discuss my own political views. But there comes a point when even the biggest fans of something will say "enough!" And I think I'm there.

I just heard a CNN anchor ask a Bush campaign spokesperson if the campaign is worried because Jeb Bush has fallen to seventh in some poll, in regards to the upcoming Iowa caucuses. I heard the question, I heard the answer ("he's tenth from the bottom! It's a glass half-full or half-empty question."), and I said "enough is enough. Why am I bothering to listen to the pablum?"

But then I wondered about that poll. I wondered how it was phrased. Specifically, the question I would love to have included in that poll -- and every other political poll that is run in the next six months -- is: "Had we not asked your opinion, would you have been thinking about the Presidential election of 2016 at all? How much of an impact, beyond the non-stop political reporting, does the Presidential election of 2016 have on your life right now, in the summer of 2015? Do you think we ought to even bother talking about the campaign and the candidates at this point, when the Iowa caucus (on February 1, 2016) is more than five months in the future, and it's only 434 days until election day (November 8, 2016)?" Sure, those questions may not be scientifically fair, but the results would probably send every news organization in the country scurrying to find actual news for the next several months, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.


The first half of the first Republican presidential "debate" of 2016

Saw the first Republican "debate" this evening, trying to decide if I want to bother watching the second. It's not because I'm a confirmed Democrat (or Republican, for that matter), but because the "debate" is very uninformative. When you put seven or ten people on a stage, and ask them all the same (or similar) questions, and then limit their answers to 60 or 30 seconds each, you don't get anything informative, nor even interesting. Instead, you get a whole bunch of people trying to sound likable and knowledgeable in a series of sound bites that quickly run together so you remember almost nothing. Indeed, you'll have to listen to the pundits after the fact to see who "won," (and if you're like me, you'll disagree with those pundits anyway).

I watched, I listened. All I could take away from it is that I'm partial to Carly Fiorina and George Pataki (out of the seven on stage).

But the other reason I don't like this format of information presentation is that it has nothing to do with the reason we're judging these people. Being President of the United States is emphatically not about speaking in sound bites. I want to know that my President is thoughtful and perhaps a little visionary. I want to know that my President can follow a thought longer than 30 seconds, and that he doesn't shy away from in-depth studying of big issues to come up with potentially complex solutions that may take an hour to explain and a decade to implement. Being President is all about really big issues. Forcing candidates for the office to answer seemingly complex questions in a few sentences in a few seconds is almost as meaningless as requiring candidates for office to be fund-raisers.

But yeah, I'll probably listen to the second debate, too. Because that's the type of person I am. Oh, and remember, it's only a scant FIFTEEN MONTHS until election day, so we have to decide like right now who we're going to vote for (ugh).

IGMS reviews that I almost missed

Just discovered that Intergalactic Medicine Show reviewed two of our books... in May. Of Allen Steele's Tales of Time and Space, reviewer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro said "The collection is... a robust sampler of Steele's recent work... these stories are richly ideated and neatly conceived.... History, and an acute perception of the passage of time, pulse throughout the collection. Alternate pasts, counter-factual presents and retro-futures provide Steele with elegant parallax shifts through which to examine our deepest impulses and drives." To read the full review, see this link.

At the same time, but on a different page, he wrote of Tom Purdom's Romance on Four Worlds: "Tom Purdom has been writing high quality science fiction for some time... yet despite his tenure in the field and the excellence of his work... he is not particularly well-known with modern readers, probably because his specialty, despite a handful of novels in the 1960s and 1970s, is the short form. Thus it was a particular treat when Fantastic Books brought us Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons, Purdom's (first!) collection in 2014. And so it is a particular delight again that Fantastic Books has now issued Romance on Four Worlds, a collection of four thought-provoking, richly realized novellas centered on the subject of romantic love against the backdrop of a Solar System in various stages of human colonization.... these exotic settings and a series of prolific sf-nal extrapolations... recall John Varley at his best.... Purdom's treatment of situations and subjects that could easily be melodramatic, solipsistic, or even embarrassing is consistently thoughtful, sensitive and mature. There is a meditative quality in these novellas that hovers above even the most climactic sequences.... these four novellas convey to us that sense of endless possibility, offering marvelous vistas into splendidly realized futures full of literal and emotional color."

And a request: if you see reviews of Fantastic Books' books, do please let me know. Odds are, I've seen them. But (as in these cases), it's possible that I've missed them, that the authors have missed them, and that we'd love to see them. Thanks!

Pi-Con this weekend

Don't recall if I mentioned that this weekend is another science fiction convention: Pi-Con​ in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Actually the hotel is in Bradley International Airport. I will (of course) be in the dealers' room for much of the weekend, but I'm also well-programmed:

Friday, 3pm: "What Editors Look For" (part of the writers' workshop).
Saturday, 10am: "Are SF and Fantasy Anti-Democratic?" with Susan de Guardiola, Lisa Evans, and Carl Fink.
Saturday, 3pm: "Has Fandom Abandoned SF?" with Susan de Guardiola, Walter Hunt, and Catt Kingsgrave.
Saturday, 5pm: "What is a Book Worth?" with Jennifer Bresnick, Nicholas Checker, and, Trisha J. Wooldridge.
Sunday, 11am: "The Pros and Perils of the Prime Directive" with Susan de Guardiola and Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein.

Looking at that list, I'm realizing they've given me a lot of panels with question marks in the title. Wonder if that means something?

Anyway, hope to see some of you there.

Spreading the word about "Dancing Through the Fire"

After doing the proper publicity blitz (at least in regards to sending out pre-publication galleys), I find I still have a few copies of the ARC of Tanith Lee's forthcoming collection Dancing Through the Fire. Any suggestions as to where they'll do the most good? Perhaps a book blogger with a decent following and a taste for the fantastical? Or a good friend of yours who talks about books in some massive media outlet? I already sent to the usual review outlets (the major sf/f magazines, the major book review magazines).