Locus reviews The Bend at the End of the Road

76ee412223ff59f82b7e32b3f1ee1014-w2041xIn an essay as long as those in the book, Russell Letson has reviewed Barry Malzberg’s The Bend at the End of the Road for the June issue of Locus. He says, in part:

“…it is very hard not to argue with Barry Malzberg’s The Bend at the End of the Road—and it was just as hard to stop reading it.

“The Bend at the End of the Road is no more cheerful, though, like the earlier books, it is often strikingly written and shot through with sharp observations of and confrontations with the marginal culture and economic status that has often constrained the field’s (and Malzberg’s) aspirations. It is this merging of the interesting and insightful with the depressive and depressing that makes the collection as exasperating as it is fascinating.

“So what kept me reading these thousand-word lacerations and laments? On the purely literary and historical side, Malzberg has a considerable knowledge of the history of American SF, much of it acquired at first hand from the late 1940s onward, and he has also paid attention to modern literature in general, from the great New York newspaper sports writers to Raymond Carver, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Reynolds Price, and George P. Elliott (his mentor at Syracuse University). Line by line, the writing is dense with allusions from all over the literary-cultural landscape, products of a mind that frantically connects everything to everything. A single page of one essay (“Misunderstanding Entropy”) contains a crescendo of references: nine writers, four composers, four books, two media franchises, plus Donald Trump, Tammany Hall, and ComicCon. Prose like this can be, despite the general atmosphere of futility and disappointing, exhilarating.”

A sweet new level for Release the Virgins

67a1aed9c92c450084264e6f9058456a_originalThe Release the Virgins Kickstarter project is $608 away from being fully funded, and with 11 days to get there, I’m getting excited about seeing this anthology actually be published! Today, I added a new pledge level, just to sweeten the pot a bit, the “Sweet Releaser” (check it out).

I’m also thrilled that 170 people have pledged to be a part of it. That’s a really good turn-out. So now I’m asking all my friends to help spread the word: just copy and paste the post, or copy the url to your social media account. Something simple. It would be really great to see, and I know everyone involved in the project (the editor, artist, authors, and even me) would really appreciate it. Thanks!

Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)

gardner2bdozoisI’ve been putting this off, but Gardner Dozois died Sunday. I heard about it while I was at Balticon: both the best and worst place to be to learn such news. Best because I was surrounded by people who knew who Gardner was, and what he meant. And worst because sf conventions are work for me, and after hearing, I wasn’t much good at selling books.

There have already been many people writing about Gardner, who he was, what he did, his awards and honors, his importance to the field of speculative fiction, and its importance to him. I don’t need to rehash that. Instead, I want to write about the Gardner I knew.

I first met him at my second interview for the editorial assistant position at what was then called Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (and Analog Science Fiction and Fact: the two magazines shared me). During that interview, he remarked that he had a story from me on his desk, and wondered what my career goal was. I told him honestly that I wanted either his job or Stan’s (Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, also had one of my stories under consideration). Neither one of them bought those stories; it took me three more years to write something worthy of Analog, and I never was able to sell a story to Gardner.

I remember attending science fiction conventions with my bosses: Gardner and Stan and Sheila Williams and Tina Lee (the managing editors of the two magazines). Stan was very quiet: much more comfortable in small groups, the early-to-bed sort. Gardner, on the other hand, was loud, gregarious, the center of attention in crowds (the larger the better). And something in me said that, in addition to his remarkable editing work, it was this connection with the fans that kept him winning Hugo Awards. I watched Gardner (actually, I remember sitting at his feet in more than one room party, listening with a crowd to his stories), and I thought “if only Stan could be this close to his fans, perhaps he might win the awards, too.” I tried to emulate Gardner on Stan’s behalf, though of course that was impossible, and it wasn’t the reason. But Saturday night at Balticon, I was up late in a room party, sitting on a bed surrounded by people, telling stories of the past, and I flashed back to my early conventions with Gardner, except that now I was in his position, telling the stories. Actually, I had a similar memory/feeling at the World Fantasy Convention in 2010. After a late night telling war stories to younger fans, I ran into Gardner at breakfast, and told him of that feeling of doing what he’d done. He laughed at me and said “you’re getting older.” Then Rusty Hevelin walked up and said, “Don’t worry about it, kid. I’m still telling stories of the 1950s.”

Early in 1992, Isaac Asimov came into the office, as he had done every Tuesday for probably ever. I looked forward to his visits, but we hadn’t seen him in several weeks. This particular Tuesday, the receptionist called to tell me Isaac was in the lobby, and I ought to come to him (he usually just came back to the office). He was weak, had snuck out of his apartment over his wife’s objection. Gardner came out front as well, looked at Isaac, and told me to take him home. So I was the last of us to see Isaac alive: he died a few weeks later.

After six years working at the magazines, I left to start my own magazine. I still saw Gardner at conventions, and made sure he got copies of my magazine to consider for his Year’s Best anthologies, but we weren’t really in close contact.

iangardnersheilaatreadercon2017
Ian Randal Strock, Gardner Dozois, and Sheila Williams, at Readercon 2017.

Then, last year, when Susan died, Gardner posted a note wondering what he had left to live for. Darrell Schweitzer and I convinced him that a collection of Susan’s fiction would be a fitting tribute, and that he ought to put it together. We published it last July, and Gardner made the trek to Readercon in Massachusetts to be present at the book’s debut. He spent a lot of the weekend sitting at my Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room, talking about and signing the book for customers. In between, we got to spend time together, chatting and reminiscing, and I really enjoyed re-connecting with him, this time almost as equals (well, not of equal stature, but now I was publishing a book he had produced). A few months later, Gardner came to Philcon for Saturday, and again spent several hours with me at the table.

After the collection was published, Gardner found the manuscript to Susan’s unpublished novel, The Red Carnival, and asked if I’d be interested in publishing it. Sight unseen, I said of course. For him, and for Susan, I would have published it even if the book wasn’t worth publishing, but it totally is (I still don’t know why Susan didn’t put in the effort to get it into print). Gardner worked with Christopher, his son, to get me an electronic copy of the manuscript, and as I was editing it, I discovered there was a missing page. It was a fairly important page, since it contained the end of one scene, a scene break, and the beginning of the next, but that original page was lost. Eventually, I was able to convince Gardner that he had to write the missing page, so in some small degree, The Red Carnival is a collaboration between Gardner and Susan. I’m pleased that Gardner got to see finished copies of the book in circulation, since we were able to publish it in March (on the first anniversary of Susan’s death).

But now Gardner’s gone, and I miss him.

Convention weekend coming

In the madness of launching and trying to publicize the Kickstarter campaign for Release the Virgins (which, by the way, is at 25% of its goal: thanks! And please help us spread the word), I’ve neglected the fact that I’ve got a science fiction convention coming this weekend. Hope those of you on the East Coast will be joining me at Balticon. As usual, I’ll be tethered to the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (that’s the dealers’ room, not all the people who look like dealers out in the atrium, for which I’m still grumpy at the convention) most of the weekend. But I’ll also be on several panels, so come check me out:

Saturday at 11am: “Stopping the Clocks: Time Travel in Writing” with Jack Clemons, Brian Groover, Andy Love, and Rosemary Claire Smith.

Saturday at 2pm: “Monarchy and Empire in Speculative Fiction” with John Appel, Jack Campbell, Gail Z. Martin, and John Robison.

Saturday at 8pm: “Turning the Starship of State: Government in SF” with Tom Doyle, C.S. Friedman, Larry Hodges, and John Robison.

Sunday at 11am: “Improving Your Pitch Workshop” – they don’t seem to have anyone else scheduled on this one, so it may be a solo.

Sunday at 3pm: “Ask Me Anything: Editors & Publishers” with Scott H. Andrews, Walt Boyes, Neil Clarke, and Jeff Young.

Hope to see lots of you there!

The virgins are coming

The Release the Virgins Kickstarter campaign has already raised nearly 17% of its goal (in just about a day running live), but of course we’re still begging our friends to share the word with their friends.

I’m thrilled with a very cool comment the campaign has already garnered: “The concept is… different… to say the least, but I really had no choice about backing, considering I’m a fan of pretty much every author involved! Good luck!”

And as of a few minutes ago, the web site ReleaseTheVirgins.com is now live. At the moment, it’s just a bare-bones description of the project, but it also includes a list of virgins. And I remain open to suggestions for other content to add to it. Thanks!

Release the Virgins

I’m thrilled, excited, trepidatious (?) to announce that Fantastic Books’ new anthology project, Release the Virgins, is now live as a Kickstarter campaign. Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, we have a slew of awesome authors lined up to participate, including:  David Gerrold, Lawrence Watt-Evans. Allen Steele, Jody Lynn Nye, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Gail Z. Martin, Shariann Lewitt, Alex Shvartsman, Cecilia Tan, Daniel M. Kimmel, Patrick Thomas, and Hildy Silverman. But there will be more slots in the book for more authors (possibly including you?). We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word. Thanks! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/667435382/release-the-virgins

White Wing Takes Flight Again

1515410366A press release from Fantastic Books:

In 1985, “Gordon Kendall” published White Wing, his first (and apparently only) novel, which Gordon R. Dickson called “A powerful story by a strong new talent.” The book garnered praise from Locus (“Kendall explores his characters’ dilemma in a clever, dynamic plot filled with intrigue, danger, and surprises.”), Amazing (“Emphasis is on the interplay of characters.… It’s an interesting book.”), Amazon readers (“I’ve loved this book for ages,” “one of the best Sci-fi books I’ve ever read,” “awesome and well done”), and GoodReads readers (“brilliant,” “one of my favorites,” “fantastic story line”).

Now Fantastic Books is thrilled to announce the identity of “Gordon Kendall,” and the fact that we are bringing this wonderful novel back into print. Gordon Kendall was a pseudonym shared by Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz, who would each go on to write many kick-ass novels in their solo careers.

In White Wing, Earth has been destroyed, but the remnants of humanity fight on, in uneasy alliance with the Galactic League—their only purpose to avenge their world, their only pride the Honor of the Wing. But League politics will not tolerate pride in a refugee people, and the White Wing is under insidious attack. A powerful enemy attempts to brand one unit of the Wing as traitors, discrediting the entire human race.

Written at the height of the Cold War, the book has a surprising resonance with the world of today, and the prose stands the test of time.

Fantastic Books is honored to republish White Wing—featuring the original cover art by Janny Wurts—in a new trade paperback edition. Authors Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz claim their proper credit for the book, which is now available.

White Wing by Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz
Fantastic Books, 242 pages, $14.99. ISBN: 978-1-5154-1036-2.

White Wing—and all Fantastic Books titles—are distributed via Ingram, and available through all major online retailers and specialty sf shops via direct order from the publisher.

New Speaking Appearance

Just found out I’ll be a speaker at this summer’s American Mensa Annual Gathering (that’s in addition to the meetings and working as RVC1 there). On Saturday, July 7th, at 7:30 pm (just as everything is wrapping up and conflicting with the last-night festivities), I’ll be giving a talk entitled “John Kennedy’s grandma, Bill Clinton’s mother, and John Tyler’s grandchildren: Familial oddities of the Presidents of the United States”. Hope some of you are still alert enough to spend a little time with me before capping off the weekend with a bang!