Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Ellen Klages will (er, should) win

The World Fantasy Awards will be announced this weekend at the World Fantasy convention in Calgary (I know, where else would they be announced?). Here's an informed vote from Joe Sherry for Ellen Klages's excellent collection, Portable Childhoods. Best of luck to Ellen and the rest of the nominees (a tiny bit less luck for the other nominees in the short story collection category, deserving as they are).

Interesting to note that all of the nominees in the collection category are from smaller independent presses (I have just discovered Comma Press, a UK non-profit publisher that speciailizes in short story collections - so cool). I think collections may seem risky for the larger publishers, yet we've done really well with ours. I am really glad and a bit proud that Tachyon continues to give authors such as Michael Swanwick, Peter S. Beagle, Carol Emshwiller, Ellen Klages, and the late Thomas M. Disch a venue for their shorter work (not counting all of the authors, too numerous to name here, in our anthologies). Yes, that's IMHO, but sf/f would be poorer not to have these books.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tom Disch's wake

Over last weekend, Jacob went to New York to attend Thomas Disch's wake. Jacob's photos are up on Flickr. Here's what John Crowley, one of Disch's closest friends, had to say:

A small memorial gathering for Tom Disch at the house of Alice Turner in Manhattan. A fuller description can be found at the site of Scott Edelman (scottedelman ). It was moving in many ways: Tom's Minnesota relatives were there, one of whom remarked that they had known he was a respected writer but not how admired he was by his fellows in the trade. Dana Gioia (late of the NEA) recited a rather lengthy poem of Tom's that I doubt he had actually memorized -- it seemed to be one of those perfect ones that just slips into the memory after a few readings and a few reviews to check a line or two. Richard and Christiana Sutor, who took pictures of Tom some years back, arrived with a sheaf of beautiful prints -- many of them the pictures that made it into the Locus memorial article -- Tom at his most dashing, cigar, bow tie, sweet devilish grin. One of the childhood pictures that Tom's family brought was one of Tom in -- I'd guess -- the second grade, dressed in a cassock and beretta (the liturgical hat not the gun) for a grade school pageant. Attached to this was a neatly typed, remarkably elegant and equally remarkably smarmy tribute to the Virgin Mary and the flowers of May, her month, that apparently young Tom recited at the pageant. It soulnded like he could have written it too, with that astonishing conviction he brought to the writing and speaking of oleaginous falsity. A sure sign of the writer to come.

I too played a priest in the second grade: the kindergarten at St. Michael's in Brattleboro Vermont, held a mock graduation in June, all the kids in cap and gown,and the diplomas handed out by me as Monsignor Rand (purple sash and pompom on the beretta) and my friend Terry Rabideau (who later became a priest) as Father Murray. Monsignor Rand was enamored of altar boys, and at high mass used to have a little parade of them come out in cassock and surplice and ring the altar, just to stand and kneel and take Communion and look nice. Oh dear. Tom's brother said they had, but did not bring, the pageant program, the last credit being "Thomas Disch: The Priest."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Realms of Fantasy review of The Word of God

This is a lovely forthcoming review of The Word of God by Paul Whitcover for Realms of Fantasy. I'm particularly appreciative of this:

This gorgeously wicked, heartbreakingly sweet satire settles old scores and initiates new ones, skewering its subjects with intelligence and wit, yet never relinquishes the essential decency and large-mindedness that are the hallmarks of a truly exceptional mind...something as rare on earth as it is in heaven.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Steampunk pictures from SF in SF/Litquake

By all accounts (particularly this one), the SF in SF steampunk event for Litquake was a rousing success. Attendance was over 100 people, over our seating capacity. We set up some additional folding chairs and were able to get most of the people inside the theater and a few folks sat in the lobby where we had speakers set up.

Richard Bottoms, CEO of Steam Powered Events, (the organizers of the upcoming California steampunk convention), led off the evening by giving us all an intriuguing overview of Steampunk. Rudy Rucker read from his steampunk novel, The Hollow Earth; Kage Baker read from her new story in Extraordinary Engines (a steampunk anthology of original stories published by Solaris Books in the UK); and Joe R. Lansdale read from his novel Flaming London. The readings were followed by a lively Q&A session in which Terry Bisson tried to get to the heart of what is steampunk. We raised $400 for the Variety Children's Charity.

A few people, like the dapper Richard Bottomes, above, even came in their finest steampunk accoutrement; check out the pictures.

Thomas Disch on the decline of Western civilization

Today's bit of unfortunate poetic justice from Tom Disch brought to you by Little, Big author John Crowley:

Tom, thou shouldst be living at this hour

It's of course just the kind of thing a SF writer of the 70sw would project for a a future declining and degraded America -- but only Tom Disch seems likely to have thought up the name for the moneyed entity that sweeps them both into its maw -- Cerberus Capital Management [Cerberus Capital Management is the private equity firm that owns Chrysler and is negotiating to take over GM].

One of the things Tom claimed was keeping him alive was his desire to see the whole world go down with him; he searched the Drudge Report and similar sources for signs that the end was near, the Triumph of Anarchy in society and nature, and used to call to tell me gleefully about some new unstoppable collapse. How he would have relished the last few weeks. He once wrote a long poem about New York in the style of Blake's Prophetic Books -- amid the various titanic allegorical figures is Moolah:

"Revivified Moolah, lovely & mysterious, streams invisible
Through the trembling fingers of Nasdaq and Amex.
"Caress me," she croons, "and comb my long golden hair
Braid it with silver bangles; employ for each dainty foot
Its own podiatrist; bankrupt an Iowa hamlet each time
I think of raspberries in a Spode rspberry bowl.
Nothing is too good for me; Imelda & Leona are my handmaids..."

Etc. Of course Imelda and Leona are both gone now. A free subprime mortgage to anyone willing to update poor Albion's plight and lissome Oosa's: "Anoint thy limbs, lissome Oosa, wIth balm of Aloe/And Liquid Ivory").

Thursday, October 09, 2008

SF in SF Steampunk event tonight
Lit Crawl at Borderlands on Saturday night

Not too late for you to check out the SF in SF steampunky goodness tonight, featuring Kage Baker, Joe R. Lansdale, Rudy Rucker, and Richard Bottomes.

Also during Litquake this Saturday, 10/11:

LitQuake LitCrawl at Borderlands Books
Special guests: local authors Richard Kadrey, Ellen Klages, and Pat Murphy
Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA / 415.824.8203
Saturday, October 11
8:30 PM

Once again take part in one of the most exciting literary events in San Francisco - the Lit Crawl! A 3-hour pub-crawl-style literary event with dozens of venues and hundreds of authors, all taking place right here in the Mission District.

This year Borderlands Books is happy to host local luminaries Richard Kadrey (Butcher Bird), Ellen Klages (White Sands, Red Menace), and Pat Murphy (The Wild Girls). Check out the Litquake Lit Crawl for the complete, mind-blowing schedule.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

SF in SF steampunk event for Litquake

This Thursday, come to a special (free!) steampunk event as part of Litquake, "San Francisco's literary festival with heart, guts and a taste for the wilder side of the literary world."

In conjunction with Litquake, SF in SF presents

Victorian Elegance Meets Science Fiction


Thursday, October 9
Lounge, cash bar and doors open at 7:00 pm
Readings begin at 8:00 PM

The Variety Preview Room
582 Market Street @Montgomery/2nd, San Francisco, CA
415.572.1015 evening of event
questions, email

SF in SF presents an evening celebrating all aspects of Steampunk - impossibly fantastic adventures you'll never forget. Steampunk is Victorian elegance paired with modern technology: steam-driven robots, souped-up stagecoaches, and space-faring dirigibles, all fueled by gaslight romance, mad scientists, and oh-so-trim waistcoats.

Followed by Q&A moderated by author Terry Bisson

FREE, but first come, first seated. Every attempt will be made to seat all attendees within the theatre. The reception room with extra seating will be open during the event

Books for sale, courtesy of Borderlands Books of San Francisco
Bar proceeds and tips benefit Variety Children's Charity of Northern California

We are located right outside the MUNI/BART station at Montgomery.
(Parking sucks in SF)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Los Angeles Times review of The Wall of America

A perceptive review of Thomas M. Disch's The Wall of America from The Bat Segundo Show's Ed Champion:

The Wall of America
by Thomas M. Disch

Edward Champion,
Special to The Times
October 4, 2008

HE WAS a misunderstood prosodist living hand-to-mouth with a wily intelligence and a savage wit. He lived in New York, but his talents were largely ignored by the literary elite. His strikingly original books, spanning speculative fiction and poetry, were frequently confined to the mid-list dustheap. Many of his collections, such as "Burn This," could not find American publishers.

He'd lost his longtime partner to cancer. He was fighting to keep his modest apartment. He suffered from depression, diabetes and sciatica. He had written such blistering novels as "Camp Concentration" (1968) and "334" (1974); mainstream readers bristling from his tough truths could find a speculative compromise in his 1986 children's book "The Brave Little Toaster." But above all, he wanted to be known as a poet. He turned out prolific elegies on his blog (one posted less than two weeks before his death was titled "Why I Must Die: A Film Script"), but he had stopped sending these poems out to literary journals.

On Independence Day this year, Thomas M. Disch put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was 68.

It is difficult to plunge into Disch's posthumously published short story collection, "The Wall of America," without considering this act and Disch's insecure relationship with his homeland.

Performance artists, vampire hunters and cultural philosophers are just some of the marginalized misfits dangling over the rough edges of Disch's America. In the title story, an artist is pushed literally to the brink, hanging his paintings on a concrete divide bordering America and Canada, choosing "the least densely hung stretch that they'd offered him, not so much because his paintings needed room to sprawl but because he did." Disch's characters need love, money and other essentials that they can't seem to ask for. They toil in a nation that refuses to find a place for them.

Several of these stories feature telltale allusions to death. In "The White Man," the protagonist reports her suicidal tendencies to a medical official and is prescribed "purple pills as big as your thumb." In "The Owl and the Pussycat," a sweet and irreverent reimagining of Edward Lear, a woman kills herself by mashing up sleeping pills into rocky road ice cream. Many stories conclude with characters disappearing, lost to "the wilderness's own video arcade" or waning with corporate memos that "slowly faded from the page, like the smile of the Cheshire cat." In Disch's wicked wonderland, the underlying cause doesn't matter as much as the harsh reality. Make no mistake: People who don't fit into the grand scheme will be crushed. As the mother at the end of "A Family of the Post-Apocalypse" puts it, "It isn't anyone's fault. It's just the times we live in."

Survival, as Mr. Weyman says in "Canned Goods," is all that matters. An impoverished man tallies up his failures in "Ringtime," telling us: "Most of my unmarketable memories are just dull -- so many soft tasteless noodles in the soup of the past."

But there remains the anarchic comfort of nature. One striking story, "Voices of the Kill," follows an English teacher spending his vacation in "the primeval, pre-Yankee wilderness." He is wooed by a cooing Nereid at night and, like the "beautiful pea green boat" in Lear's poem, she appears by day as a girl in a pea-green swimsuit.

Some stories give Disch a chance to take gleeful revenge on the literary establishment that in turn spurned him. Disch once performed a devastating critical vivisection on the alleged UFO abductee Whitley Strieber. Here, in "The Abduction of Bunny Steiner," Disch unpacks his scalpel again, chronicling a corpulent hack caught within "the latest, lowest nadir of a career rich in nadirs," who is commissioned to write a get-rich-quick Strieber rip-off.

One of the book's best stories is "The Man Who Read a Book," a branch-rattling excoriation of the publishing industry that takes potshots at publishing giant Knopf, the Yaddo artists' colony, the Pushcart Prize and a writer named "Bret Eastern Alice." The story's hero is hired by "Mr. Yaddo himself" to read books for cash, where his apparently vital thoughts on such books as "A Collector's Guide to Plastic Purses" will be celebrated by the appropriate publisher.

If this Disch collection lacks the Kafkaesque pyrotechnics of "The Squirrel Cage" or the phantasmagorial brio of "Getting Into Death," it nevertheless remains a worthy volume from a writer who we really needed to be alive today, skewering hypocrisy and sometimes unearthing the sunny side of suffering.

Edward Champion hosts a cultural website at He conducted the last in-person interview with Thomas Disch in June.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

NCIBA trade show - Independent Publishers Row

This weekend is the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show in Oakland, California. The NCIBA trade show is where hundreds of indie booksellers congregate to find out what's new and hot in the publishing world. This year I'm proud to announce the first annual Independent Publishers Row, a collaborative venture between the NCIBA and Northern California independent publishers.

The Independent Publishers Row, featured on the trade show floor, spotlights some of the finest NoCal indie publishers including Tachyon, Regent Press, Aunt Lute Books, Manic D Press, Last Gasp Books, PoliPointPress, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Palace Press, KOMENAR Publishing, Cleis Press, and more.

Booksellers and publishers alike will enjoy this unique opportunity to find out more about the great books being published in Northern California by independent presses. And (full disclosure) I'm so delighted to have been working with the behind-the-scenes folks who made this happen. Special thanks go to Kristen Frantz from Berrett-Koehler/NCBPMA, Hut Landon from the NCIBA, and all of the booksellers and publishers who worked so hard on this project. Indies rock!