The science fiction world has lost another of its greats with the passing of Greg Bear, at 71, from complications following heart surgery. The author of over 50 novels, Greg was a multiple award winner, not just in the U.S., but overseas, as well. He was president of SFWA for two years. He was also a hell of a nice guy, known throughout the SF community for his kindness and decency and wisdom. More details about his work and life can be found at File770, from which this photo was reproduced.
I didn’t know Greg well, but we interacted from time to time over the years, always positively. Once when I was in Seattle with my wife, I gave him a call to see if he wanted to connect for coffee. “Why don’t you come over for dinner,” was his immediate reply. His wife Astrid, an equally lovely person, served us something delicious, and we enjoyed an evening of conversation.
Those who knew him are going to miss him for his humanity. The whole world will miss his writing.
Sincerest condolences to Astrid and their sons and daughters, and Godspeed to you, Greg, in the journeys to come.
The Shapers of Worlds anthologies, edited by Edward Willett, are collections of science fiction and fantasy short stories written by authors who have been guests on Ed’s excellent podcast. The lineup of authors on these books is impressive. And the second volume has just been published: in ebook, paperback, and hardcover! I’ve added it to my own to-read list. (Yes, I have a story in it, a reprint of one of my favorites. But I don’t need to reread that one. I want to read the others. But by all means, read them all.)
Edward Willett is a prolific author of SF and fantasy for all ages. He’s also the creator of a podcast called The Worldshapers, in which he interviews other writers on their creative process. I was a guest on his podcast in its second year. Ed is putting together the second anthology of stories by folks who were on his podcast, and it’s called Shapers of Worlds Volume II. It’s a fine collection of authors. (Yeah, I’m in it, too, but that’s not why I said that.)
It costs money to put books together, especially books with a lot of authors who need to be paid, so Ed for the second time is running a Kickstarter campaign to finance the publication of the book. He’s got a lot of great rewards lined up for folks who contribute. Ebooks, treebooks, audiobooks, and more! (Including some from me.)
Covering all bases, because you never know. Seriously, a new Story Bundle has just been released, and I’m part of it! It’s called the The Expansive Futures Sci-Fi Bundle, and it’s curated and sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s a great way to get a big pile of great new books for almost nothing, and support a good cause in the process. It’s a terrific deal. https://storybundle.com/scifi
I’m going to let Amy Duboff explain it. She’s the one who oversaw the curation of the package:
“Since the early days of science fiction, authors have explored the future of humanity and what other life might be out there among the stars. From cybernetics to spaceships to alien contact, future-focused sci-fi lets us explore complex issues while escaping from everyday life. Eighteen diverse visions of Expansive Futures have been gathered in a special collection curated by SFWA members, now available in a limited-time bundle.
“SFWA is an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting science fiction and fantasy writers in the United States and worldwide. Featuring award-winning authors and fresh new voices, the Expansive Futures StoryBundle is sure to please fans of futuristic sci-fi and space opera.
“This bundle includes the Nebula Award finalist novel Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver; When You Had Power, the first novel in a new hopepunk series by bestselling author Susan Kaye Quinn; and Starship Hope: Exodus by rising star author T.S. Valmond, among many others. The Expansive Futures bundle will run for three weeks only, so grab this fantastic deal while you can and discover great new writers….” [read more]
The photo gives a quick snapshot of the books in the bundle. If you like futuristic, visionary science fiction, you really owe it to yourself to pick this up.
Dragon Con Virtual is underway this weekend! As a scheduled program participant for the torpedoed-by-pandemic real-life con, I was asked to shoot a two-minute video greeting about why I love science fiction and Dragon Con. It’s probably up on their site somewhere, but blast if I know where, so I’m posting it here.
In the course of shooting the video, an imp appeared in the corner of my screen during one take. Where’d she come from?? It wasn’t my best take, but the imp was too charming not to keep. So here’s the Outtake—with Imp:
I’ve been enjoying this year’s Nebula Conference (in Los Angeles) hugely. It’s been years since my last one, and the number of new faces is astounding. I’ve seen old friends, made new ones, had dinner with some of my Book View Café buddies, and attended a couple of business meetings, which were actually quite interesting. I’m part of the rules committee that wrestles with issues pertaining to the Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Awards, and for once, we were all in the same room, talking face to face instead of through endless emails. Much more satisfying.
One thing SFWA (that is, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has instituted at the Nebula Conference—besides expanding the programming into a real conference, full of interesting information—is a Mentor program. The idea is that experienced members volunteer to meet with new members and newcomers to the conferences, and present a welcoming and friendly face and answer questions, whether it’s about con-going or getting published. I met with two “mentees” and had great conversations.
Here’s a pic of me with Roman Godzich, one of the mentees, a great guy and new writer. Now, how is it that he was giving me the useful tips about book promotion, especially how to successfully advertise on Facebook and Amazon? I’m not sure he learned much from me, but we had a fun conversation.
Here’s another pic of me with Joe and Gay Haldeman, two of my favorite people in the science fiction world.
For something a little lighter, by which I mean utterly silly, try The Temporary Magic Series, by Craig Shaw Gardner. This tale concerns one Lenny Hodge, a young man of peculiar talents—who goes to work for an even more peculiar temp agency, Terrifitemps, which quietly controls the world. Pitted against the evil Fu, Lenny must join forces with the likes of a swami, a vampire, a werevole, and Bob the charming but annoying magic horse. If you liked Craig’s hilarious Ebenezum series about a wizard who’s allergic to magic, you’re sure to like this. Silliness for all ages.
Craig is another of my writer friends who did great with traditional publishing… until everything changed, and suddenly he found himself without support from the big city. Like many of us, he’s been working on bringing out his backlist in various formats, including ebook, audiobook, etc. Rather than going indie, he opted to go small press, and Crossroads Press has been doing a fine job releasing his old work and his new. In fact, this book came out for about one week from a mainstream publisher, who didn’t seem to know what to do with it; and now it’s back, from Crossroads.
It occurs to me that I’ve probably told you about these books before. But that was a while ago, and a good recommendation never gets old!
Speaking of young adult science fiction, here’s a series you really should read, whether or not YA is your thing, or for that matter, science fiction. It’s a parallel worlds story that treads the boundary between young adult and adult fiction (the way Harry Potter did), which means I can heartily recommend it for both audiences. The Portal Series by Richard Bowker begins with Portal, published a few years ago, about two young men (boys, really) who find themselves in an alternate Earth, and entangled in an American civil war. That’s followed by the more recently published Terra, which takes one of the boys, Larry, to another alternate Earth resembling ancient Rome. Richard is currently writing a third in the series, Barbarica, and it’s even better. Also, I don’t think we’re in YA-land anymore.
Richard Bowker is not as well known to current audiences as he should be. He had a bunch of novels published by New York publishers, to good reviews. But somewhere along the way, traditional publishing failed him and he quit writing for a while. Then he returned, writing better than ever, this time indie publishing. And his new stuff is great! You owe it to yourself to give his books a try! Here are the two current Portal books:
One of the things we always struggle with as writers is knowing how much detail to provide in a given scene. Too little, and you haven’t given the reader enough of a sketch to complete the illusion. Too much, and you risk boring the reader, or depriving her of the chance to use her own imagination to fill in the picture. To make matters worse, the balance is different for every reader. You will never be able to please everyone.
What got me thinking of this was Heinlein’s young adult classic Starman Jones. I first read this book in a library hardcover as a, well, young adult, and certain scenes have stuck with me ever since. I recently downloaded the audiobook from Audible, and started reliving the story of a young man’s journey from vagabond to starship astrogator. (It holds up remarkably well, despite the basic premise—that starship jumps would be calculated at lightning speed with paper and pencil—now seeming ridiculous.)
Early on, there’s a scene where Max is running away from his no-good stepfather, and he risks hoofing it through a tunnel where ring-jumping trains blast by at supersonic speed. He makes it through by the skin of his teeth…
“He reached the far end with throat burned dry and heart laboring; there he plunged downhill regardless of the sudden roughening of his path as he left the tunnel and hit the maintenance track. He did not slow up until he stood under stilt supports so high that the ring above looked small. There he stood still and fought to catch his breath.
“He was slammed forward and knocked off his feet.
“He picked himself up groggily, eventually remembered where he was and realized that he had been knocked cold. There was blood on one cheek and his hands and elbows were raw. It was not until he noticed these that he realized what had happened; a train had passed right over him.”
Those lines go by pretty fast, especially in the audio narration. But my first reading of them left an image scored in my memory: the magnificent silver ring trains, lancing through the hoops across the countryside; the peril of venturing too close, much less into the tunnel; and the moment of truth, when an unscheduled train blasts overhead, the concussion wave nearly killing our hero before he can get more than shouting distance from home. That scene took pages, in my memory—in my imagination. But the core of it was just one line: “He was slammed forward and knocked off his feet.”
Did that scene hold the same power for every reader? Maybe not. But maybe for some, it did.
Where does that leave the rest of us, following in Heinlein’s footsteps? Trying to decide, scene by scene, what to tell and what to leave out. Writing, rewriting…
In case you wondered what I was up to with the Reefs of Time rewrite.
Here’s a book that was up for the Norton Award. Though it did not win (Arabella of Mars, by David Levine took that honor), I really liked it. It’s a young adult SF novel called Railhead, by Philip Reeve—an author I know nothing about, except that he wrote this sparkling and imaginative far-future tale. In this distant future, trains form the backbone of interstellar travel. The difference between these trains and ours is that when these trains go through tunnels, they’re jumping through stargates from one world to another. Also, the locomotives are sentient. We learn about these trains through a kid named Zen Starling, who, caught between formidable opposing powers, must find his own path to what’s important. Written with a light and sure touch, this is one of those YA books that has good reason to appeal to any audience.
I especially like finding good science fiction in the YA offerings. Most of the Norton finalists tend to be fantasy. I like fantasy; don’t get me wrong. But I keep remembering that it was YA science fiction that first got me hooked on SF as a kid, and I sometimes wish that there were more of it being written today. Well, here’s one worth your notice. Railhead, by Philip Reeve.