Notes From Wiscon 4

Strictly speaking, these are notes post-Wiscon. We lit out of Madison at lunchtime today, and have now safely arrived (after a slightly alarming cab ride) at the Union Square Inn in New York. But to tie up the loose ends:

  • Sunday was very much a social day for me; the only programmed item I went to was Kelly Link and Laurie Marks’ combined guest of honour speech (which I enjoyed). Otherwise the day was about hanging out and having good conversations. Notes for various panels are popping up on the Wiscon lj community, though.
  • Actually, I tell a lie: the parties were on the program, and Sunday was the day of the Strange Horizons Tea Party, which was hectic but which seemed to go well, as well as various room parties later in the day (and, I gather, a secret dance party that eventually happened after I went to bed).
  • This morning was a bit of a blur of packing, goodbyes, incredibly sugary and cinnamony cinnamon rolls, and a quick swing around the sign-out to get some books inscribed. (I am also rather proud of my copy of Twenty Epics, which I think I managed to get signed and/or doodled on by every contributor at the con.) In between I went to The Future of Feminism, which somewhat ironically left me wanting to read a good one-volume history of English-language (or Western) feminism, to give me a slightly more coherent context for everything. Any suggestions?
  • Other snapshots: listening to Graham trying to explain cat macros to Ted Chiang; high-fiving Meghan about crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies; the incredible hand-made truffles at the Interstitial Arts Foundation party; chatting to someone who’d been to 22 Wiscons at the Strange Horizons party; explaining why my badge said Njäll; the largest baklava ever; breakfasts with the Brits (and a rotating cast of guest stars) at Michelangelo’s.
  • All of which is to say I had a good time and am left with a contended post-con glow (enough that I’d like to go back, although I’d also like to try other US cons, particularly Readercon and ICFA); but I know not everyone’s first Wiscon went as well as mine, and some of the reasons are ones I think it wouldn’t hurt for Wiscon to take on board. See, for example, Rose Fox’s con report; I spoke to several other people over the course of the weekend who had at least some of the same reservations.
  • And I succumbed and bought one final book: Busy About the Tree of Life by Pamela Zoline. I haven’t counted the final tally, exactly; they did all fit in my suitcase, but they also made my suitcase weigh rather more than the airline allowance for checked baggage, so posting a box to the UK sometime this week may not be a terrible idea.

Notes From Wiscon 3

Thanks to my cunning plan of travelling out light (and thus leaving more room to travel home heavy, laden with books), I have left the con hotel for the delights of Laundry 101. I was planning to spend this time making a final assault on the current Orange Prize book, Half of a Yellow Sun, with which I am not really getting on, but it seems they have free wi-fi here too, so here are some notes on yesterday’s Wiscon happenings instead.

  • Started the day with a wander round the farmer’s market, as instructed by all and sundry, which resulted in a breakfast composed of the most cinnamon-y and sugar-y cinnamon whirls ever. Mmm.
  • Got back in time for the last two-thirds of a panel on editing anthologies: some interesting background on the economics of it, and the merits of open vs. closed anthologies, but overall a bit of a disappointment; I think the main problem was that it was in a much bigger room than it needed, which dampened down discussion somewhat. (Another audience member’s notes here.)
  • After lunch, went to “The Foremothers of Today’s Feminist SF“, which saw interesting discussions of the work of Ursula Le Guin, Naomi Mitchison and others, as well as some good points about how today’s feminist sf differs from its forebears, but never really got around to the bit of the panel description that interested me the most (how do new readers react to earlier feminist sf). I recorded this one, so there’ll probably be a transcript at some point somewhere.
  • Next up was “Can Technology be the Answer?“, which was missing a panelist and seemed somewhat under-attended, although that was probably because it was scheduled opposite Cultural Appropriation Revisited. Somewhat predictably, the answer to the question was “no”, which led to discussion of how sf (and society in general) tends to simplify how new technology affects society. The point was made, I forget by who, that the very clear stimulus-development-consequence path followed by nuclear weapons is (a) how a lot of sf treats any new technology and (b) almost the only real-world example of such a pattern. Also discussed was the tension between needing new technology to open up new options, and the problems of developing technology without a clear need in mind.
  • Then it was time for Laurie J. Marks and Kelly Link interviewing each other, which covered a lot of ground (including discussion of what makes something YA, which is a theme that’s much more obvious here than it has been at any UK con I’ve been to; Mely reports from a panel I wish I’d gone to here), and which I also recorded.
  • Out to dinner with David, Kameron, Karen, Jed, Susan, Matt, Liz, Graham, Lawrence, and Jackie, which I really enjoyed; then back to the hotel for a bit of Tiptree auction, a bit of bar discussion, an (excellent) late-night panel on good criticism (also recorded for later transcription), and a bit of Small Beer press party. Lots more people met; only very briefly in some cases, but it’s still good to have faces and voices to go with the names. (And I should say, too, that it’s been good to see the people I already know but don’t get to hang out with enough.)
  • I have managed to restrain myself from buying more books. Unfortunately, I have collected a moderately-sized pile of review copies …

You’d Better Look Out

In answer to my earlier question, apparently I go to the Kelly Link panel (which was excellent — notes will be forthcoming), and then go to the karaoke party as well, and shout fuck very loudly in front of a crowded room. New experiences are what conventions are all about, right?

Notes From Wiscon 2

Or rather, photos from Madison.












I should probably not be allowed to buy any more books on this trip.

Met yet more people today, including Mary Rickert, Rick Bowes, Mely, Alan DeNiro, Christopher Barzak, Rose Fox, L. Timmel Duchamp, Meghan McCarron, Hannah Wolf Bowen, Karen Meisner (who led us to a wonderful Japanese restaurant for dinner), most of whom I need to seek out for longer conversations, plus I’m sure many others I’m forgetting. Coming up this evening: do I go to the panel on Kelly Link, or do I go to the Ratbastards karaoke party?

Notes From Wiscon 1

Preliminary bookhaul:

  • Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto
  • Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
  • Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand
  • Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand
  • Nekropolis by Maureen McHugh

This may not look like much, but you have to bear in mind that the con hasn’t actually started yet. It’s just that Madison has a lot of very temptingly-stocked bookshops. Other than bookshopping, today was mostly spent hanging out in the hotel lobby and bar, meeting various people I’ve only ever interacted with before online (e.g. Susan, Dave), enjoying the free cookies and cake from the Governer’s Club bar (don’t tell anyone), and learning exciting book news (Night Shade have a Paolo Bacigalupi collection scheduled for early 2008). I anticipate the whole “meeting people” thing being much easier now that everyone’s started to register and put on their name badges.

Hopefully further updates will follow as the con progresses!

Chicago

Yesterday:












Today: On to Madison!

Arlington Park

There seems to be something about the shortlists for juried awards that invites explanation. When it comes to the Clarke Award, for instance, spectators will quite often — and often quite confidently — pick out “the core sf book”, “the mainstream book”, and so on, as though the shortlist was an act of design. The truth, of course, is that shortlists aren’t chosen with such considerations in mind; but there is still something about the act of shortlisting that divides, rather than unites. As soon as you’ve said that these six books are the six best sf novels (or whatever) of the year, what separates them becomes more interesting than what they share. When it comes to the Orange Prize, we might tongue-in-cheek say that the slots to be filled include “the historical novel”, “the romance”, and “the domestic novel” — and then put Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park neatly in the latter. But straight away, comparison to, say, The Accidental (which was on last year’s shortlist, and could quite easily be described as domestic, and is enormously different in style and tone) makes it obvious that this apparently-narrow category is, like all literary categories, infinitely divisible.

Conveniently for me, Arlington Park is itself an attempt to make a similar point. It switches between a handful of women, but is set in one place, over the course of one day, a formal choice that says: look at these women, see how they’re all nominally the same but in fact living such different lives. Look how divisible, how capacious, are the categories “wife” and “mother”. The prologue frames the novel with an explicitly panoramic portrait of a generic English city, “its streets always crawling with indiscriminate life … too mercilessly dramatic … to look at that view you’d think that a human life was meaningless. You’d think that a day meant nothing at all” (4-5). But, it is implied, you’d be wrong, and so we begin our tour, visiting Juliet (and husband Benedict), Amanda (and husband James), Christine (and husband Joe), Solly (and husband Martin) and Maisie (and husband Dom) in turn, as they walk their different paths through their Friday, variously taking in a school run, a coffee morning, a trip to a mall (has the Americanism really become so widespread?), a literary club, putting the children to bed, and a dinner party. It’s an uneven novel, sometimes interesting, sometimes less so, but crucially we aren’t allowed to forget that frame. At the half-way mark comes another impersonal panorama, this time of a park at lunchtime, where mothers observe “The whole mechanism of the world, running on, running like a machine … for them, it was a form of agony to watch it … the women were as though snared in the mechanism … every movement caused them pain” (147-8). (Sure, Tiptree said it better and more succinctly, but it’s still a powerful image.) And it’s true: the women of Arlington Park are weighed down by the burdens of marriage and (perhaps particularly) motherhood; but they are stoics, or so it seems at first. The pain never makes them scream.

Closing the frame, towards the end of the book one character experiences “a sense of perspective, of the reach of the universe, of its strange but necessary dimensions. It was this sense of order,” she concludes, “that allowed life in Arlington Park to be what it was” (222). As it is with Arlington Park, so it is with Arlington Park, because the boldest thing about the novel is that most of its characters are boring or unpleasant or both; they represent the smuggest of the smug middle-classes, variously petty, hypocritical, bigoted, bitter, heroically self-absorbed, or some combination of the above (there is the occasional punk hairdresser or peroxide-haired au pair, but such women are distinctly marginal in this town). They refuse sympathy to such an extent that I think Cusk only pulls off the trick — and then only barely — because of the presence of that external perspective, which allows us to acknowledge her women without, necessarily, judging them.

Take Maisie, who as the book’s outsider — she has recently moved to Arlington Park with her husband, in an attempt to escape the London rat-race — might be expected to be someone the reader can take as a guide. No such luck. After another samey day of housewifely ennui, she is so thoroughly ennervated that Dom’s arrival home from work causes her to experience “a vertiginous sense of event” (169); she is so thoroughly dissociated from her life that it feels like a play, as though she and Dom are acting out roles of “husband” and “wife”. But her neurosis has become unreasonable. When Dom offers to get the children ready for bed (because they’re going, like most of the rest of the characters, to a dinner party at Christine and Joe’s place), she says no, she’ll do it; but when he comments on the time (“Did you realise it’s seven-fifteen?”)

She rose, wondering why he didn’t put the children to bed himself if he cared so much what the time was. She guessed the answer was that he had taken her at her word: she had said she would do it. He probably thought there was some important, sentimental reason why, a reason that might even have been himself, tired at the end of his week’s work: if this were so, it struck her as sad that he had to fabricate her generosity towards him out of so little material, or make a point of honour out of something that didn’t really exist. (182)

Bear in mind that Maisie and Dom have just had a reasonably lengthy conversation; that Dom has done the washing-up Maisie created during the day; that Dom has explicitly asked Maisie what’s wrong, and refused to take “everything’s fine” for an answer (but gave up when he didn’t get any further). It is, for sure, impressive that we don’t immediately condemn Maisie for her own stupidity in refusing to talk to her husband — the husband she loves, and who shows every sign of loving her — because Cusk has so effectively conveyed the weight of situation (and perhaps guilt, given that it was Maisie’s choice to leave London) that has put Maisie in this bind. If she’s done so in a rather long-winded and ennervating fashion, well, it could be argued that’s only an accurate reflection of Maisie’s experience. But it’s also an incredibly alienating choice of characterisation, particularly in light of the later strong hints that Dom is not oblivious, that he knows how Maisie feels and is trying his best to be there for her. Maisie’s inability to look up — to see the bigger picture that Cusk reminds us is there, to see the way out of the situation she has created for herself — is, deliberately, infuriating; deliberately pushes us away from sympathy.

The same tension is there with almost every other character. All of them have been trapped, largely by their own choices, into a comfortable life they now chafe against. Some of them despair, some of them have perfected almost Stockholm Syndrome levels of doublethink. But none of them are glossed. All of them come with warts. Amanda’s morbid thoughts are numbing; the rather touching relationship that Solly starts to develop with her lodger, Paola, is soured by the casually racist assumptions she makes when advertising the vacancy. (She advertises for “a foreigner”, because disruptive children underfoot “won’t seem so bad” to them, 114.) The most thoroughly ambiguous character is perhaps Juliet Randall. She nurtures a deep feminist anger about her life, and about what she sees as the casual way in which her husband “[runs] off their joint life as if it were a generator fuelled by [her]” (11), yet never actually does anything about it — never screams out at the pain caused by the world-machine; never, for instance, even talks to her husband about it — and draws only the most extreme conclusions. “All men are murderers … They take a woman, and little by little they murder her.” (It crossed my mind that the confluence of the initials “JR” and this level of anger may not be a coincidence, may be a nod to Joanna Russ and The Female Man, in which all the characters, including a domestically-trapped one are JRs; but if it is a nod, I can’t help feeling it’s a somewhat ambivalent one.) Juliet’s “secret life” is the literary club she runs, one Friday afternoon a month, at the school where she works part-time. Her passion for this part of her life is admirable; her didacticism perhaps a little less so. “They were meant to select the book for the next month’s discussion by committee,” we are told, “but unrepentantly Juliet steered them towards works that represented the truth, as she saw it, of female experience” (154). It’s hard not to feel that Juliet is treating literature, and the reading group, as an echo chamber, seeking validation for her anger, rather than taking the opportunity to look out at the wide world, to see what others have seen. There is a suggestion, late on, that she realises this, that she is going to at last do something to improve her life; but here, unlike with Maisie, Cusk’s characterisation failed me: it’s hard to believe that Juliet really has woken from the nightmare of her life.

This may all sound a little second-hand: it may be meant to. Everything in Arlington Park echoes; everything carries the sense that it has happened before, and will happen again. There’s even a moment of admiration for a plastic bag tormented by gusts of wind, American Beauty-style, although no reference to Desperate Housewives. When Christine, at a coffee morning hosted by Amanda (and deftly choreographed by Cusk, given the number of characters present), exclaims “It’s not what you’d think, it it? I say to Joe, look, it can get really heavy on a coffee morning, you don’t believe me but it can” (70), the reader’s immediate response (or at least, my immediate response) is: oh, it’s exactly what I’d think. Ersatz conversations about ersatz lives. Sure enough, Christine’s relentless positivity (tainted, once again, by various stripes of bigotry) is revealed as something, well, a little more desperate: she feels “the vulnerability of her grasp on the real, the authentic life” (81), except that — oh, black black humour — her version of “the authentic life” is Arlington Park. Christine lives with “dread, the terror of falling into shadow, of going back to where she’d been before” (214-5), and her apparent optimism, which is at first nakedly ridiculous — she claims “the people I see [in Arlington Park] every day are the most diverse, interesting, courageous group of people you’ll find anywhere!”, when everything in the book indicates the opposite — gradually becomes something more tragic. She may not believe in herself, but she believes in her friends, in their lives, in their happiness, or forces herself to believe, and she’s damned if she’s going to disappoint them.

Christine perhaps has more in common with Juliet and Maisie than any of them would suspect (if only they would talk!), or perhaps has just fallen further. They are a category after all, even if divided: all of them are worn down by a daily grind and the resentment it inspires, all of them come to know, to a greater or less extent, that there is more out there, even if it doesn’t know or care about them. Christine’s epiphany, which crowns the novel, actually has some force, despite its drunken belatedness. “You’ve got to love life,” she confides to Benedict, at the party, “You’ve got to love just — being alive.” “But how will anyone know you loved it?” he asks, and Christine replies, with pathetic truth, “Why would anyone need to know that?” (237) If Arlington Park is less than the sum of its parts — and it is; you may have noticed I’ve said almost nothing about Amanda and Solly, and there’s a reason for that — then some of the parts do justify the whole, just about. But it’s a curious experience. We look up from the last page frustrated and fascinated, wanting to scream, both at these women and on their behalf; but, like them, we are too tired.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Ursula Le Guin is two for two. It was her review of Jan Morris’ Hav that first pointed me in the direction of that wonderful book; and likewise her review that persuaded me to add Xiaolu Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which turns out to be nearly as good, to my wish-list. It is, of course, a love story, between a young Chinese woman and an older English man. 23 year-old Zhaung Xiao Qiao arrives in the UK one February (2003, I think), nervous and alone, fearing the future, to learn English at a school in Holburn, hardly even understanding why her parents have sent her. A little over a month into her stay she meets a man at a cinema in South Kensington, falls easily and comprehensively in love, and as a result of a miscommunication ends up moving in with him. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is Z’s story over the following year, up to the point where her visa expires. It’s presented as a diary-stroke-language-notebook; Z carries with her a Chinese-English dictionary, and later, a Collins Concise English Dictionary, at all times, and often refers to them in her attempts to understand and describe the world around her. Chapter headings (e.g. “romance”) are taken from the latter, with accompanying definitions (“fantasy, fiction, legend, novel, story, tale; exaggeration, falsehood, lie; ballad, idyll, song”), and the whole thing is written in the second person, addressed to the never-named man.

Which inevitably means that the most immediate thing about the book is the language in which it’s written. Here, for example, is part of Z’s first encounter with a full English breakfast:

What is this ‘baked beans’? White colour beans, in orange sticky sweet sauce. I see some baked bean tins in shop when I arrive to London yesterday. Tin food is very expensive to China. Also we not knowing how to open it. So I never ever try tin food. Here, right in front of me, this baked beans must be very expensive. Delicacy is baked beans. Only problem is, tastes like somebody put beans into mouth but spit out and back into plate. (17)

I concede this is probably the prose equivalent of Marmite, but I love it: particularly the innocent directness, the seeing-for-the-first-time-ness of it. Leaving aside the question of taste for a moment, however, there might also seem to be a question of authenticity. On the one hand, the artifice of this sort of writing, bad in very specific ways, is obvious: for example, it’s hard to believe that Z’s grammar would be so bad while her spelling is impeccable (although a few artfully misheard nouns are dropped into the text every so often — “rocksack”, “peterfile”). On the other hand, the book apparently grew out of a diary Guo herself kept when she moved to London (Concise Dictionary is her first novel to be written in English, although her seventh in total), which raises various questions but does at least suggest that the portrayal of the learning process is likely to be accurate. And an aspect that may seem the most contrived — the present tense; bear in mind that these are not Z’s thoughts as she is having them, they are entries written later in her notebook — is a consequence of incompletely translating Chinese thought into English. “Chinese, we not having grammar,” Z explains. “We saying things simple way. No verb-change usage, no tense differences, no gender changes. We bosses of our language” (24). The fact that Guo conveys the difficulties of translation so lightly is one of the most impressive things about the book, for me, and I think you have to respect at least that, even if you find Z’s voice to be nails-down-chalkboard grating. She does, of course, learn over the course of the year, but her position as a naive teller of truths never changes. This, for instance, is another breakfast, in Berlin:

The early morning air feels cold, like autumn coming. Occasionally, one or two old mans in a long coats walk aimlessly in the street, with the cigarettes in their lips. Under the highway there is bridge. By the bridge there is a sausage shop, lots of large mans queue there to get hot sausages. Gosh, they eat purely sausage in the morning! Even worse than English Breakfast. The morning wind is washing my brain, and my small body. This is a city with something really heavy and serious in its soul. This is a city which had big wars in the history. And, I feel, this is a city made for mans, and politics, and disciplines. Like Beijing. (218)

Again, it’s characteristic of Z’s writing — the fresh phrases that seem careless (“The morning wind is washing my brain”), the odd but valid word choices (“Gosh”), the unabashedly obvious observations (“This is a city which had big wars in the history”). There is something memorable on nearly every page of the book. Walking home one night, Z observes that “Also, the robbers robbing the people even poorer than them. In China we believe ‘rob the rich to feed the poor’. But robbers here have no poetry” (42). They may not, but Z does – the poetry of an acute observer, plain in everything from her descriptions of a pub to her consternation on discovering that her man is a vegetarian, to her reaction to a David Lynch double bill. In a number of ways, Z is not an easy character to love — apart from anything else, she is stubborn, and rude – but she is always sharply aware and, at least from a reader’s remove, inescapably charming.

Which is not to imply that this is always a comfortable book, though it is one with an extremely generous view of human nature (certainly in contrast to, oh I don’t know, The Inheritance of Loss). By far the majority of the people Z encounters are good-hearted, even if they sometimes can’t resist teasing her; only twice, during a solo jaunt around Europe, does she encounter someone who tries to take advantage of her, and while the encounters are unpleasant, they are not irretrievably horrific. And if Z is frequently baffled by the world she finds around her, she is not intimidated by it. In fact, she is often indignant in the face of it. “English is a sexist language … always talking about mans, no womans” (26), she observes — although despite this awareness her view of what constitutes a relationship is extremely conservative (at least in our terms; more on this below). Moreover, she’s always conscious of the distance between herself and her man: “You a man of free world. I am not free, like you” (113); “In the West, in this country, I am barbarian, illiterate peasant girl, a face of third world, and irresponsible foreigner” (153); “You are boss of yourself, so you have dignity” (184). Strung together like that, such moments look obtrusive, but in fact they are more often grace notes to scenes about other things. Which is to say that they describe the reality of Z’s life — we’re put in her man’s shoes; we can’t ignore what she says — but not the extent of it. (Again, the contrast with Desai’s novel couldn’t be more striking.)

The fear at the heart of such worries, though, inevitably informs her relationship. Here we come back to love. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is built around a distinction expressed with particular elegance, to my mind, in KJ Bishop’s The Etched City, between love that exists “as a mutal sentiment or not at all” and implies “a voluntary blending of identities”, and love that denotes “two travellers meeting, enjoying each other’s company, then parting and moving on.” Z and her man do love, with joy and vigour, but — it becomes increasingly clear — in different ways, ways that have an awful lot to do with their differing backgrounds. To Z, love is a mutual act, a commitment that abolishes privacy and (for example) entitles her to read her man’s diaries, and enables her to blithely tell him that she’s done so. Love is about creating a home, a family, and a future: the three are inextricably related, aspects of an incompletely translated cultural inheritance, and lead to the conservatism I mentioned earlier. Love as security, as community. But the man Z has fallen in love with is more casual — as Z notes, he can afford to be. He is something of a bohemian, an artist who’s drifted through his life believing “the future only comes when it comes”, that nothing is forever; he values his independence. To him, love is about the preciousness of the present moment, not the promise of the future.

In other words, the lovers occupy positions opposite to those staked out by their native languages, an irony that defines their relationship. Z is so engaging that we badly want to see her grow into a more complete sense of self: but we fear that in doing so she will almost certainly doom her relationship, despite the fact that said relationship is the original catalyst for her growth. In fact it is specifically the physical relationship that is the catalyst. Z’s descriptions of sex, whether going right or going wrong, are as refreshingly matter-of-fact as her descriptions of everything else; and though her initial understanding, both of the act and the emotional paraphernalia it requires, is limited, she’s a quick study. She goes to a peep show, and has a lot of sex with her lover, and starts to explore her own body, and along the way she begins to believe in her own independence. More and more, this (as we feared it might) hems her into an absurd, uplifting, heartbreaking paradox: a catch-22 of love. Almost miraculously, Guo finds an honest resolution — one good enough that the other books shortlisted for the Orange Prize are going to have to go some if they want to replace A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers in my affections.

Moar Futures

A comment on an old post that may be of interest:

Futures is the award-winning science-fiction section of Nature, now currently running in Nature’s monthly sister title, Nature Physics.

In response to public demand, Futures will be returning to Nature in September 2007 as a weekly back-page feature, as well as continuing each month in Nature Physics. The Futures column in each journal will forge its own identity: a story in one journal will not be reprinted in the other, although authors are free to express a preference and choose for which journal their story should be considered.

Although contributions are sometimes commissioned, unsolicited stories are welcome for both journals. Each story should be an entirely fictional, self-contained piece between 850-950 words in length, and the genre should, broadly speaking, be ‘hard’ (that is, ’scientific’ SF) rather than, say, outright fantasy, slipstream or horror.

Each item should be sent as a Word (.doc) attachment to futures@nature.com, giving full contact details along with a brief (approximately 30-word) autobiographical squib that could be appended to the story if published. Unsolicited artwork is not considered. Presubmission enquiries are discouraged: instead, prospective authors are advised to read earlier Futures stories in Nature, Nature Physics and selected examples available for free at http://www.concatenation.org/futuresindex.html.

Authors whose stories are published in Nature or Nature Physics will be paid at the same rate irrespective of journal. The payment is commensurate with the brevity of the stories and is probably enough for a meal for two (with wine) at an establishment whose modesty will correlate either directly or inversely with the current sterling-dollar exchange rate, depending on the location of the restaurant. Publication is also subject to signature of a Nature Publishing Group author agreement, terms of which are often negotiable, and specimens of which can be seen on request.

Should you have read as far as this, you might be interested to learn that Futures from Nature, an anthology of 100 past Futures stories, will be published by Tor this November, and can now be ordered from any reputable online bookstore.

This is a public announcement which you are encouraged to disseminate as widely as you see fit.

Dr Henry Gee
Senior Editor, Nature

You know, this may not be a particularly notable year for single-author collections [*], but between this, Interfictions, Logorrhea, The SFWA European Hall of Fame, the Kessel/Kelly Rewired, Glorifying Terrorism and Fast Forward, it’s looking like a fine year for anthologies.

[*] Inevitably I’m now starting to think of books I want to read: David Marusek’s Getting To Know You, Vandana Singh’s The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories, Ellen Klages’ Portable Childhoods, Kelley Eskridge’s Dangerous Space, and Lucius Shepard’s Dagger Key, for starters. And is Paolo Bacigalupi’s collection coming out this year?

Scalpel

Scalpel magazine, a new venue for sf criticism, launches today. First issue includes a guest editorial by Pat Cadigan, a column by Adam Roberts, an interview with Charles Stross, and reviews of Ink by Hal Duncan, The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang, and Gradisil by Adam Roberts. The RSS feed is here (or if you prefer, the livejournal feed is here), and a forum for feedback is here.

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