Me @ WFC

Just a head’s up about what’s going on at World Fantasy in a week.  If you’re at the con, or just in the Columbus area, you might want to check these out:

Friday, Oct 29, at 10pm – 1am, join me and authors Lucy A. Snyder, Gary A. Braunbeck, Linda Robertson, Laura Bickle, Maurice Broaddus, Melissa Long, Seressia Glass, and editor Jason Sizemore for an urban fantasy themed party at the WFC convention! (Info on Facebook here.)  There will be booze and cookies.

Saturday, Oct 30, at 11am-1pm, I will be at a humongous mass author signing at the OSU Campus Bookstore 1598 N. High Street, Columbus, OH, 43201.  This is open to the public, so if you’re in the area stop by even if you aren’t attending WFC.  (Facebook info here.)

How humongous is it?  Here’s a list of attendees:

  1. Ari Berk
  2. Beth Bernobich
  3. C.L. Wilson
  4. Carol Berg
  5. Catherynne Valente
  6. Cinda Chima
  7. Dan Wells
  8. Darrell Schweitzer
  9. Dave Sakmyster
  10. Delia Sherman
  11. Elizabeth Vaughan
  12. Ellen Klages
  13. Ellen Kushner
  14. James Enge
  15. Jess Granger
  16. Jim Hines
  17. Joe Haldeman
  18. John (J.A.) Pitts
  19. Laura Bickle / Alayna Williams
  20. Laura Resnick
  21. Linda Robertson
  22. Lucy Snyder
  23. Marie Brennan
  24. Mary Robinette Kowal
  25. M K Hobson
  26. Paige Cuccaro / Alison Paige
  27. S. Andrew Swann
  28. S. L. Farrell (aka Stephen Leigh)
  29. Sam Sykes
  30. Seressia Glass

Hope to see people there.

Memorable Anti-Heroes @ SF Signal

I have been mind-melded again over at SF Signal, and the theme this time is memorable anti-heroes in S/SF:

Here are three of the most memorable anti-heroes in written SF/F, at least the three that come most readily to my mind when the question comes up.

First is Slippery Jim DiGriz of the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison. He is the classic example of the lovable rogue, a criminal who is more or less tricked into working for the good guys. Con-man, interplanetary criminal, smooth-talking and charming, and aside from drawing the line at killing people, he’s pretty much without a moral compass at all. In fact, in one of the early books, he goes into a long expository explanation of how robbing a bank is actually a perfectly fine thing to do.

Second we have Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock. If you want memorable, this guy is memorable. In fact, in the whole cannon of SF/F literature, Elric is one of the few characters where the word “unique” is an accurate description. A physical weakling, an albino who needs to take drugs to maintain his strength, emperor of a dying civilization; Elric is not just an anti-hero, he is pretty much the antithesis of any other typical sword and sorcery character. In any other fantasy series, Elric would be the antagonist (and he’d be a bitching one.) He also carries around possibly one of the nastier artifacts created in fantasy fiction.

Lastly, we have Severian from the Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The world he inhabits is strange and fascinating, and he is a rather dark guide. In a genre where there are sympathetic assassins galore, here we have a guy who tortures people as a vocation, and who’s point of disgrace is when he allows one of his victims to kill themselves. That’s kind of hard-core. Also carries a kick-ass sword.

Read the other contributions here.

Myth and Asshats

So rarely does the universe provide such an enlightening conflation of shallow facile consensus political wisdom, along with elitist literary snobbery as we have in this column by Maureen Dowd.  Dowd has gotten the memo, that Christine O’Donnell is the designated political chew toy for this political cycle.  O’Donnell is the acceptable target.  After all, she was the idiot who spoke aloud some doctrinaire religious ideas about sex on MTV when she was in her twenties, and had the bad sense to admit to Bill Maher that she dated a neo-pagan in high school.   But, you see, Ms. Dowd is a writer, and a writer needs a theme.  So what original aspects of designated clown O’Donnel does she decide to make fun of this time?

The fact that she likes Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Really.  This is cause for her to question someone’s mental stability and connection to reality, the fact that O’Donnell decides to praise one of the major writers of the 20th century for his treatment of women.

“Look at the significance that he gives to Eowyn, the Lady of Rohan,” O’Donnell said on C-Span in 2003. “She was a warrior spirit and, to me, that’s who I love. I mean, I aspire to be soft and gentle like Arwen, but realistically, I’m a fighter, like Eowyn.”

O’Donnell said she liked Tolkien’s outlook on gender: “On the one hand, there’s the attitude that’s normally on the conservative side — as a conservative woman, I feel I can say this — that stifles women. There’s almost the stereotypical attitude of, to be a true woman, you have to stay at home. And I’ve actually had people say to me, ‘Why do you choose a career over marriage?’ Honestly, I’ve had only a few significant relationships, and they’ve broken up with me. And one of the things I’ve been told is, ‘If you weren’t so strong, you’d be married by now.’ ”

That passage is apparently worthy of Dowd’s mockery, more so than O’Donnell’s views on masturbation.  (Which my wife has had a field day with.  And which, in the video I saw, had a lot in common with a Playboy interview with a certain infamous ex-president, including use of similar language.  Of course, given the results of that guy’s election, it probably is a disqualification on its face.)  Apparently, if you are a fantasy geek of any stripe, you need not apply to the hollowed halls of seriousness that admitted this guy.

Worse, she decides to bring up C. S. Lewis:

“We’re rowdy, we’re passionate,” she told the enraptured crowd. “It reminds me of the C. S. Lewis Narnia books, where the little girl asks someone about Aslan the lion, who represents God, and she says with a little concern over such a fearsome lion, ‘Is he safe?’ And her friend says, ‘Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’ ”

Yep, that disqualifies her right there.

You know, in policy terms I probably have as as little in common with Christine O’Donnell as I do with Charlie Rangel. And I agree with all of the critiques of her on tactical grounds, as the woman has had a colorful history, and a lot of it has been in front of the TV cameras. I agree on a lot of the critiques of her on policy grounds.  (As opposed to the knee jerk critiques of her because of her scary religious background. Please remember the guy who first popularized the term “lust in my heart” during a political campaign.)  But just because you’ve decided to professionally despise the woman does not mean that dissing both Tolkien and C.S.Lewis does not make you a prime asshat.

And by the way, the above thesis was so frighteningly thin that Ms. Dowd had to downshift midway into the article and and start talking about how Obama is the first African-American President and those Tea-Party people are all mostly white. Thanks for the stunning original insight, I have been waiting with baited breath for someone to come up with that analysis.

Lastly, you don’t get to use the phrase, “We the People in the Ruling Class Elites do think O’Donnell comes across as alarmingly loopy,” in an ironic fashion unless there are actually people out there that think you are part of the “Ruling Class Elite,” and after viewing the drainage from this intellectual abscess,  I think everyone is only looking on with sad bemusement.

A Webcomic you should follow

Gunnerkrigg Court: If you took Harry Potter, tossed it a blender with some of Girl Genius and some Neil Gaiman, you’d end up with something in the same genre as this.  The story goes from cute, to creepy to heartwarming in the space of a couple of panels.  And, if you pay attention, everything that seems to be arbitrary weirdness (and oh, is there weirdness) does eventually get an explanation.  You have to love a story about an English boarding school where Coyote (yes, THE Coyote) is a major player and this guy is the heroine’s sidekick.

Me, elsewhere

I melded my mind on the SF Signal blog again. My contribution re: underrated fantasy series:

Ok, I’m going to cheat a little here, because there was once a time when if you were talking a fantasy series, you were not talking “novels.” From the pulps up through the 1970s, if you were talking a series of anything, you were likely talking about short stories published in the genre magazines. And, if you’re talking overlooked work today, that whole class of fiction — from Jirel of Joiry, to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — is probably almost unknown to most of today’s readers. Which is a shame, because much of what appears in print today draws its inspiration from this early stuff, directly or indirectly. And I’d like to draw attention to someone who may be to gritty noir urban fantasy what Tolkien is to the grand high-fantasy epic, and probably no one reading this knows who he is.

The author is Seabury Quinn, and the series is about occult detective Jules de Grandin. These stories, which began appearing in Weird Tales in the mid 1920s, featured an investigator who’s been called “the occult Hercule Poirot,” and were incredibly popular at the time. Popular enough that reader polls consistently had him beating such now-better-known notables as H.P.Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and C.L.Moore. And, throughout the pulp era, Quinn had more stories published than any other contributor. One-hundred-forty-nine stories between 1925 and 1951. (At least in words, more than enough to fulfill the three “novel” requirement.) While he may not have been as stellar an author as his contemporaries, his pair of occult detectives presages the X-Files, the Dresden Books, and any number of modern titles where we find the mixture of genre mystery or police procedural tropes with the supernatural in a modern setting.

Go read everyone else.

Help save Realms of Fantasy

You may have heard that Realms of Fantasy is marked for death right now.  However, there is an on-line community attempting to save it.  I joined up on Facebook, and here is a message from the people running the effort:

Subject: Blog to Save Realms!!

Dear Save Realms members,

Thank you for joining us. We’re off to a promising start with over 300 members in just five days. Now it’s time to up the ante. In order to gather enough support to save our beloved mag, we have to get the word out in a big way. That means blogging. Continue reading “Help save Realms of Fantasy”

And the title is:

Pending confirmation from DAW, the title is going to be either:

  • Journalists and Dragons: Stories of the Cleveland Portal


  • Journalists, Dragons and Dwarves: Stories of the Cleveland Portal

I think I’m more partial to the second one.

UPDATE: Sheila didn’t like the word “Journalist” so the title will be:

  • Dragons and Dwarves: Stories of the Cleveland Portal

Titles again


The good news is that DAW’s going to re-issue my two Cleveland Portal novels, Dragons of the Cuyahoga and Dwarves of Whiskey Island in an omnibus edition due out August 2009. W000t!

The bad news, Sheila at DAW told me this yesterday, and she needs me to give her a title for the thing by Tuesday. And if you’ve followed my agonizing over the title for Lilly’s Song, you know this is a bit of a tight deadline for me… At least for a title.

Wish me luck.

Writing women

I just noticed, about 25% of the way into Heretics, that suddenly most of the story is being told from the POV of various female characters.  Compare this to Prophets, where the first major female character doesn’t show up until nearly that late and she isn’t a POV character, at least not until a fair bit later.

I don’t know if I’m making a point here, other than perhaps the fact that even though we’re in a place now where a female VP candidate can freak everyone out more for her politics than her gender, we still have a situation where it feels unusual to have a majority female POV in a SF story that is otherwise not trying to make any points about gender politics.  We have plenty of strong female protagonists out there, but often they’re living in the same male-dominated universes that their male action-hero ancestors resided in.

Just a thought.

Also, related, while I’m a bit late to this particular party, I did want to mention my current favorite female character in the genre is Agatha Heterodyne, the titular character of Girl Genius, a comic series by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Been going on since 2000, won a buttload of awards, and is all online here.

Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne

It is the story of a young woman’s journey from ingenue to mad scientist who’s bent on world domination– largely to keep the male mad scientists from stalking her, using her for experiments, or exploiting her family’s lineage. Not only is it great because Agatha is never the typical damsel in distress (her distress is often caused by people trying to save her) her smarts are more than an informed attribute (she doesn’t just make reality-distorting coffee machines, but actually out-thinks a lot of her opposition) and she still manages to come across as feminine, even when she’s up to her armpits in grease.