Thursday, September 30, 2010

UFOs behind the perception filter, SFOO growing

The National Press Club held a news conference Monday on eyewitness accounts of UFO activity around nuclear missile sites.

My husband sent me a NPC link, which had no links to the conference, so I googled for it. This was the next day, and I found nothing. How weird is that? Admittedly, I was busy and didn't persist for long, but it should have been at the top of the heap. I'm not one for conspiracy theories and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about UFOs or the possibility of intelligent life out there among the stars. Or hovering over our planet. And I'm a sci-fi writer!

Why did the press conference get buried? Why don't we think about UFOs more?

I have a theory. First of all, if all the eye witness testimony is false, if there really are no ETs, well, wouldn't we look stupid for being taken in by another hoax? We hate being duped. On the other hand, if they're real, what then? What can we possibly do about it? What defense could we possibly have that could compete with an intelligent species that has achieved space travel and is able to observe us for so long without interference? If they're hostile, it's just all over. It's just too scary. We don't like feeling vulnerable. It's like the perception filter on Dr. Who. Our eyes slide away. We can't see the evidence in front of us. We don't want to.

If they're not hostile, well, we can try to find them and communicate with them. But who represents our world? What do we say? As Robert Hastings pointed out in the conference, they may not want to interfere. Maybe they have something akin to the prime directive. Maybe we're just being observed by scientists as interesting specimens for study.

The former USAF officers and other professionals delivering testimony in the news conference believe that these extraterrestrials, or perhaps people from another dimension, may be sending us a warning to steer clear of nuclear weapons. That other dimension theory is interesting. What about from another time? Could it be humans from our future in which we have to flee our planet after destroying it with nukes?

SFGate has a lot of links, including a video of the press conference. I highly recommend watching it. You can also check out UFO Digest's report.

In the advances in science column, imagine paralyzed limbs able to move again because of light! Check out Light stimulation could restore movement to paralyzed limbs over at Gizmag. And NASA is working on a new launch system.

My review of Android Karenina is now available at Mostly Fiction.

I wrote a flash memoir (using my way-back machine) for our local YWCA's Changing Hurt to Hope program and will be reading it on one to three Fridays in October. Writing that piece was hard, but healing. It's only three pages, but it felt like thirty. My hope is that it will help someone else still struggling in the cycle of abuse. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys is climbing in ranking all the time. I'm currently interviewing staff bloggers to help me keep the content going. One feature I will be introducing is small press and self-published sf book reviews. We're talking slush pile here. But if I have reviewers wading through the slush, they're bound to find a gem or two. I would also like to have Indie and feature film reviews. Since both hold their screenings and premieres in NY, LA and generally where I'm not, having staff bloggers in those cities can make those reviews happen.

In addition, I'm seeking a SF news blogger who can devote more time to bringing you the best and most current sf news. If any of my readers are interested in helping out or know someone who might be interested, shoot me an email. I can only pay in free books, passes to advanced screenings and exposure. Staff members will have their pic and profile in the blog's right-hand column or possibly on an About Us page.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mid-week sf miscellaneous

This is kind of old news, but it escaped my notice at the time. The British Fantasy Society's 2010 British Fantasy Awards Winners.

And looking to the North (at least from where I'm sitting), we have the 2010 Sunburst Awards Winners.

Literary agent and champion for science fiction and fantasy Ralph M. Vicinanza died suddenly of an cerebral aneurysm on Saturday. Read more at Locus.

I'm still getting lists sent my way. Here's one for Futurama fans: 10 Futurama Inventions That Should Be Real.

Here's a list of "10 Essential Works of Transhumanist Fiction". What I want to know is why Peter F. Hamilton's Void trilogy isn't listed. My review of The Evolutionary Void, the last in the trilogy will appear soon at Mostly Fiction. For now, let me say, Wow! Encore! Give me more!

As the premiere of JIM approaches (Oct. 8 in NY and Oct. 15 in LA), here's another clip and a facebook application.

video

JIM LORIGEN GENE MASHER APPLICATION

About Lorigen Gene Masher
The Lorigen Gene Masher offers a fun way to see what you would look like composited with your friends. The Lorigen Gene Masher is presented by "Jim", a new film by Jeremy Morris-Burke.

To watch the trailer and find out more about JIM visit http://www.jimthefilm.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Indie Film Friday - IFC Midnight - BOO!

IFC Midnight features genre films. They sent me some trailers for films that are upcoming or available on-demand now. The trailer for The Human Centipede II was just the creator walking in a parking garage with his voice narrating rather than him actually talking. Not much to see or hear, but from the interview that follows, it sounds pretty gross: a mad doctor sews people together head to but - twelve of them. I can most definitely live without it.

The other movies are all edge of your seat horror. I wish they'd actually include science fiction like they say they do, but these start with a standard plot - young men and women trapped in the wilderness with "it" or young outcast gets powers and must save the world, but can't save his soul - but they go way beyond the formulas and the acting, from what I can tell on the trailers, is not bad at all. These are all available On Demand right now as part of IFC's fantasticfest.



HEARTLESS is the tale of a man with a birthmark across his face. For a chance to have a normal face, and what he thinks will be a normal life to follow, he makes a deal that he soon regrets. Neighborhood thugs are not human and only he can see them for what they truly are. He is called upon to kill. His happy-ever-after turns into a nightmare. Sneak Preview is available now on-demand. It hits theaters in November.

PRIMAL begins with a group of young people exploring ancient places in a remote area of Australia. Something finds them before they find it, transforming them one by one into vicious killers with lots of pointy teeth.
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In HIGH LANE, a group of young hikers unknowingly encroaches on a killer's territory.

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RED, WHITE & BLUE features Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Amanda Fuller who plays an emotionally wounded nymphomaniac who meets a mysterious Iraq Vet who doesn't want to immediately jump in bed with her. When one of her past lovers comes back things go as far south as they can get. This is by far the goriest.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

New RPG, antho cover art and other assorted goodies

Jennifer Brozek may have helped write the RPG you're playing. The latest to release is Savage Mojo's Shanghai Vampocalypse. "If one vampire is a monster, eight million is an apocalypse."

She's also editor of the anthology, Beauty Has Her Way. My story, "Trapped Star", is included. ;) The antho hasn't release yet, but check out the cool cover art. (UPDATE!) Forgot to mention who the artist is. How dare I? It's Alina Pete, artist, writer and creator of the Webcomic Weregeek.



She also edits The Edge of Propinquity ezine, which has updated its guidelines.

In other media news, Jim premieres on Oct. 8th in NY and Oct. 15 in LA.

Jim is convinced by a vision of his deceased wife to create rather than destroy (He'd been contemplating an act of unspeakable violence.) He wants more for the child he creates with his wife's frozen eggs and the help of a biotech firm.

Jim is connected via dreams to a worker clone with reason and empathy (traits not endowed by its creator) in a super-industrialized, post-human Earth, which causes problems for the evil emperor.

Here's a preview of the movie Jim.

Meanwhile, in the present, designer babies are a reality in Thailand. Check out this clip on CNN.

If you like sophomoric humor, and zombies, vampires and ghosts, Comedy Central's Ugly Americans is starting its new season October 6 at 10:30 PM.


Personally, I prefer BBC America's Being Human.






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Kij Johnson - author, teacher and rock climber


(photo by Beth Gwinn)
Kij Johnson is one busy author. Busy following her passions. I'm so thrilled that she took the time to talk to me (and by extension, all of you). She's an award winning spec-fic author, writing teacher, rock climber and student. Her thesis, of course, is a novel.

AW: I'm guessing you have been writing since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Has it always been science fiction?

KJ: Nope. I didn’t start writing fiction until I was 25, when I took a Continuing Ed class to fill some free time. I did read with the obsessive focus only young people can have, a book or more a day for years that led into decades. I read every genre (except mundane realism, which I could never see the appeal of), but my first stories were mostly horror. Who knew? I kept diaries with the same obsessiveness, but they really were mundane, mostly pining over boys.

AW: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you won your first award?

KJ: That would be the Theodore Sturgeon Award, from the Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1994. The award is given at the Campbell Conference, held at the University of Kansas each July. Winners are brought in for the Conference, so they – almost -- always know ahead of time. I was in Lawrence in 1994, sitting in for the first time on James Gunn’s science fiction workshop as suggested by someone I had worked with at Tor. My plan was to fly out on Friday night, after the workshop ended and just as the conference started. I mentioned this after one of the classes to Jim, who was also the award administrator. He invited me to his office and urged me to stay, making a convincing pitch for how good the conference would be, but I stayed firm: I already had the plane tickets and couldn’t afford to change them. After half an hour, he sighed slightly and said, “Well, I was hoping not to tell you until the banquet Friday night. I would like you to stay because you have won this year’s Sturgeon Award.”

I stayed. It’s a good thing that I heard about it ahead of time in any case. I had very low blood pressure, and if they had surprised me, I would have leapt up and in all likelihood fallen over in a dead faint.

AW: You write, teach and have been in various editing positions. How does each of those jobs compliment one another and what do you enjoy most about each?

KJ: At their best: Writing is being clever in front of a page. Teaching is being clever in front of people. Editing is helping other people look clever. I teeter between extrovert and introvert, and teaching and writing teeter there with me. If I can’t teach, I find it harder to write.

AW: What was the most serendipitous thing that's happened to you in your writing career?

KJ: At Clarion West in 1987, I struck up a friendship with one of the other students, Gordon Van Gelder, at that point a mere undergraduate student. I called Gordon when I moved to New York City a few years later and asked if he knew of any jobs in publishing. He was at St. Martin’s Press by then: yes, there was a position as assistant managing editor at Tor Books. A month later, after a series of unlikely events, I was managing editor for one of the major science-fiction houses. I had already sold a fair number of short stories, so I presume I would have had a writing career anyway, but Tor led to my jobs at Dark Horse Comics and Wizards of the Coast/TSR, and my work on the Microsoft Reader. It also led to my meeting James Gunn, which led to my teaching and many other wonderful things in my life.

Hanging out with a soon-to-be-important editor when he’s just a fellow student at your Clarion West is not a universally applicable strategy.

AW: How does your writing career differ from what you imagined it to be ten years ago?

KJ: That would be 2000. The Fox Woman had just come out, and it had just won the IAFA’s Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel. I was in transition from full-time jobs that I loved (and which therefore took all my time) to taking some time off to write. I thought then that writing full-time was worth exploring, and in the long run I suppose it was, since that’s how I finished Fudoki.

I didn’t have a strategic plan, except to write more short stories, and to finish three books set in Heian Japan (or thereabouts). Like everyone, I wanted to be critically acclaimed and win awards and get rich, but that’s not exactly a plan, to my mind.

At that point, I had no idea that teaching would become as important to me as it is. I had taught a couple of writing classes at Louisiana State University in 1994-1995, but the novel workshop, my teaching at KU, and grad school were all unimagined then.

AW: Do deadlines energize you or fill you with dread?

KJ: Deadlines are a spur if they’re attainable, but so much depends on my state at the moment. If I have energy, I love them because they keep me writing instead of doing all the other cool things that having energy permits.

AW: What are you working on now?

KJ: I am now in grad school, so I am working on all sorts of very quirky things. At the moment? A blank-verse Canterbury Tale, more or less in a medieval voice. This is kicking my butt and it will never, ever sell, but I can’t stop working on it. I’ll have to put it up on my webpage, next to the equally pointless but fun-to-write Tristram Shandy story I did a few years ago. Some day I will have an entire collection of pointless period pieces.

More generally, a novel and a couple of short stories.


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Friday, September 10, 2010

Editor Ellen Datlow, Anthology Queen


As promised, meet Ellen Datlow, editor of numerous anthologies, winner of almost as many awards and champion of excellent speculative fiction in all its various genres. Last weekend, she won --and not for the first time -- a Hugo for Best Editor - Short Fiction.

AW: You are, without a doubt, the Anthology Queen. How many have you edited now? What do you think is the secret to your success?

ED: I’ve lost count, but I’ve edited 21 YBFH [Year's Best Fantasy and Horror] and two Best Horror reprint anthologies so that’s 23 right there. I only propose anthologies on themes in which I have an interest. If I don’t feel strongly about something I’m editing I couldn’t do a good job. As an editor I buy the stories that I love—I entertain myself first and hopefully my taste coincides with the readers’. Some of my anthologies sell better than others. I don’t believe it’s a difference in quality but what hits the zeitgeist at the right time. I’ve anthologies about which I felt very strongly that sold terribly but I’m still glad I was able to sell and edit them (although the publishers might not have felt that way).

AW: SciFiction was a treasure trove. Do you see yourself ever getting involved with an online magazine again? What were the greatest challenges?

ED: Thanks. Sure, if I was offered a job. However, the weekly aspect of online webzines is exhausting and I’d hope that if I worked on a webzine again I’d have a managing editor and someone to assist me more. Buying and editing the fiction, doing all the administration, working with the copy editor and proofreader and the in-house production department is a lot for one person.

AW: You are tied, with co-editor Terri Windling, as the recipient of the most World Fantasy Awards in the organization's history. Your list of horror awards is becoming equally impressive. And more recently, you won, once again, the Hugo for Best Editor - Short Fiction. You seem at home in all three genres. Which is your favorite and why?

ED: I love all three equally. In fact, I’d love to sell more mixed-genre anthologies like The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy—I love working on more than one project at a time—often in different genres—I can refresh my palate by spending a certain amount of time reading submissions in sf/fantasy, or horror.

AW: Which of your anthologies is nearest and dearest to your heart and why?

ED: That would be like picking one favorite child over another, although I probably love my solo anthologies more than my collaborations as they’re exclusively my taste—no compromise.

AW: How does your career differ from what you imagined it would be going in? If you had your own personal time machine, would you go back and change anything?

ED: I had no idea how much I would enjoy my career. I feel lucky to have fallen into the best job in the world, doing exactly what I love doing. I would change nothing.

AW: What are your three biggest pet peeves regarding short fiction writing?

ED: Sloppy writing will stop me dead. I don’t think of this as a pet peeve but a judgment call. If a sentence in a story (or novel) stops me dead because its meaning is unclear and/or it stops the flow of the story, to me that’s sloppy. (This goes for experimental as well as non-experimental styles.) The job of the writer is to communicate with her reader.

Writers who send out obvious first drafts.

Writers who think writing good short stories are easy and don’t take the time to hone their craft.

A fourth: stories that are not about anything and leave me wondering, Why did the writer write this? It’s about nothing.

AW: What do you think about steampunk? Will it be a flash in the pan or a major player?

ED: I love reading it, but have been reading it for decades. Nothing particularly new about the sub-genre except that it’s hit the culture, which is fun but not especially pertinent in the long run.

AW: What's your favorite paranormal type of character and why?

ED: I have to say it's a toss up between vampires and ghosts. Both paranormal critters are so versatile that good writers can continue to make up brilliant stories using them. You know the expression "it ain't the meat, it's the motion?" Same thing with tropes and themes in fiction. It ain't the trope or theme that counts, it's what you do with it that matters. Anything old can be made new by the right writer.

AW: What are you working on now?

ED: Best Horror #3, and another YA anthology with Terri Windling. I’m hoping to sell a few more anthologies in the coming months.

AW: Tell me about the books you have coming out in 2011.

ED: In addition to the Best Horror of the Year, volume 3, I have a very big volume of all original urban fantasy stories coming out from St Martin's called Naked City: New Tales of Urban Fantasy. It's my more traditional interpretation of the sub-genre--hearkening back to what the phrase originally meant: fantasy in urban settings.

Teeth, edited by me and Terri Windling, is a YA anthology of vampire stories that will hopefully counter the sparkly vampire syndrome :-). It'll be out from HarperCollins.

Supernatural Noir (title self-explanatory, I think--although it has very few detective stories) will be coming out from Dark Horse.

Blood and Other Cravings is an adult vampirism anthology that is a kind of follow up to my earlier vampirism anthologies Blood is Not Enough and A Whisper of Blood (which are still available in a gorgeous double volume reissued by the Barnes and Noble imprint Fall River Press). B&N is also bringing out a new edition of Terri and my first adult fairy tale anthology, Snow White, Blood Red.

Read more about Ellen Datlow at www.datlow.com.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

SFOO makes top ten science fiction blog list

A big thank you to all my faithful readers! I just found that Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys was listed on Blogs.com in their Top Ten Great Scifi Blogs list last month. Woo hoo! This month, apparently, is National Blog Posting Month. It's like National Novel Writing Month for bloggers. You sign up and blog every day all month to develop the blogging habit.

Have you read my story, "Troll Games" yet? It's available on flashquake through November, but why wait? It will only take five minutes of your time. Remember Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show? Troll Games is my fractured fairy tale.

The Hugos were doled out this weekend at AussieCon (68th World Science Fiction Convention) in Melbourne. There was a tie for best novel between China MiƩville's The City & The City and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. Congrats, boys!

Ellen Datlow received the Best Editor - short fiction. Stay tuned for an interview with Ellen here on SFOO.

Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form went to Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars".

Seanan McGuire scored this year's John W. Campbell award for best new writer.

Visit Tor's blog for the full list of who won and who they were competing against.

Congratulations to all the winners!



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Friday, September 3, 2010

Indie film Friday

Big things are happenin' with Browncoat Big Damn Fan Films' Browncoats: Redemption, a fan-made flick. The producers gained the sponsorship of Ustream for its premiere Sept. 4 at 7PM EDT at www.ustream.tv/browncoatsmovie and at the film's facebook page.

You can view a trailer and two more trailers and my interview with director Michael Dougherty and lead actress Heather Fagan in the meantime. Proceeds from the DVD go to the charities set up by Joss Whedon, creator of the Firefly, Buffy the Vampire and Dollhouse series. Browncoats: Redemption picks up where Joss Whedon's Serenity left off. Never heard of Serenity and don't know what a Browncoat is? >gasp< Well, if you don't have plans tonight, now you do. Run out and rent Serenity and Firefly. Most folks in the 'verse come out Browncoats on the other side. ;)

Next month, we have JIM premiering in New York (Oct. 8) and Los Angeles (Oct. 15). Here's the synopsis from the press release:

"Being steadily crushed under the weight of debt, unemployment, and increasing isolation, Jim reaches a breaking point. Over a game of solitary Russian roulette he contemplates an unspeakable act of violence as a way of leaving his mark. He is stopped short by a vision of his deceased wife who convinces him that he should instead focus his remaining resources into an act of creation. Armed with his wife's frozen eggs and a new resolve, Jim secures the services of a large biotech firm to help him create an heir who will be engineered to overcome the obstacles of common men.

"Meanwhile in the distant future Niskaa, the leader of a group of genetically modified beings, controls a race of worker clones in a super-industrialized, post-human Earth. As he tries to restore his decrepit empire he comes face to face with a young clone that shows an unprecedented capacity for reason and empathy. Somehow connected to Jim via dreams, the clone manifests secrets of nature that Niskaa has not accounted for…"



Find out more at www.jimthefilm.com.

Still Films' Rogue Moon is in the funding stage over at kickstarter. The science fiction film is based on the classic 1960 novel by Algis Budrys. I hear there are goodies to be had for your micro-investments.


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