Science Fiction Panel at ALA San Francisco

The panel I’ve helped put together for the American Literature Association’s conference will be at 8:10 a.m. on Friday, May 26, 2016 in San Francisco.  ALA has posted a draft of the full program if you’d like to see who is appearing.

Our panel is called “American Science Fiction: Utopian Technologies and Feminist Spaces.”  Joining me are Bridgette Barclay from Aurora University  discussing the comic book Bitch Planet, and Michelle Yates from Columbia College Chicago talking about Mad Max: Fury Road.  I’m going to cover two polar utopian novels: The Great White Way by Mark Twain’s biographer Albert Bigelow Paine and Arqtiq by Anna Adolph, a work that features (I think) the first female inventor hero, one who builds her own airship and brings her family along for the ride.

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Nebulas & Sturgeons: 2016 Short Fiction Nominees (So Far)

The Center for the Study of Science Fiction just released their list of nominees for the 2016 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science-fiction/fantasy story. The list is really strong.  (Full disclosure: I’m on CSSF’s advisory board, but not on the Sturgeon nominating committee… so I’m biased, but didn’t help create the list.)

I always enjoy comparing the Sturgeon list to the list of Nebula Award Nominees for short fiction. I’m curious how these lists resemble each other, and what hints they give about the soon-to-be-announced 2016 Hugo Award nominees.

It is fantastic to see some favorite venues on the Sturgeon list, such as Uncanny Magazine‘s nomination for Hao Jinfang’s story and Strange Horizons’ nomination for Kelly Link’s excellent (as usual) “Game of Smash and Recovery.”

Just glancing, it looks like only five stories made both lists:

Hmmm.  That’s 3 out of 5 from the same venue.  Well played, editor Sheila Williams and the Asimov’s staff!

Are there a few gems that didn’t make the lists? Of course. If you want to find them, a good place to start is SFWA’s recommended reading list, which helps members find works to nominate.

Of course, there are some basic differences in the lists.  The Nebulas list is created by nominations from only Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America members, while the Sturgeons are a juried award.  The Nebulas break works into categories (novella, novelette, short), while Sturgeons lump all short work together into a longer list.

All in all, both lists are solid.  I’ll wait until Hugo noms come out to give further shout-outs to works I’ve enjoyed.

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Juggling Fiction and Non-Fiction

As of this week, I’ve had interest from more than one university press for my non-fiction book proposal.

My book manuscript is a study of 19th-century American fiction, tentatively titled Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain’s America. It covers proto-science fiction dime novels like the Frank Reade, Jr. series, along several of Twain’s novels, the “hollow Earth” manuscript written by Twain’s brother, and other technocratic novels by Albert Bigelow Paine, Anna Adolph, Pauline Hopkins and others.

I started 2016 with three–count ’em, three–short stories in the “nearly finished” mode. One needs line edits; another needs a better ending.  The longest one had detailed, handwritten notes ready for final revision, but the printed copy was lost when my car was broken into and my backpack was stolen–easy to replicate, but requires time nonetheless.  I also received a revise/resubmit on a story that I really love and spent a chunk of February editing it into a better, stronger story thanks to some good editorial advice.

Now, however, the non-fiction writing takes precedence.   My proposal stated that the manuscript would be done at the end of April–and now that there are presses interested, that deadline is very firm.

It’s a good problem to have, but one that will leave those three short stories unsubmitted for the time being.  And starting a new short is out of the question, though the ideas keep popping up as usual.

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I’m Teaching this Summer’s SF Institute at KU

I’m currently scheduled to teach the 2nd half of the two-week Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature at the University of Kansas this summer.

The course runs the last weeks of June and full information, including a reading list, is listed on the Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s site.

I took the class as a graduate student at Kansas when James Gunn was still teaching it full time.  It’s a great opportunity to return to my alma mater and teach this year’s crop of SF scholars, teachers, and would-be authors.

It’s also an honor to share teaching duties with Ben Cartwright, a fantastic writer and fellow KU alum.

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Star Wars Fun with Samuel Clemens and Edgar A. Poe

Sam and Ed

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Rickman Rocked It (From Hogwarts to CBGB)

Today, news of Alan Rickman’s death flooded the internet, just days after David Bowie’s passing.

He played in many sf/fantasy films, including Galaxy Quest and as Snape in the Harry Potter movies. He also did films that had a more magic-realist spin–including the sweet Truly, Madly, Deeply, where he plays the ghost of a woman’s dead love who returns to her.  And his Hans Gruber was the best 1980s action-movie villain, period.

The last thing I saw him in was a rock and roll film: CBGB. He played the legendary club owner, Hilly Kristal, who gave New York’s early punk bands a place to play before the music had a following. The film shows him discovering The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Dead Boys, and other punk legends.

Rickman’s understated portrayal of Hilly made the film worth watching. He’s a guy who looks beaten before he ever started, who never shows enthusiasm even when he’s seeing something that he knows is amazing and ground-breaking. That’s a hard role to pull off. He nails it, suggesting a guy who admires these weird band’s enthusiasm and thrill of liberation, even though he’s not buying completely buying into their shtick.

The movie as a whole isn’t great, which is probably why it won’t be mentioned in many Rickman obituaries. As you can see from the trailer below, there are far too many moments where the dialogue seems lifted from a rock journalism  primer. But Rickman holds it together.

I think Rickman is one of those actors who could switch between the broad, elegant theatrical mode (a la Shakespearean drama) and the American film minimalist acting mode unerringly. His CBGB performance is definitely the latter. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’ve loved his work in the fantasy genre and want to see how he handles a rock bio-pic.





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On Bowie’s Death

I’ve written about David Bowie on You Sell Wonderment because he’s probably the best example of science fiction and pop music co-mingling to produce cool results.

I’m still in shock about his passing.  It seemed like he’d be around forever.  Not much more to say, even if I felt up to it.

In mourning with the rest of you.

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