In the new original anthology Mission Tomorrow, science fiction writers imagine the future of space exploration with NASA no longer dominant. Will private companies rule the stars or will new governments take up the call? From Brazilians to Russians to Chinese, the characters in these stories deal with everything from strange encounters, to troubled satellites and space ships, to competition for funding and getting there first. Nineteen stories of what-if spanning the gamut from Mercury to Pluto and beyond. Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Stories by:

Robin Wayne Bailey
Ben Bova
Michael Capobianco
Curtis C. Chen
Jaleta Clegg
Brenda Cooper
Michael F. Flynn
James Gunn
Sarah A. Hoyt
David D. Levine
Jack McDevitt
Angus McIntyre
Chris McKitterick (yrs truly!)
Mike Resnick
Lezli Robyn
Alex Shvartsman
Robert Silverberg
Jack Skillingstead
Jay Werkheiser

At the publisher's request, the ebook is sold without DRM. (The paperback edition comes out on November 3.) And because Baen Books is cool in a lot of other ways, too, they're letting the contributing authors give away copies. So...

Because my story takes place near Jupiter, I'm making my contest simple.So, want to win a free copy of the Mission Tomorrow ebook? Here's how:
  1. Share your favorite image, video, story, or other cool thing about the planet Jupiter. Can be science-ey, science-fictional, or whatever most toots your horn. I embrace multitudes.
  2. Post on a social network we both use. I'm on Dreamwidth, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, LiveJournal, Tumblr, and Twitter.
  3. Mention the new anthology of space-exploration stories, Mission Tomorrow.
  4. Tag me in your post so I get a notification (and can therefore see your post!). My day-job combined with a writing career and running the Gunn Center makes me perilously busy, so unless I'm tagged I miss tons of great stuff.
This is an ongoing contest! I'll be giving away a copy to my faves through the week of the release event (at Jayhawk Ink Bookstore at the University of Kansas), November 16.

How do you know if you've won? I'll tag winners here or on whichever social-network we share! Then just drop me an email and I'll send you your free copy.

So, let's see some awesome Jupiter stuff! I wanna give away some FREE EBOOKS!

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction's summer program is in its second week of workshops (both long and short-form), and this Friday through Sunday we host our annual Campbell Conference. A quick overview of events:

  • Best-selling SF author Kevin J. Anderson kicks off the Conference on Friday afternoon with a talk about dreaming big and making unrealistic expectations pay off.
  • On Friday evening, the Awards Ceremony and Banquet honors the winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and brand-new "Lifeboat to the Stars" Award, followed by a reception.
  • Saturday morning's round-table discussion theme is "To the Stars," where we will explore SF's long relationship with off-planet travel, its promises, and the future of the human race as a galactic species. We will also discuss the important steps along the path to the stars.
  • During lunch break on Saturday, get your books signed by this year's guest authors and editors at a mass autographing session. The bookstore has volumes for everyone on hand.
  • On Saturday afternoon, hear readings from Kevin J. Anderson, Andy Duncan, and James Gunn.
  • Saturday evening sees a special screening of the new Kevin Willmott film, Destination: Planet Negro!, followed by a Q&A with the director and cinematographer Matthew Jacobson. Afterward is another reception.
  • Sunday morning is an informal "meet the authors and editors" session, followed by an informal reception off-campus sponsored by Kansas City in 2016, a bid for the 74th Worldcon.

Due to a family emergency, Robert J. Sawyer is unable to attend this year's Campbell Conference.

To learn more about our events and guests, visit the Conference page: http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/campbell-conference.htm

And please help spread the word!


Speculative fiction has been undergoing significant changes lately, as significant and revolutionary in the genre as the New Wave or Cyberpunk. The genre has not remained stagnant since the 80s, but has matured and grown in subtle ways that have been difficult to track as they took place.

I refer to those two movements in SF because Alif the Unseen is very much a combination of them both.

Like the New Wave authors, Wilson's writing demonstrates a mastery of and love for language, human character, and other formerly "literary-only" concerns. Like Cyberpunk, Alif is about the changes wrought by technology and how the little people can use it more successfully against the establishment than huge monoliths, because it's so difficult to overcome the massive inertia of a large organization like a corporation, religion, or government. The people in the story are the "unseen" as much as are the jinn and other unseen beings, as is their habitat, their activities, and so forth. The people in Alif's world are as unseen and insignificant to the establishments around him as are the jinn... but when a police state or other authoritarian force reaches for total control and mistreats the unseen, the unseen can now fight back in non-violent ways using the digital infrastructure that now links our world. The book is multi-layered, which in meta-literary and metaphorical senses is brilliant in both concept (paralleling the book with the Alf Layla, Koran, and computer coding) and execution. I can see why it was marketed toward the literary crowd.

Like the Cyberpunks, Wilson sympathizes with underdogs and outcasts, criminals and others operating outside the law. The protagonist (Alif) is a programmer and website host for dissidents no matter what they espouse. Wilson's world is gritty, real, and thoroughly modern - despite being set in a poor, Middle-Eastern city. Alif's greatest ally is someone referred to as "Vikram the Vampire," an underworld character who has proven to be violent. When we soon learn he's a jinn, an ancient species documented in the Koran, the alien-ness in the book really takes off. There's even a moment when we witness the birth of an AI, though it doesn't survive long. If Cyberpunk is indeed "high tech and low life" as many describe it, combining science and technology with rebellion against the system, Alif very much fits into the genre while serving to point the direction for where it might go next. Like the Cyberpunk authors, Wilson paints a world in shades of gray rather than black-and-white, blurs the border between natural and unseen forces of old as well as the cybernetic powers of today, between the organic and machine, the real and virtual or dreamlike or otherwise unseen. Even if she didn't set out to write a post-Cyberpunk cyberpunk novel, that's exactly what she did... and I suspect this was her goal, as the marketing material cites Stephenson.

Finally, this novel demonstrates what we've been seeing more of over the last several years: Mainstream authors working with SFnal themes and modalities, or SF authors like Doctorow working in the here-and-now-plus-a-day. Works like this (I especially point to Mieville and Chabon) are growing the new movement in SF, helping mature the genre in a way that neither rejects its forebears nor the mainstream. SF has simply become the relevant literature of our time. Not just "the only realistic literature" per Clarke, but now the only relevant literature for people living in an ever-changing world. Most any story set in today or tomorrow that does not take into account the massive and ever-increasing rate of change in our daily lives feels instantly dated, like historic fiction. Sure, much SF that's set far into the future or on other worlds still feels like our familiar SF, and I hope we never lose that core of the genre. However, the literature that affects a wider diversity of people, more deeply, is that to which we can most closely relate, and that's more difficult the farther in time or space or alien-ness we venture.

Alif the Unseen is a work set in our world (though far from Western society, daily news images have made that part of the world familiar), in our time, among people who are far less alien to us than they were before the internet. Without the protagonist's programming and Web skills, the story would fall. I feel all this places it firmly in the SF camp. Most important, perhaps, is that this is as relevant a story for our changing times as we'll encounter: Based on publication date, Wilson must have been writing this in her Cairo home during the Arab Spring, the most-significant change to sweep across that part of the world since the Crusades and ensuing colonialism. Hackers, the internet, and individuals using the Web to share information, achieve freedom, and bring down the corrupt establishment have changed everything, and with the Arab Spring we're seeing Cyberpunk realized.

Now a few words about cultural appropriation, as I'm sure some people will be concerned in regards to this work.

G. Willow Wilson is American-born, writing about Middle Eastern and Islamic topics. Alif is a book that provides the deepest insights into those cultures that I've read to date, and I think I understand why: It all comes down to fear of the Other. All animals have this fear, humans particularly - and it's particularly egregious in sentient beings, especially those who read purportedly enlightened work like SF. Even so, for a long time, female SF authors had to write under pseudonyms to be taken seriously, and even female protagonists were a hard sell. Same for black, gay, and non-Western-culture authors and characters: Mainstream audiences have always been a little leery of the Other, uncertain, unable to connect to their stories. This is why various minorities or people not from the dominant culture are so under-represented. We usually only hear their ideas, but substantially different ideas without a narrative are difficult to understand or accept.

When Western (or non-black, or non-female, or non-whatever) authors write stories set in the culture of the Other, they usually get it wrong. They "Orientalize" or otherwise imbue the work with wonder and strangeness... because it's all about entering the culture from outside. Interesting, but not representing the culture or characters where the work is set. However, every once in a while, someone who started off in our culture (whatever that may be for the POV of the audience) immerses him- or herself sufficiently into the Other culture to be able to serve as a bridge between the two.

This is what Wilson did: Though she grew up in the US, she converted to Islam in college and moved to Egypt. She doesn't get it wrong, because she works hard to understand the culture she writes about, with occasional nods to acknowledge her ultimate Otherness to those cultures. However, her stories tell the tales that are important to Middle-Easterners, especially Egyptians, not just what an outsider would find interesting or exotic.

All through Alif we see these stories, and through this book I've gotten a handle on those cultures, and why our two cultures face such challenges in trying to understand one another. Wilson serves as our bridge, opening our Western minds to this particular Other, which hopefully opens the path to more indigenous authors writing on these topics in their own ways. But at least now Western editors might start considering such works, because the audience will start considering them, because here we have a novel written from the Other POV but using sensibilities we can grasp.

Every single paragraph in this novel contains some note of brilliance. The story parallels the insights we see, as the main character grows in understanding as well - even the writing itself blossoming as the story progresses, so the entire work is not just what it appears to be but a metaphor as well, and sometimes several layers deep. In many ways it is the magical book it describes, and it displays masterful writing not just line-by-line but in scene construction and overall story and imagery and character development and setting and intellectual stimulation and so forth.

This is my favorite novel of the year so far, and possibly for several years. If you love reading, you'll love this book.
Finished reading Scalzi's Redshirts last night (one of the Gollancz and Tor nominations for this year's Campbell Award). It was an absolute blast and an extremely quick read: Even ill, I finished it in less than 24 hours, and I'm not a fast reader.

Yes, I am still enjoying the suffering that comes around every time this year for many. Another night of sweating the bed into a puddle, blowing my nose a billion times, and feeling like smeared poo. When I have a fever (yesterday's high was just short of 101°F), I get emotional, as evidenced by my weeping pretty much continually over poor Dean Winchester's suffering (we watched some Supernatural last night). What surprised me is that Scalzi's self-proclaimed "piss-take on televised science fiction" also set me to sobbing. (Okay, I get very emotional when feverish). By the end, though, the rational part of my mind came to the conclusion that this book really is far more than just a romp, and in fact has a lot to say about being human in our age. I promise that though it might make you sad at points, it'll mostly just elicit a single bold tear from most of y'all, plus if you're a fan of TV SF, it'll also elicit a lot of laughter. Every once in a while, Scalzi's micro-writing seems unfinished to me - he doesn't describe any of the characters, provides almost no set-dressing, and seldom appeals to any senses - but you don't read him for beautiful prose. You read this book for rompin' action, entertaining characters, and an interesting idea. If those attributes spin up your warp core, this book is highly recommended.

Speaking of Scalzi, have you noticed that he placed NUMERO UNO on Locus' All-Centuries Poll for Best 21st Century SF Novel for his book, Old Man's War? That gave me pause. I very much enjoyed it then, so perhaps I ought to give it a re-read to analyze why.

I was very pleased to see both Stephenson's Anathem (2nd) and Wilson's Spin (4th) make the top novels list for this century. Both are FANTASTIC books, my favorites of their respective years. I wasn't surprised by much on the 20th Century lists, but is Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy really the 3rd-best book of the last century? Hm. I loved it as a 1980s kid, but pulled it from the required reading list for my SF novels course after getting too many complaints about its crap writing. His The Caves of Steel - a much better novel in every way - is still on my readings list (and placed 56th on the Locus poll).

Another interesting detail: Very little from the last two years made the list in any of the 21st Century categories. I wonder if we should attribute this to our simply needing some time to catch up with reading. If you're like me, you seldom read current work, mostly relying on awards and nominations for such. Too bad for the writers staying in the business of earning money from writing, though. Unless... hm, perhaps this is why we're seeing an up-surge in ebook sales: People discover work well after it's already pulled from physical bookstore shelves, so end up buying used or ebook. Hm.

On the plus side of being feverish, this slightly altered state helped me come up with a new story idea, 1001 words of which I wrote today. Hooray, new story!

Okay, time for a nap, methinks. Hope you're doing well and enjoying 2013.

First up, I want to tell everyone that Summit Racing is awesome. I spent a couple days last week working on removing the rear suspension setup for the Chevelle in preparation for installing modern, awesome-handling parts. Full write-up with photos here. Summmit comes in because I noticed I was missing something. See this photo:

You probably noticed that there's no new lower control-arm in this photo side-by-side with the old one, like with the upper control-arm and the cross-brace. You'd be right. I also noticed this. But not right away; instead, I only noticed when I was setting up this shot, six months after ordering the parts... and failing to notice back then. Oops. A few emails and some calls with Summit Racing resolved the problem, which was that the manufacturer simply failed to ship them! Now they're on their way, and Summit is even reimbursing me the $40 price-drop since when I ordered the parts. I love Summit! Not only do they have great selection and prices, but their customer service rocks.

Next: You know I love my squirrels. Here's Spot, one of my "outdoor pets," a charming and clever fellow who has taught me to feed him whenever he's hungry. How? By getting my attention like this. He's also fearless, and when I toss out a cup of seed, all the other squirrels run away. But not Spot. He gets dibs, so intelligence DOES equal higher survival fitness, at least in my back yard....

Finally, today is Hadley Rille Books' 7th anniversary, and they're celebrating with 99¢ Kindle and Nook e-books for a limited time! Hadley Rille's specialties are SF, fantasy, and archeological - check 'em out!

It's also publisher Eric Reynolds' birthday. As a gift to himself in 2005, he fulfilled a long-time dream of starting a publishing company with Golden Age SF: Tales of a Bygone Future, a fantastic collection of short fiction - and it's still available. This is one of the things I love about this publisher in particular but the small press in general: As long as there's still demand, the books remain in print. Because Eric is such a great guy and Hadley Rille is such a cool business, I went with him to publish my first novel - and several short stories in a variety of collections.

Not into e-books? Well, Hadley Rille offers even more great novels and collections in both trade-paper and hardcover. Books make great gifts. Just sayin'. For example:

Click the cover to see more about the book, links, sample chapters, and more.

Now it's back to grading. I seem to say that a lot. Friday will be an all-day The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella write-a-thon, and Saturday is slated for working on the Chevelle, at least for part of the day, and then maybe going to see the new "Life of Pi."

If you love science fiction and fantasy of any length, now's your chance to make your favorite works known! For the next few days (through the end of November), Locus Online is operating a survey of the best SF/F of the past 112 years on their website.

List what you consider the best novels in two separate categories - SF and fantasy - and combined SF/F in the novella, novelette, and short-story length. (Lots of horror in there, too; you pick where you think it best fits.) The 20th century gets 10 ranked positions for each category, and 21st century fiction gets five; I assume this heavier weight-per-year (100 gets 10 slots, 12 gets 5 slots) is because we better remember recent work?

Anyhow, GO DO IT! Here are a ton of resources to refresh your memory (I certainly needed them):

  • The Center for the Study of Science Fiction's Basic Science Fiction Library: Mostly lists novels, but also contains some short fiction. This list is ordered by author, spanning all time. Includes publication dates and even links where we could find them! If you see any glaring omissions, please let me know and we'll consult about adding those works.

  • The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel winners list: Goes back to 1972 novels (that is, the first Campbell Award-winning novel in 1973 was for a novel published in 1972).

  • The John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist list: Goes back to 2003. I recommend looking through the finalist lists of the major awards, because what you might consider the best works don't always win! True for me, anyway.

  • Locus put together this fantastic list of 20th century SF/F novels: They mix SF and fantasy, so you'll have to decide on some of these where a novel belongs. How did they get on this list? "The lists include, first, every title that's won a Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Locus, British Fantasy, British SF, Campbell, Sturgeon, Clarke, International Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, or Bram Stoker award [except for first novels categories]. Second, every title that has been a nominee or runner-up for any two of these awards is included. Third, for 20th century novels, every title included in four or more reference works or polls, such as David Pringle's Science Fiction: 100 Best Novels, Neil Barron's Anatomy of Wonder, NPR's recent poll, and some 50 other works and polls compiled as part of the sfadb.com project, is included. For 21st century novels, since relatively few such references are recent enough to cover that period, the bar is lowered to inclusion in any one such work. The bars are set so that the number of titles added to the lists from such references is about the same as the number of titles included due to award standings."

  • The Locus list of 21st century SF/F novels: See above notes for details.

  • NPR's crowd-sourced Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books of all time.

  • The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF: Goes back to 1986 stories of all length shorter than the novel (that is, the first Sturgeon Award-winner in 1987 was for a short work published in 1986).

  • The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist list: Goes back to 2003.

  • The Locus list of 20th century short SF/F. How did they get on this list? "For short fiction, the supplement to awards data is the number of anthology and collection reprints a story has accumulated, based on data compiled in the Locus Index to Science Fiction by William Contento. For 20th century stories, the bar is more than 8; for 21st century stories, the bar is more than 2, though the Index is not complete through 2010 and some recent titles have been added based on manual inspection of various year's-best anthologies. Again, the bars are set so that the final lists are roughly divided between titles via award references and titles via reprint references. For works not on the short fiction lists, there are word-count guidelines on the 20th century short fiction page."

  • The Locus list of 21st century short SF/F: See above for details. Also note that the letters in the publication-date info for suggestions of which category to use: ss is for short story, nvt is for novelette, nva is for novella.

  • The Nebula Award for best SF/F of the year list: This is Wikipedia's novel list, but also links to all the other lengths. (The official SFWA Nebula Award site only goes back to 2000.)

  • Hugo Award for best SF/F of the year list: Links to all the winners, of all lengths, and finalists, too.

Whew, that there's a lot of reading references! I hope you find it useful not just for voting on the Locus survey, but for future reading, too.

Huge news from Tor Books, folks!

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said Tom Doherty, Tor President and Publisher. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

About damned time. Not that DRM actually did a thing to stop pirates, as I discovered when my novel was pirated within a day of its Kindle publication. DRM does nothing but irritate legitimate e-information buyers, so I'm not surprised in the least that Macmillan finally made the leap, at least with Tor Books.

Good for them. Show your support by buying Tor/Forge Books, people!

Apparently, Macmillan consulted with Charles Stross about the topic, as he's long been a proponent of DRM-free books. Check out his blog entry for a full discussion.

We are entering the Age of Information Gets to Be Free - scary and exciting!

When my novel, Transcendence,came out a little over a year ago and was immediately pirated, I went through a little crisis. I ended up fighting the pirates by giving it away, myself, because I figured if people were going to take it for free, they could at least get it from my website and thereby get to know me a bit more than they could via some random torrent site. Also, I was following Cory Doctorow's theory that giving away your creative work leads to more sales - and at the very least, more readership, who'll be looking for your next book.

How did it go? Well, it's been downloaded at least 3500 times (no way to know how many downloaded from direct link to the .pdf or .epub versions), I got a few dozen PayPal donations, including one just this week. And I certainly got some publicity out of it, especially for a first-time author whose book came out in November from a small press - two huge strikes against it.

Will it help with my next book? We'll see!

In the mean time, ebooks have only become more popular, piracy has not abated, and the debate about copyright and ebooks has only heated up. Here are two videos that represent two facets of the debate.

First up, "Copying Is Not Theft," by Questioncopyright:

Um, yeah. Good luck copying that bicycle, dude. Maybe once we all have nanofactories, but now? Not convinced.

Next up is Stephan Kinsella Houston's Public Affairs Public Access Live program, talking about intellectual property. When he first mentions "business models," I want to punch his smug face.

He has some interesting (and wrong, in my opinion) ideas; unfortunately, most creatives are not businesspeople, or else they'd be in business. They're also often introverts, which makes his ideas impractical for most writers and artists and so on.

Finally, to clear the palate, we have Neil Gaiman providing wisdom on copyright and piracy:

I find tend to agree with Gaiman; well, you kinda have to, because part of his talk is about his personal experiences and how giving it away has helped spur his career. Gaiman isn't talking about eliminating copyright; instead, he discusses how giving away his books has helped grow the audience (and market) for his copyrighted, printed work.

At least, I hope that's how it works!

Especially convincing is the idea that almost everyone found our favorite authors by having a book lent to us from a friend or the library. Does that = getting a free, pirated ebook?

Your thoughts on where copyright and the publishing industry is headed?

Hadley Rille Books is giving an "April Fool's" ebook sale this weekend! Lots of books for only ninety-nine cents (99¢), including my novel Transcendence in both Kindle edition and Nook edition, plus many more great ebooks by other Hadley Rille authors.

Come get 'em while they're hot and tasty!

Hadley Rille Books, my publisher, is having a massive 6th Birthday sale right now!

You can buy many of their ebook (titles - including my novel, Transcendence - for just 99¢! This includes both the Nook edition and the Kindle edition.

This offer is good for a limited time only: ends November 29, so act fast!

Oh, and I'll let you in on a little secret: On Black Friday, watch for a print-book sale, too....

Happy Birthday, Hadley Rille Books!


mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (books)
( Feb. 17th, 2011 12:19 pm)
I have to admit that, though I've been a good Borders customer, "good" for me meant "bought a lot of books and DVDs and music there but only with 33% off or more coupons." If I'm a typical customer, I can't say Borders going bankrupt is a big surprise.

Sadly, the Lawrence, KS, store is one of the 30% of all Borders stores that's closing. Of course I just paid for a membership upgrade to get the extra 10% discounts. *sigh*

I feel sorry for all the book-loving people who are about to lose their jobs, not just here in Lawrence but everywhere. And I feel sorry for the customers who are losing yet another way to get book recommendations.

Perhaps this will make more room for independent bookstores. Let's hope!

Today, the Google eBookstore makes its bow. They're working with 9000 publishers big and small, and they let publishers choose the price - starting at $9.99/book.

Here's a good analysis of what Google's up to.

They use a cloud-computing model, so you don't need to store your books on your device. Their books will run on every e-device except the Kindle, which I find interesting: Is this Amazon fighting Google or Google trying to crush Amazon?

Google comes into bookselling with a few huge advantages: They own massive mountains of data about everyone who uses the internet, and they have been scanning and sharing books for years now in a way that looks very much like piracy, but they have the money to successfully fight legal challenges. So they own massive mountains of ebooks ready to give you for free. Clearly they've been preparing for this for years, despite their denials during the legal challenges to their book-scanning efforts.

The NPR commentator this morning says that ebooks will be 85% of all book sales in 10 years. Google wants a piece of that pie!



mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)


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