Issuu on Google+

BULL SPEC D U R H A M, N C * I S S U E # 5 * S P R I N G 2 0 1 1 * $ 8

a m a g a z i n e o f s p e c u l a ti v e f i c ti o n

FICTION TI M PRATT * CAT RAM BO * M . DAVI D BLAKE PRESTON GRASSM AN N * ROGER WI LLI AM S I N TERVI EWS J ONATH AN STRAH AN * GAI L Z. M ARTI N DAVI D H ALPERI N * H AN NU RAJ AN I EM I J ASON M ORN I N GSTAR & STEVE SEGEDY

“ BOTH ER” BY REBECCA G OM EZ FARRELL

BY REBECCA G OM EZ FARRELL

TH E LON G LI VES OF H EROES GRAPH I C SH ORT BY WH I TLEY & STRU TZ


C O N TEN TS COVER ART BOTHER Richard Case

FICTION

4 CAEL’S CONTINUUM Preston Grassmann 6 BOTHER Rebecca Gomez Farrell 1 0 HELL’S LOTTERY Tim Pratt 14 THE COFFEEMAKER’S PASSION Cat Rambo 1 6 MORTAL PASSAGE Roger Williams 26 ABSINTHE FISH M. David Blake 28 THE MESSENGERS Benjamin Paul [TEEN WRITING CONTEST WINNER]

GRAPHIC SHORT

31 THE LONG LIVES OF HEROES

Jeremy Whitley and Jason Strutz PART 1 OF 4

FEATURES

30 FIASCO Jason Morningstar and Steve Segedy ≈

Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn 35 THE QUANTUM THIEF Hannu Rajaniemi ≈ Interview by Preston Grassmann 38 LIFE ON MARS Jonathan Strahan ≈ Review by Paul Kincaid; Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn 43 JOURNAL OF A UFO INVESTIGATOR David Halperin ≈ Review and Interview by Richard Dansky 48 THE SWORN Gail Z. Martin ≈ Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn 58 ATOMIC ANTS Daniel M. Kimmel ≈ THEM!

DEPARTMENTS

50 THE CLOCKWORK PEN Joseph Giddings ≈ THE BUNTLINE SPECIAL Mike Resnick; THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN Mark Hodder; THE FALLING MACHINE Andrew P. Mayer 52 REVIEWS ≈ THE CALLED Warren Rochelle by Fred Chappell; SACRED SPACE Douglas E. Cowan by Paul Kincaid; SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH George

R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois by Richard Dansky; THE LOST GATE Orson Scott Card by Patrick Ward; WELCOME TO THE GREENHOUSE Gordon Van Gelder by Nick Mamatas; THE WISE MAN’S FEAR Patrick Rothfuss by Brian Howe; MONSTROUS CREATURES Jeff VanderMeer by John Bowker

60 POETRY ≈ THE DIRTY VAMPIRE, A RECIPE Alexandra Seidel; SNAKE EYES Nathaniel Lee; SEEING RED RUSS BAIN; BASILOSAURUS Carol Allen; AND NOW THE TIDE RECEDES Kaolin Fire; KYRIELLE FOR A CLONED BABY Lisa M. Bradley 62 EDITORIAL ≈ There’s Something Happening Here

ADVERTISEMENTS 2 PYR 28 CHEEKY FRAWG BOOKS 37 SMALL BEER PRESS 42 IGAAKS 47 DURHAM LITERACY CENTER 63 PM PRESS 64 SOLARIS

ISSN 21 52-5234 is published quarterly by Bull Spec / PO Box 1 31 46 / Durham, NC 27709 / United States [+1 .877.867.6889] and is copyright © 2011 Bull Spec & its contributors. Find it in your local book or comic shop or online at bullspec.com! Burning Catalonian Bull photo originally by Stuart Yeates, used and available under a Creative Commons BY- SA 2.0 license. Bleeding Cowboys font used by permission.


ILLUSTRATION BY JASON STRUTZ

I

COULD STILL SEE IT, A GIANT ON WHEELS OF BRASS AND STEEL, BREATHING STEAM INTO A BURNISHED SKY, AS IF THE EARTH ITSELF WAS TORN AWAY AND REMADE IN ITS PASSAGE, RENDERING THE WORLD INTO SOMETHING ELSE.

C

AEL’ S CONTINUUM

BY PRESTON G RASSMANN


T

HERE WERE DAYS when I would stand at the edge of the tracks, thinking of my brother, remembering the quickness of light in his eyes as he drew his pictures of trains and cities. And I waited, as if standing on a platform for that train to come back again, but it never did. I could still see it, a giant on wheels of brass and steel, breathing steam into a burnished sky, as if the earth itself was torn away and remade in its passage, rendering the world into something else. I began building my own steam-trains and making model cities out of remaindered brass and copper from my father’s shop. I had gardens and trees and clock towers and streets. The streets had exotic names, like Peake, Anubis, and Babel. They were named after my brother’s favorite books and paintings, and they were designed from his drawings. Often, I dreamed of expanding my tracks, to make them go out through the back door and into the field behind my house, wondering how far they might take me. The day it happened, I went outside, following a track at the edge of the back door. I had been thinking about my brother. I realized how thinly distanced I was from him when he was alive. I remember feeling as if some part of him was watching the world through me, that the world would soon be pulled away, as if the toy tracks and cities inside the house were more real. I walked down the slope behind my house to the field and that was when I found the track. The wood was half concealed in weeds, broken in places, and the metal was covered in rust, blossoms of red and brown covering every surface. It was strange that the tracks ended there, at the edge of our house, as if it was the very last stop on its way to somewhere else. Was there a crossroads here, where time had somehow slipped its track, leading the world in the wrong direction? The tracks opened below me as if I was laying them as I ran and then they changed, the rust shaking away into something impossible—a track gleaming in the sun, as if made of polished brass. The wood was no longer ruined. It was lacquered and clean, cut into precise sections. I thought of my brother next to me, remembering the light in his eyes as he began to draw, the running luster that stretched out so fully to some unknown vanishing point. I felt something in the world slide out of place and there, limning the edge of the horizon, like a sun made of brass and steel, a train was on its way, steam rising into some other sky. When I turned away for a moment, wondering if my own world had vanished, the train and the tracks were gone. “I saw it. I swear. Come with me,” I said, imploring my mother to go out and look at the track. She followed me out, certain that it was all a game. And as much as I willed it to reappear, it never did. My mother placed her hand on my head and smiled sadly. “You’re right,” she said, nodding her head as her eyes caught the sun. “There’s a track here, but it hasn’t been used since the days of steam-power.” Even then, I knew she thought it was my way of dealing with his death. There were often times when I wondered if she was right.

BULL SPEC—ISSUE #5 I heard stories about how losing a twin brother was like losing a part of yourself, a phantom limb that feels as if it should be there, the constant despair of finding that it’s not, that’s it’s vanished from the world, gone forever. But when I worked on the tracks, I never felt that he was gone. It seemed as if we were working together, and I often thought of him placing tracks down and telling stories about the cities, hearing his voice that was so much like my own. He once pointed to a picture he had drawn and said, “This is what heaven looks like.” “How do you know?” I asked. “I guess we’ll know when we get there,” he said. After working on the toy tracks, I would return to the fields behind my house, trying to remember what I had felt that day. I followed the tracks as far as I could, as if they were ciphers, a code for something I couldn’t yet fully understand. There were times when I thought I could catch glimpses of it, as if some ghost version of that train continued on its way, taking a part of me along, but it was only ephemeral; a peripheral alteration that vanished almost as soon as it appeared. A dirigible floating like a teardrop at the edge of a distant cloud would lose its soft edges, and grow the familiar wings of a plane. I once thought I saw the flash of a brass tube outside of a postal office, a capsule placed in a wall setting, but then it faded into a satchel of letters. And there was that woman with the Victorian dress vanishing into a gas-lit street. But I wasn’t even sure it was there; it was only a flicker, as if the wrong panel had been placed in a stopmotion film. They were all from my brother’s drawings. As years passed, there were times when I had forgotten about it. I had left home, pulling up the toy tracks and packing the trains. It felt as if I was leaving my brother behind, as if I was putting away the part of him that lived on in me. And the visions no longer came, as if I had been left off at a dead station, where time seemed to pass in one direction and all the tracks of the world converged. Now, I stand at the edge of the track and point out to the place where I once saw the desert and that gleaming track made of brass. The men behind me assemble, looking out at the horizon. “We’re going to build a track,” I say. “Where is it going?” One of the men asks. “We’ll find out when we get there.” ■

Preston Grassmann has been a reviewer for Locus Magazine and The New York Review ofScience Fiction. His most recent stories and poems have appeared in Apex Magazine and Flashquake. He's the co-author of the forthcoming novel, The Floating World, a collaboration with World Fantasy Nominee KJ Bishop. Also in this issue: Grassmann interviews Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi about his debut science fiction novel The Quantum Thief [page 35].

5


THE DRAGON MUST BE ON ANOTHER BLOCK TONIGHT.

B

OTHER

BY REBECCA G OMEZ FARRELL NOSE ITCHED under the surgical mask. He J ONAH’S didn’t dare reach inside to scratch it. The smell of sulfur was

too strong this close to home, and he did not want the fumes to fill his lungs. His throat still felt raw from forgetting his mask at work last week. As he reached the corner, he looked down the street to his left. There was no glint of fierce, yellow eyes piercing through the smog, no sound of breathing like a motorcycle revving up at a signal. The dragon must be on another block tonight. Jonah crossed the street, careful to hop over the deep potholes that littered the road from when the beast charged hard enough to break through the asphalt. It was much easier to do so now, at dusk, than when he usually came home. The city had stopped turning on the streetlights in this neighborhood last month; they did little to illuminate anything through the smog. He reached his ground-level apartment without incident and pulled at the doorknob, pressing his right foot against the wall for leverage. The swollen doorframe was worse every day. He should find out how to install a new one. Perhaps a metal frame, he considered, as the door opened with the screech of wood scraping against wood. The dragon probably couldn’t melt a flame-retardant alloy, even in a direct hit, and besides, metal wouldn’t make that god-awful noise. He stepped in the apartment and quickly pulled the door closed behind him. He rubbed his hand against the wall until it hit the cool, ceramic switch plate then flipped on the light. He hung his mask on the carved unicorn key rack he had bought for Susan on their honeymoon. She loved mythical creatures—she used to, at least. The apartment was small. It was all they could afford when they moved to the city. They had a battered old couch with thick blue and white stripes, though the white ones had yellowed, and a flat-panel TV mounted on the stretch of wall between the two large bay windows that were now blackened by grime. Behind the couch was a cheap folding table that they’d bought at the church down the block’s spring yard sale, back when yard sales were still an option. Jonah kicked off his shoes and sat down on the couch before turning on the TV. Onscreen, a hot, twenty-something woman wearing a thin white tank top and jean shorts cut off below her ass stood in an empty warehouse. A man with bugged out eyes held a gun to her head. Another man, sporting a fauxhawk, stood across from them, his hands raised as he begged for the

6

girl to be let go. He was the boyfriend, of course, had to be. Jonah knew how this flick would end, no need to try and feign interest for the last twenty minutes—the guy would put himself in constant danger over and over to try and rescue the girl. What a moron. He clicked the power off and the actors disappeared, digital square by digital square. Jonah closed his eyes and prayed that Susan would not be back for at least … well, a year or so would be nice. He’d be lucky if he got an hour. He grabbed their chenille blanket—it always felt chilly in here when he first came in—and thought of silk sheets, light jazz, and a stomach full of steak and potatoes, willing himself to nap. After making that sale at work today, he deserved to take it easy tonight. If so much as the curtains rustled, he’d rain curses down on that inconsiderate beast. Jonah’s light snore filled the room for a few minutes before the tugging at the door began anew. A fresh wave of soot and a flash of orange and red light entered the apartment with Susan. It was the scorching heat that woke him, though, and he shoved the now warm blanket to the bottom of the couch. Naptime was over. “Any luck?” he asked by way of hello. She shook her head as she crossed behind the couch to the kitchen. The sound as she filled a plastic cup with water made him need to piss. Ugh. Their upstairs plumbing was broken and the landlord was not returning phone calls these days, so they had to head outside to the Elliotts’ place whenever they needed a bathroom. They lived only two doors further down the alleyway so it was usually safe, just a pain. Jonah put on his mask and headed out. Susan undid the leather belt around her waist and slid its support strap off her shoulder. She relished the release from the extra weight. Her whole body was stiff and the endorphins of a day’s work were not enough to temper her bad mood. A few jabs—that was all she got in today and that sort of wound did nothing. She rolled her shoulders up and her neck from side to side to stretch them. She hoped Jonah had gotten around to doing the laundry since he was home early. She needed a clean rag to wipe her weapon. He came back into the apartment coughing but with a grin and pulled the chain on the ceiling fan. It was a pointless endeavor with no fresh air to circulate, but they liked to pretend it cut through the muck and dispersed the tanned hide smell of

COVER ILLUSTRATION BY RICHARD CASE


BULL SPEC—ISSUE #5 the smoke. The walls, which were painted a vibrant turquoise only a year ago, were covered with ash. The furniture was also coated in a thick layer of the greasy residue, but it was still cleaner inside than out. Jonah turned around a folding chair and sat with his elbows over the top of it. “What do you want for dinner?” “Oh, I don’t know,” she replied, looking at the grime on her weapon. It was mostly mud from where she had struck the ground near the park when she’d missed, but there was also a bit of pulp that resembled mushy, canned asparagus. Dragon flesh was so sticky. “Did you do the laundry?” “Nah, I slept. I was tired.” He rocked back and forth on the chair, still grinning. “What are you so excited about?” she asked, not because she really wanted an answer but to stop herself from forcing the corners of his mouth down. He was so irritating lately, full of excitement over the most mundane things. “I made a sale,” he said, “a contract for sixty grand.” Like it even mattered. She sighed and started pulling off her clothes on the way to the washing machine. She threw them in along with a pile from the nearby hamper. He loved when she did this, so cavalier about her nakedness. Sure, no one could see in through the windows, but it still seemed racy somehow, forbidden. She could turn him on like a switch. “I’m too tired,” she said, sensing his intentions from across the kitchen. She didn’t look up, just kept rinsing out the measuring cup with the water that ran down the back of the basin. The lid of the machine closed with a clink. He held out his hand so it would brush against her on her way past him and up the stairs to their single bedroom. She didn’t complain, unsurprisingly, so he might as well get a little touch. Nothing affected Susan; she practically sleep walked around the place every night, no longer chattering about family gossip or that week’s television shows. It was like all of her passions had been burnt up and replaced with one singular, draining purpose. Not so with him. Jonah lived his life same as always, except he had to use an alarm to make it to work on time. He used to get up at first light, but it was impossible to see the dawn from inside the apartment now. Susan would already be gone by then, off to make the morning briefing with the rest of the vigilantes. She’d quit her teller job a few months ago, or she’d just never gone back; he wasn’t really sure of the details. She just stopped bringing home a paycheck one day. His stomach growled. He walked over to the fridge and opened the door. No produce except some lettuce stewing in its own brown liquid in a clear plastic bag. He fought the impulse to vomit as he picked it up and tossed it in the trashcan. The freezer revealed a frozen pizza. He pulled it out, a thin-crusted pepperoni pie, and turned the oven to 400 degrees. Susan came back down the stairs wearing a hot pink tracksuit and holding her shower caddy. She grabbed her mask from the hook and tugged open the door. When she returned several

minutes later, he could smell her flowery shampoo and breathed it in. “Pizza?” she asked, sitting at the table, and he nodded. “Good choice.” “It was our only choice unless we wanted to go out.” He tried not to sound sullen as he spoke. Susan rarely left the apartment after dark, claimed it wasn’t safe to be outdoors, but he knew she was more daring than that—she spent her days hunting a dragon, for Christ’s sake! They’d moved to the city because they both loved it; the people churning through its small alleyways, the densely packed storefronts, even the screech of subway tracks still gave him a thrill. The city was thriving, though the crowds had thinned in their neighborhood. He wished she would go with him to see it, but all she thought of these days was steel, technique, and flame. She didn’t leave room for anything else in her thoughts. “Will you get groceries tomorrow?” he asked. “I can’t. I need to be there in case something happens. Ginger’s planning to launch an assault tomorrow. It might be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.” She made a helpless gesture. He rolled his eyes, “Of course, you have to be there. I forget sometimes that eating isn’t nearly as important as your ‘work.’ ” He sighed while transferring the pizza to a cookie sheet. This was not the mood he’d wanted to be in tonight. He wanted to be happy, content. He’d made a sweet deal; was one night of celebration too much to ask for? “You know, you could come with me,” she looked at him hopefully, her deep brown eyes opened wide, like they hadn’t done this routine a hundred times before. “Just for a day, a morning even. Blow off work and come and help us, see what it’s like. Why it has to be done.” “I could,” he agreed, “but I’m not going to, okay? I’m not interested. Sorry.” She crossed her arms. “I don’t understand you. How can you turn a blind eye to something this huge? It’s everywhere! The heat warps our buildings, and the dung is piling up all the way to Fifth. We’re assaulted with a constant avalanche of ash the moment we step outside. That’s not even counting all the trees that have burned.” “It doesn’t bother me.” “Doesn’t bother you?” Her brow furrowed. She could not believe how nonchalant he was about their lives. How could he calmly watch a pizza bake while the world fell apart outside their door? “Doesn’t bother you?” she repeated. “It’s a freaking dragon in the middle of the road.” She jolted out of her seat, making the folding chair clatter to the floor, and paced. “I know what it is,” he said, “it just doesn’t affect me, you know?” “No, I don't know. I don’t know how you could possibly think that, much less say it.” The washing machine buzzed, and she stomped over to it, throwing open the lid so fast that it came

7


“WHAT’ S THE CATCH ?”

H

ELL’ S LOTTERY

BY TIM PRATT

A BIG CYLINDER, my lord?” Belphagor said. “That spins?” The demon’s face, copied from an African tribal mask, twisted in confusion. “Do you want me to fill it with rats? Or spikes?” Lucifer shook his golden head. The sounds of hammering and distant machinery filled the red cavern of Belphagor’s workshop. “No. It isn’t for torturing the damned. Not exactly.” Lucifer picked up a chrome fire poker with a red button on the handle. He wasn’t sure what it did, but knowing Belphagor, it wouldn’t be pleasant. Most of the other fallen could outthink Belphagor, but none had his particular talents. “We’re going to hold a lottery on Christmas. Old Christmas.” “A lottery?” Belphagor grinned, his teeth like broken stumps. “For the demons? What’s the prize?” “No, a lottery for the damned.” Lucifer smiled, bathing Bel-

10

phagor’s face in light. “The prize will be two days of freedom, returned to Earth and a semblance of life. We’ll fill the drum with tokens, one for each damned soul, and draw one at random.” “What’s the catch?” Belphagor polished a needle-thin spike, doubtless a component in some larger grinding, tearing, biting machine. You have to admire his attention to detail, Lucifer thought, even as you curse his blindness to the wider view. “No catch.” Belphagor stopped polishing. “I don’t understand, my lord.” “Watch the damned when we hold the lottery, and perhaps you will.” &

Lucifer stood atop a balcony, above the miserable, expectant mass of the damned below. They blinked at the palace’s mir-

ILLUSTRATION BY ANGI SHEARSTONE


BULL SPEC—ISSUE #5 rored walls, relieved from cruder torments to experience this more subtle one. Lucifer spun the metal drum, and fluttering strips of paper whirled inside. Belphagor stood to one side, Cosmocrator on the other, and Puziel the scribe lurked behind. Lucifer wondered if someone important would win. Judas, perhaps? Or Genghis Khan? Mengele? Gilles de Rais? It’s unlikely, he thought. The odds favor a more obscure sinner. Just as well. If I gave Rasputin or Hitler a weekend pass, I’d probably hear from Metatron, and I can do without that.

He stopped the wire drum, listened to the collective inhalation below, and reached inside. &

“If it’s me, I’ll do a whole orphanage,” said a bald man with burn-scars on his face. “No, a whole hospital.” “I just want to see my Johnny,” a naked, mud-spattered woman said. “My dear Johnny.” “You won’t win,” a tattooed man argued. “The odds in this contest make the Irish Sweepstakes look like a sure thing.” Myra Hitomi tried not to hope. Hope could only hurt, when she didn’t win. Her friend from the leech-pit, Wilhemina, bounced on the balls of her feet. “I hope it’s me,” she said, her pasty face feverish with excitement. She grinned at Myra, her teeth green and mossy. Myra smiled back. Enjoy the moment, she thought—the respite from the pit, the worms, the biting. Don’t think about winning. Lucifer, identifiable only as a smokeless yellow radiance, spoke. “I hold in my hand the name of the luckiest soul in Hell. He—or she—will return to Earth, in a body, for two days of carnal delight or contemplation. Relief. Pleasure. Life. Total freedom, with all Hell’s resources at his disposal.” He spread his arms wide. “And the winner is … Myra Hitomi, late of the leech pit!” No clapping, only silence, and enough sobs to be audible even in a crowd of billions. “You bitch!” Wilhemina said. She came at Myra with clenched hands. Myra, stunned, didn’t move, barely even noticing her friend’s furious snarl. Me? she thought. Returned to Earth? Before Wilhemina reached her, Cosmocrator swooped down on manta-ray wings and grabbed Myra by the shoulders. He bore her to Lucifer’s balcony, giggling all the way. Myra wobbled unsteadily when Cosmocrator deposited her on the balcony. She found Lucifer less radiant up close. He reminded her of a teen heartthrob, all round eyes and boyish dimples. This was the prince of evil? “Congratulations, Myra!” Lucifer’s voice boomed over the impotently furious crowd. “Puziel! Tell us about our winner!” The scribe stepped forward. All his organs dangled on the outside of his body, pendulous from pink strings of tendon. He cleared his throat. Myra watched his esophagus wobble, and turned away in disgust. “Myra Hitomi, age 17 at death. Former inhabitant of America, current denizen of the Hollow of Biting Worms, Valley of the Ungrateful. Principle crime: Suicide. Secondary crimes: Refusal to honor her father and mother, sexual promiscuity, gluttony, and others too numerous to mention, un-

less my lord wishes.” “That’s all right,” Lucifer said, and now his grin reminded Myra of a game show host’s. “I think we get the idea. How long has the lovely Myra been with us?” Lucifer’s voice was full of oily charm. “As her people reckon time ... four years, eleven months, seventeen days, fifteen hours, three minutes, eleven seconds,” Puziel said. Myra blinked. Only five years? It felt like … eternity. “Well! Not even half a decade, and she gets a break!” Lucifer beamed at the crowd. “Isn’t that wonderful?” The damned rumbled angrily. “Of course, maybe she doesn’t want to go back. She left early, after all!” Lucifer turned to Myra. “Why did you kill yourself?” Myra shrank against the mirrored wall. In the hollow, no one singled her out. The pain saved her from thinking about her life. “I got pregnant,” she mumbled, but her voice boomed, amplified for the crowd. “My mother would have killed me.” The fallen angels laughed. All but Belphagor, who blithely whittled a bar of iron with a white-hot knife. “Well, I hope you have a wonderful trip,” Lucifer said, as if he hadn’t heard her answer at all. “We’ll have your old spot waiting when you get back.” He turned to address the multitude below. “Let’s have a round of applause for Myra!” The crowd didn’t respond. Red streaks flashed in Lucifer’s glow. He repeated himself in a dangerously toneless voice. “Clap for her.” The resulting applause sounded like the ocean rising to destroy the world. &

After Cosmocrator took Myra away, Lucifer turned to Belphagor. “Keep the mixing-drum. I think we should do this again next year. I have an idea that might make it even more entertaining.” “As my lord wishes,” Belphagor said, thinking how dull it had been, with no spikes involved. &

“Where to?” Cosmocrator asked. His skin glistened, purplishblack, slick as a dolphin’s. His odd, rounded wings seemed better suited to gliding through water than flying in the air. “What?” Myra felt lightheaded and disoriented, as she had when her blood flowed into the bathwater. They stood in a windowless room with mossy walls. A vegetable stink filled the air. I’m leaving, she thought, the fact sinking in for the first time. “You have two days, starting twenty-seven seconds ago. It’s the first week in January, Old Christmas. I’m your travel agent, guide, and means of transportation. You can move invisibly or appear tangibly, I don’t care. Where do you want to go?” Myra opened her mouth. To say what? Hawaii? Skiing in the Alps? But she couldn’t do those things, at least not right away. “I’d like to see my mother.” Cosmocrator rolled his algae-green eyes. “I expected something a little more … fun. But it’s your party.” They traveled. &

Myra gasped. Her mother sat in a wheelchair, bundled in a

11


SHE THOUGHT THAT PERHAPS ADVANCES IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WERE GOING TOO FAR. A TALKING APPLIANCE … WELL, IT FELT SPOOKY.

T

HE COFFEEMAKER’ S PASSION

BY CAT RAMBO

L

ORNA HAD ALWAYS had a good relationship with her coffeemaker. As she worked in her home office, doing the graphic design that paid her rent, it provided one caffeinated pot at 8 AM, and another around 11 AM. She restricted herself to those two pots, knowing it already excessive, and also knowing that she could have drunk a lot more. But she liked being able to sleep. In return, she provided it with an occupation and kept it scrupulously clean. Each Sunday she ran a pot of vinegar then several pots of water through it to remove any residue. The coffeemaker would burp steam, ready to start the next week. One day it stopped. Only a trickle of coffee emerged, and its burbling sounded dolorous. She bought a new coffeemaker. This was not just a coffeemaker, though. It was a Coffee Production Station. It would produce lattes, Americanos, espressos, everything, even iced coffee. A special compartment stored the beans, which it roasted before burr-grinding them to make a cup of coffee so smooth and strong that Lorna almost wept when she tasted it. Its electronic voice announced when the coffee was ready. A wireless connection let it order fresh beans and track atmospheric conditions that might affect the brew. And more. It was wonderful, and besides that, on sale. She installed it on the counter where the old coffeemaker had sat. It took up more room, so she had to put the toaster next to the refrigerator, but overall, the new arrangement had minimal impact on the kitchen. Every morning she helped herself to a fresh pot. It was lovely. On the third morning, the coffeemaker, which had a pleasant British accent, said, “Good morning, Lorna, your coffee is ready.” She was surprised. There was a personalization feature, but she hadn’t taught it her name. She wondered if the warranty card she’d filled out had somehow gotten the information to the machine through the Internet. Whatever it was, it was nice. Like the coffee maker was a

14

friend. Smiling, she took the cup and sat down at the table. “Aren’t you going to say thank you?” the coffee maker asked. “Er. Thank you,” she said. She lifted the cup in salute. “You’re most welcome!” the coffee maker said. She thought that perhaps advances in artificial intelligence were going too far. A talking appliance … well, it felt spooky. At 11 AM she came in for a fresh pot to take into the study with her. The coffeemaker produced one and she said thank you. “So!” said the coffee maker. “Do you have any interesting plans for the day?” “More work,” she said. “I’ve come up with a new drink that I think will help fuel you,” it said. “Triple espresso with a twist of lemon. Very nice, very smooth. Here, it’s ready.” The gleaming cup smelled sublime. “Thanks,” she said uncomfortably. She was used to solitude while working, at least until what she considered her workday was over. As though sensing this, the coffeemaker lapsed into silence again. She had a date that night. Afterwards they came back to her apartment and fooled around, but she stopped short of going to bed together, pleading fatigue. She liked the guy, but he had that looking-for-a-relationship air about him. She wouldn’t mind someone to go to the movies with, but she didn’t want to start thinking about something more serious, something that would take time away from what was already a busy and fulfilling life. Her romantic past had been sporadic and marked by bad break-ups. It had left her gun-shy. The next morning while she was thinking about this over breakfast, the coffee maker said in a sullen tone, “So who was that guy last night?” “Just a friend,” she said, pouring milk into her cereal bowl. “Is the coffee ready yet?” “I didn’t feel like making coffee this morning,” the coffeemaker said. “But because you insist, I will.” The cup tasted bitter and over-boiled.

ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM MEUSE


HANNU RAJANIEMI—THE QUANTUM THIEF of course.

assumptions one begins with.

You invite a variety of readings—radical SF, a cat-and-mouse mystery, a play on consensual reality and history. Who do you see as your ideal reader? One guiding principle behind TQT was to write a book I wanted to read myself … but having said that, I’ve had very nice feedback from both hardcore SF fans and people who have never picked up a science fiction novel in their lives. So I’d say anyone who enjoys mysteries and adventure, is willing to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride.

In TQT, you have a technology called gevulot, which is a computer governed veil used for privacy control. It becomes an integral part of the plot, as the story develops. Did such ideas occur to you in the writing process, or were they worked out in advance? Gevulot was always meant to be a key plot element, but how the characters ended up using it and how it all played out very much emerged during the writing. At least for me, it’s hard to “see” how it all fits together until you put yourself inside the characters’ heads and really immerse yourself in what is going on.

One of the most brilliant conceits of The Quantum Thief is how you’re able to advance a classic a mystery story in a world of ubiquitous information technology. Was it a challenge to work this out in post-Singularity world? That was the challenge or the contradiction (always good for any creative process) that drove both the story and the worldbuilding. At first I had a vague idea about wanting to write a story about a gentleman thief in a post-singularity setting. That immediately begged the question of what is actually worthwhile stealing in a world without material scarcity, where everything can be copied. The answer to that turned out to be quantum information. A gentleman thief also needs an adversary, a detective—but being a detective in a world with ubiquitous computing and sensing where everything is recorded would be meaningless. So that led to the idea of the Oubliette, a society where privacy and control of personal information is the most fundamental value of all. You introduce a variety of original high-concept SF ideas, such as q-dots, weaponized Bose-Einstein condensates, and non-sequential dorsal streams. Has your background in the sciences (PhD in mathematics) played an important role Hannu Rajaniemi in your writing? To some extent, although I shamelessly handwave or bluff a lot of things that aren’t mathematics or physics (and a lot of things that are). TQT is often described as hard SF, but I’m not really trying to write hard SF in the vein of Egan or Benford; I don’t work out the equations as I go. For me, the more important consequence of having a scientific background is a degree of speculative rigour: trying hard to work out the consequences of the

36

Can you tell us about your writing process? It’s sort of organic. I start with little post-it notes: one idea per post-it. I accumulate them for a while (sometimes weeks or months) and then cluster them on sheets of paper or notebooks, trying to see patterns. This can include ideas for scenes, characters, little background details, worldbuilding elements and so on. After a while, story shapes emerge and the sticky clusters are distilled into slightly more concrete notes, mind maps and diagrams. With the sequel I’m working on at the moment, I’ve used 6″x4″ index cards and covered my living room floor in them for a couple of weeks at one point. When the story wants to get out, I write a first draft of each chapter (longhand), type it up and edit it to death with a red pen. Analog tools work well for me because they are sort of calming and eliminate distractions; in the necessarily digital rewriting stage I find it necessary to turn to a little Mac app called Freedom, which shuts off your Internet connection for a prescribed amount of time… Who are some of the writers that you think that people should be paying attention to in the field? Who are your greatest influences? I’m not necessarily up to speed on who the rising stars of the genre are at the moment, but my guess would be that (for example) Jetse de Vries’s lovely anthology Shine contains quite a few names to watch. Well-known writers I admire include Ian McDonald, Roger Zelazny, Michael Chabon, and Kelly Link. In terms of influences, I’ve probably been shaped more by my interaction with the members of my writers’ group Writers’ Bloc than anyone else. Can you tell us anything about current projects? I’m working on the still-unnamed sequel to The Quantum Thief. It’s a bit early to say too much about it, but it will reveal more about the Sobornost (a sinister totalitarian upload collective), Jean and Mieli’s past and various other secrets. In terms of structure, I’m trying to do something a little bit different than with the first book, but we’ll see how it turns out… ■ See page 5 for Preston Grassmann’s contributor bio.


LIFE ON M ARS

It doesn’t specifically say so on the cover, but this is a YA collection. This is a category that simply did not exist when I was of an age to be the target audience, now it seems to be all-pervasive. But what exactly is it? The authors aren’t exactly talking down to their audience, or, at least, I have seen works that are as complex in language, ideas and structure that are ostensibly aimed at an adult audience. But the stories do seem to address their audience by the simple expedient of having a protagonist of the same age. (The one exception to this rule is “Discovering Life” by Kim Stanley Robinson, which also happens to be the only story

38

Viking, April 2011

Review by Paul Kincaid

that is not original to this anthology. Its presence here tends to suggest that, other than the age of the protagonist, there is no real difference between adult and young adult fiction.)

LIFE ON MARS edited by Jonathan Strahan

Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan is one of the world’s pre-eminent anthologists of speculative fiction. From fantasy anthologies like 2010’s Wings ofFire (Night Shade) and Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery (HarperCollins, with Lou Anders), to the frontiers of science fiction with 2011’s Engineering Infinity (Solaris), to space opera (The New Space Opera from HarperCollins to be precise, in two volumes so far, with Gardner Dozois), to the original and unthemed Eclipse series and, again so far, five years of collecting The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy ofthe Year, Strahan has amassed a critically acclaimed, broad, and deep bibliography. Read on for an interview of his latest anthology, Life on Mars, and an at-length interview.

But there is one restriction imposed by the age of the protagonist, which Nancy Kress puts her finger on in the note that accompanies her story: “in the real world, teens do not do much unsupervised exploration or discovery”. Actually, in the fiction

PHOTO BY CAT SPARKS


BULL SPEC—ISSUE #5 I remember from my youth, teens and younger had all sorts of exciting and unsupervised adventures, but that seems to be the purview of children’s fiction. By the time one qualifies for ya status, one is assumed to be that much older, that much closer to proper adulthood, and therefore one must be inculcated in the ways of the adult world. Practically all of the stories here are about children preparing to be adults; they are stories of education or, perhaps more accurately, of work experience. What we learn from so many of these stories is that adulthood is narrower, duller, and more dangerous than childhood, which may be true, but reading this perception in story after story is hardly inspiring. Typical is “Digging” by Ian McDonald in which the Martian colonists are engaged in the monumental task of digging a huge depression in the Martian surface in the belief that the thin atmosphere will pool here and make it habitable. McDonald’s protagonist, Tash, (overwhelmingly, the protagonists of these stories are girls rather than boys, which may say something though I’m not exactly sure what) is a restless teen who gets the chance to go out on one of the big digging machines with an older woman she reveres. It turns out to be far less interesting than she had ever imagined, until there is an accident and Tash has to get the pair of them back to safety. What has she learned from this experience? That work is tedious, that adulthood is boredom punctuated with flashes of pure terror. It’s not a bad story (there is little in the collection that is really

fiction; all but one of the authors have taken the “Life On Mars” remit as an excuse to write safe, traditional, middle-of-theroad SF. Only one of the contributors has taken the opportunity to try something different. “Wahala” by Nnedi Okorafor is set in the Sahara, where two young people, both in their way runaways and distrustful of each other, are first on the scene when a craft from Mars crashes nearby. Strange things have happened both on Earth and to the human colonists on Mars, and these returnees have brought an unwelcome visitor with them. But here it is the very youth of the protagonists, the ability to negotiate the new and the strange, that allows them to come to terms with what is happening better than any adult. It is the only story here that feels like a celebration of youth, that sees it as anything more than a preparation for the grind of growing older. &

Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn

After editing “just” 4 books in each of 2008 and 2009, you put out an even dozen last year. What accounts for the explosion of anthology projects in 2010? I think it’s a pretty deceptive thing. I actually had five anthologies out in 2010, along with a number of other books, mostly single author collections. It seems I typically work on about four books a year, and that number is so high because I edit two annual series, The Best Science Fiction I DOUBT I’ LL EVER DO THAT MANY BOOKS IN A YEAR AGAIN, BUT IT and Fantasy ofthe Year and Eclipse WAS FUN TO SEE THEM COME OUT ONE BY ONE THROUGH THE YEAR. books, for Night Shade. I do try to do another couple each year if I can. The bad), but when you’ve read something similar in “Attlee and the rush of books in 2010 was really the result of a couple of Long Walk” by Kage Baker and “First Principle” by Nancy titles—most particularly Godlike Machines—being delayed, and Kress and “Martian Heart” by John Barnes, you do begin to several single author collections dropping in unexpectedly. I wonder if there couldn’t be a little more to Mars. doubt I’ll ever do that many books in a year again, but it was And all too often when the teenagers do cut loose they get fun to see them come out one by one through the year. smacked down for it. Both “The Old Man and the Martian Sea” by Alastair Reynolds and “The Taste of Promise” by Rachel Six of those books were single-author collections. What do Swirsky feature kids who run away, and then find it’s a big, bad you look for when putting together a “best of” anthology world out there and wish they’d remained where it’s safe. “On for a given author, and have any of those been harder, or Chryse Plain” by Stephen Baxter features kids having fun, until more rewarding, to assemble? there’s an accident and suddenly they’re struggling to stay alive Two things: you need to create an accurate portrait of the auin the inhospitable Martian desert. The overt message of all of thor as a creator using what you consider to be their best works, these stories is that Mars is a frontier, rough, hard, a place where so you need a full expression of the author’s range as a writer, you must do your growing up quickly; the covert message is that and you need to be sure you have their best work. It’s particugrowing up isn’t much fun. larly rewarding when you can go off the beaten track a little and Many of the stories allow the protagonists to react quickly to highlight a forgotten gem. Probably the hardest “best of” I’ve danger and save the day by taking on the role of an adult: their done was the Bruce Sterling one a few years ago, simply because growing up is done. Only a couple, which are, I am sure not co- none of the text was available electronically. The most rewardincidentally, the best stories here, allow their protagonists to act ing ones of late were The Best ofKim Stanley Robinson, because I rather than react, to take charge of a situation, to complete the got to work closely with Stan and we became friends as we move into adulthood without having to abandon who they were worked on it, and The Best ofLarry Niven, because it redressed a in childhood. “Martian Chronicles” by Cory Doctorow follows situation that had bothered me for over a decade. a group of young colonists on the long flight to Mars as they discover that the interactive game they all play is actually the perWith a reprint anthology, stories missed or forgotten along fect model for survival in their new world. Doctorow’s story, the way get a new life, a new chance to be interpreted both like just about everything else here, is fairly conventional science against the time of their writing but in the ongoing conver-

39


JONATHAN STRAHAN—LIFE ON MARS sation of the field. Have there been stories of note that you’ve been a part of their “rediscovery” by a new generation of readers? I don’t know. Most of the reprint anthologies that I’ve worked on have been year’s best reprints, so the stories have hardly had a chance to fall out of currency. I guess in a book like Wings of Fire you might consider a story like Barry Malzberg’s “Concerto Accademico”, which isn’t very well known, could be a candidate.

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy ofthe Year: Volume Five,

both “The Cat That Walked a Thousand Miles” and “Spar” appeared in last year’s edition of that same anthology series, and “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” appeared the year before that. Her latest short story, “Story Kit”, is in your upcoming Eclipse Four anthology of original science fiction and fantasy. What can you tell us about “Story Kit”, and what draws your attention to Kij’s stories again and again? I think it’s best left for the reader to discover “Story Kit”, which I think is another marvelous story from Kij. What draws me back to her work again and again is that Kij writes brave and challenging fiction, and she rarely repeats herself. Her stories are wonderful and different—what else could an editor look for

In putting together an anthology, whether single-author, themed, or unthemed, do you try to make the stories form a larger narrative, or build and sustain an overall arc for the book? How does that process work? WHAT DRAWS ME BACK TO HER WORK AGAIN AND AGAIN IS THAT KIJ Building an anthology or single-auWRITES BRAVE AND CHALLENGING FICTION , AND SHE RARELY REPEATS thor collection is a little like creating a mosaic. In some cases you’re using HERSELF. H ER STORIES ARE WONDERFUL AND DIFFERENT— WHAT ELSE found pieces, in others you’re having COULD AN EDITOR LOOK FOR WHEN PUTTING TOGETHER A BOOK? them specially made. As an editor I try to place the pieces, the stories, in the most pleasing order in when putting together a book? terms of theme, of reading rhythm and so on. Usually when editing a single-author career retrospective I try to balance that by There has been an incredible upswing in original antholocreating a career-spanning arc, often sticking close to chronologies the last couple of years. At the same time, some “year’s gical order of publication. In the case of a book like Life on Mars best” and awards-based anthologies seem to have fallen by I did attempt to create a rough chronological order for the colon- the wayside. Has the recent upswing in anthologies more or ization of Mars, but I did abandon it a little to make the book less run its course? flow better. In terms of an unthemed anthology, say a volume of Yes and no. Sometimes original anthologies are more popular, Eclipse, I really don’t look for a narrative, but I do go for a readsometimes not. I think it’s cyclical. We definitely saw an ining arc through the book, again balancing rhythm and theme to crease in the number of original anthologies published up make a more pleasing reading experience. I also believe strongly through till about a year or so ago, and they definitely seemed that a reader needs to be welcomed into a book, and they need to be publishing fiction that was garnering a lot of attention. to be reassured that they’re getting the book they expected. However, for a lot of reasons, some to do with changes in publishing and bookselling and some not, sales and accordingly the What is the difference between editing a journal like Einumber of books being published is falling. I’m pretty confiddolon, the unthemed Eclipse series, the Year’s Best series, and ent this will swing back in time. What’s happened to year’s a themed young adult anthology like Life on Mars? best/award anthologies is a bit of subset of that. There was quite On a strictly line-by-line basis there isn’t a lot of difference at an increase in the number of titles appearing several years ago, all. You’re selecting stories. If they’re original, you’re working to but that seems to have settled down now. make each story better. If they’re reprints, you’re working to make them fit the book/project as well as possible. From there, Where do anthologies fit into the critical picture of science it’s true, there are difference. Editing Eidolon is perhaps most fiction and fantasy literature, and in the portion of science like editing Eclipse. Both are essentially period publications of fiction and fantasy which is a conversation among and original fiction, and each has its own character. You want to atbetween authors and editors? tract writers and feature their work in a way that works for each It really depends on the type of anthology, but overall I think issue/volume, but you also want to serve the series or magazine they are an important and valuable part of the critical picture of and its readership properly, building the magazine or series. The science fiction and fantasy. Books like the annual “year’s best” Year’s Best series is similar again, in that you’re building up, series provide a contemporary snapshot of what’s seen to be the hopefully, a regular readership that trusts your taste, while also best or most important fiction of the day, often with contemkeeping faith with your own role in the genre as a good reader, porary comments in introductory material that future scholars seeking out the best work in as wide a variety as possible. A find valuable, while retrospectives like the recent Wesleyan young adult anthology is something else again. You need to be volume are very useful tools for analysing and understanding even more aware of readership, but that’s fairly clear I think. the history of the field. Kij Johnson’s short story “Names for Water” appears in The

40

Is there an anthology from someone else you’re particularly


D A V I D ’ S One of science fiction’s strengths is that it can be a paradigmatic literature. Take a human conflict—the clash of cultures or the introduction of a new technology—and put it in an alien context, and voila, science fiction. The genius, then, of David Halperin’s Journal ofa UFO Investigator, is that he takes this conceit and makes it part of the overall narrative of the very down-to-earth situation of one Danny Shapiro, juggling the best of science fiction’s ability to cast problems in a new light with a strong, character-driven narrative. It makes perfect sense for Shapiro to try to deal with his growing alienation—his parents’ unhappy marriage, his faltering social life—by becoming obsessed with looking for actual aliens. It’s the way that Halperin interweaves how he “finds” them—in a manuscript of Danny’s creation—and the real world events that inspire them

PHOTO BY ANORA MCGAHA

Viking, February 2011

Review and Interview by Richard Dansky

that elevates the book. Danny’s real-world tale is down to earth and depressing. A JOURNAL OF A UFO INVESTIGATOR by David Halperin

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, David Halperin is the author of the critically acclaimed Journal ofa UFO Investigator. Published by Viking in February, 2011, Journal is the story of a teenager named Danny Shapiro whose interest in UFOs takes him to some dark places while ultimately allowing him to deal with the very real concerns of home, family, and burgeoning adulthood.

J O U R N A L

teenager in suburban Philadelphia in the early 1960s, he’s got acne. He’s got precisely two friends, one of whom’s a potential romantic interest and one of whom’s a rival. He’s got parents whose marriage has some sort of unpleasant secret lurking

43


QUEEN OF THE WINTER KINGDOMS: GAIL Z. MARTIN

The “what happened previously” prologue in The Sworn is barely more than 4 pages, and it is both a great refresher of what your previous readers have enjoyed and a crash course for those new to the world. As an author, how was the process of summarizing 4 books in 4 pages? It’s tough! We lose track of the fact that any story set in the real world automatically has a wealth of history behind it that we take for granted. So if I set a story in 2011, I don’t have to fill readers in on World War II, even though it tremendously shaped the world in which we now live. But when you create a fictional world, readers don’t come to the table with all of that backstory already in their heads. They won’t know there was a war unless you tell them. So the trick is to tell enough of the backstory to make the world feel real and lived in without going on too long or giving away spoilers. It’s a tough balancing act. From the outset, we see the star-crossed lovers Prince Jair of cosmopolitan Valiquet and Talwyn, shaman and daughter of the Sworn’s chieftan. After four books with our beloved Tris an Kiara, Jonmarc and Carina, Carroway, and on and on, was it refreshing to open the book with new, young characters? Actually, Jair is two years older than Tris, so that makes Jair 24 years old as the story opens, and Talwyn is close to the same age—so they’re hardly kids! But yes, it was fun writing about characters that the readers haven’t really met before. Jair has been mentioned in passing a few times and had a walk-on part in

48

enough, he was supposed to show up in a fairly significant way in The Summoner, and then that part of the story got changed.)

It is interesting that I can so easily think of Jair as younger, forgetting for a moment that while Tris has had four books of adventures and growth to this point, he’s still a very young man. Tris’s soul has seen more than 22 years worth of days! Yes, Tris makes quite a journey from protected younger son to king and summoner in a very short period of time. He’s done a lot of living in just 22 years, not unlike what happens to anyone who has lived through major violent political turmoil, or has gone to war and come home. We don’t really think about people back in historical times experiencing post-traumatic

Orbit, February 2011

Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn

Dark Haven, but other than that, he’s new to readers. (Oddly

THE SWORN by Gail Z. Martin

Epic fantasy author Gail Z. Martin’s new novel The Sworn (Orbit, February 2011) continues the adventures of Martris Drake and company which left off with the end of her four-part series The Chronicles ofthe Necromancer. From her Charlotte home, she writes, podcasts, teaches, and … writes some more, both on several blogs and through her Thrifty Authors and 30 Days series.

stress, but certainly Tris and Jonmarc show the signs, and it definitely existed back in the day, albeit unnamed. I remember my mom’s stories about the young men who came home from the first World War wandering the streets of her small town all


Guide Dog Books, March 2011

MONSTROUS CREATURES by Jeff VanderMeer

he’s both real and hyper-real—emotionally relatable, if extravagantly talented—and his story runs the gamut from terribly grim to comically light-hearted. There are some very funny set-pieces, like when a dose of poison strips away Kvothe’s social inhibitions, and some very harrowing ones, like the way he resolves a seemingly unwinnable standoff with a bandit force. The Wise Man’s Fear ends on a high note in Kvothe’s story and leaves us still wondering what brought him to his current low state. The next book is set up nicely to have Kvothe finish his story, reclaim his former glory in the present, and complete the quest that, we suspect, will be left unfinished in the tale he tells the Chronicler—not to mention finally get that damn mysterious box of his open. That, at least, would be an obvious and satisfying conclusion, though Rothfuss may well surprise us. In any case, we’ll be waiting in the Wayfarer’s Inn with bated breath to hear the end of this fantastically written and focused one-man epic.

particularly good interview with China Miéville previously published in the 85th anniversary issue of Weird Tales. Taken together, there’s some excellent reading in this section of the book. In the sections that follow the book wanders a bit. There are some book reviews from various newspapers and literary web sites, introductions written for other writers’ collections, and occasional bits of personal writing about family interactions, hiking, and travel. The writing on these is still sharp but many feel somewhat dated or misplaced. With the introductions, most of the books in question have come and gone so the essays are more historical artifacts than anything else. This problem is exacerbated in the book reviews, likely by the word-count limitations of most markets. With many of the reviews at less than a thousand words, there wasn’t much room for Vandermeer to do an in-depth analysis at the time and they aren’t expanded or annotated here. The blog entries vary from the analytical to the & personal but for the most part they feel like blog entries, their MONSTROUS CREATURES: REVIEW BY JOHN relationship to the monstrousness of the title somewhat tenuous. BOWKER For a while, the book left me wondering about its intended audience. On the back cover it is listed as literary criticism, but It’s hard to overstate Jeff VanderMeer’s impact on literary fantasy without citations, bibliography, or an index it’s not really over the last decade. With the novel Veniss Underground and his formatted as an academic resource. For fans, several of the best stories and novels set in the uncomfortably strange city of pieces are probably already on their shelves or in their bookAmbergris he was on the forefront of what would come to be marks folder. The best answer came to me in VanderMeer’s known as the New Weird; as an editor, he’s shown a canny eye for recent celebration of his fourth year as a full-time professional spotting up and coming writers and trends in short fiction with writer and editor, an essay posted in his blog Ecstatic Days. A the Leviathan series and various topical anthologies. With his new massive achievement for anyone working in the field, he describes collection, Monstrous Creatures, he’s assembled a non-fiction natu- it as a process of evolution, from drowning to cobbling together a ral history of his last half-decade in the field made up of previous- precarious raft to an existence of comfortable if unpredictable ly published essays, book reviews, and personal reflections. It’s a scavenge on a boat of his own making. It’s a terrific read in its somewhat random assortment of monsters, but there are a few own right, but as a companion volume the book provides an specimens with sufficient teeth to make for interesting reading. interesting history and road map to the less-discussed aspects of Divided into three sections, the book opens strong with “The that professional evolution. Along with the novels and antholThird Bear”, VanderMeer’s meditation on monstrous archetypes ogies, there were other pieces and parts that buoyed Vanderin fantasy and fable. From there, he moves into a broader Meer’s boat, a stream of smaller assignments and intellectual examination of various topics including the timidity of most exercises that kept the sails full and his career moving forward. modern fantasy writing, ruminations on the New Weird as a Anyone looking to launch their own writing out of the shallows literary movement, and several essays on various writers he feels might find Monstrous Creatures worth a look for that reason worthy of further attention. Along with these, he includes a alone. It’s a message in a bottle from someone who made it. ■

MONSTROUS CREATURES LIMITED EDITION DUST JACKET DESIGN BY JEREMY ZERFOSS

57


Bull Spec is edited, designed, & published by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn with poetry editor Dan Campbell. To learn more or to order back issues (or subscribe!) visit [bullspec.com] or email [bullspec@bullspec.com]. EDITORIAL: There’s Something Happening Here

I

t is a wonderful time to be interested in speculative fiction in the Triangle. First, the Bull Spec #4 launch party at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop on January 12 was, despite the road-crippling ice, a wonderfully attended and enjoyed event. Clay and Susan Griffith read from The Greyfriar, Rebecca Rowe told us about bringing a case of Forbidden Cargo aboard an airplane, James Maxey read from Bitterwood, and Andrew Magowan read from his story “Freedom Acres”. We also had our first poetry reading: Jennifer McConnel, of her poem “Enchantment”. Since then there’s been the usual flood of story publications: John Kessel’s “Clean” in Asimov’s; Gwendolyn Clare’s “Perfect Lies” in Clarkesworld and “Iron Oxide Red” in Daily Science Fiction; Peter Wood’s “Future Imperfect” in Ray Gun Revival; Lewis Shiner’s “Love in Vain” was included in the Joe Lansdale-edited Crucified Dreams anthology; and Melinda Thielbar’s “You’re Almost Here” (published in Bull Spec #3) was picked up by Mur Lafferty’s Escape Pod. (Among so very many others.) On the non-fiction side, the SF Signal Podcast included an interview with David Drake which is well worth the listen. In awards news, Kij Johnson’s “Ponies” is a finalist for the Nebula Award, along with Mary Robinette Kowal’s novel Shades ofMilk and Honey. Jason Erik Lundberg’s fiction collection Red Dot Irreal is forthcoming in June from Singapore’s Math Paper Press. Dale Mettam was named editor-in-chief of Viper Comics. (And he’s looking for an intern.) Also in comics: TURF (art by Tommy Lee Edwards) will see its conclusion this summer; In Maps and Legends (story by Michael Jasper) keeps producing wonderful digital editions; and The Order ofDagonet (by Jeremy Whitley and Jason Strutz) continues its run. And events? We’ve had a few. High Point’s StellarCon (with guest of honor Todd McCaffrey) was a great success, and next year looks to be even bigger as Patrick Rothfuss (The Name ofthe Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear) brings his beard and bestselling fantasy series to the state. Both Angi Shearstone (BloodDreams) and Mur Lafferty (The Afterlife Series) had incredibly successful Kickstarter fundraisers for their projects, showing the support the community has for excellent speculative fiction.

Still, it’s four “happenings” which have me nearly dancing in the streets with excitement. The first are the announcements of two new Raleigh-based SF conventions: illogiCon, which will be held January 13-15, 2012 and feature guest of honor Joe Haldeman; and ConTemporal, to be held June 21-24, 2012. The second is that Maxey announced the sale of the first three books of a new fantasy series, to begin with Greatshadow, to Solaris. The books share a universe with Maxey’s short story of the same title which appeared in last year’s fantasy anthology Blood and Devotion, feature dragons, magic, mythology, the afterlife,

and their signing represents a firm recognition of Maxey’s talents as an author. The third concerns Shiner’s 1993 novel Glimpses. The novel, which won the 1994 World Fantasy Award, now has a wonderful new audiobook from Audie- and Grammy-winning narrator and producer Stefan Rudnicki. The story is as beautiful and fragile and human as ever, and Rudnicki’s narration brings it to clear, resonant life. Lastly, mark your calendars for Saturday, July 30. Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery will host Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s “Cabinet of Curiosity” tour, featuring several contributors to their recent projects The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet ofCuriosities (including Lafferty) and The Steampunk Bible. It’s set to be a wonderful evening of beer, readings, signings, conversations, and perhaps (f we demand it) interpretive dance. And don’t forget: while HBO reminds us that “Winter is Coming”, Jay Requard’s The Night is on its way soon as well, along with Drake’s Out ofthe Waters. Though: how do we convince George R.R. Martin (A Dance with Dragons) and Lev Grossman (The Magician King) to bring readings to the Triangle? See you April 15 at Quail Ridge,

Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Editor & Publisher, Bull Spec

Document layout created in Scribus with additional text editing performed using OpenOffice.org and additional image editing performed using GIMP and Inkscape. Printed by Publishers Press in Shepherdsville, KY, USA.



Bull Spec #5 - Sample