Friday, August 1, 2008

Moving house

I've moved! My posts on speculative fiction publishing and reviewing will now be hosted at Genreville. You can subscribe to the RSS feed here. It's syndicated on LiveJournal as well. See you there!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monday... er, Tuesday roundup: SF&F focus issue!

Monday Tuesday roundup, as today is kind of a do-over Monday for me (and apparently lots of other people as well).

This week's issue of PW is our annual fantasy & science fiction focus issue, so we've got a boatload of interesting stuff. My fellow editor Peter Cannon has an article on the history of alternate history, Scott Connors discusses the politics of military SF, and Cherie Priest finds that Baen Books is recovering well from Jim Baen's death. Over in reviews section, we have reviews of Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come (starred), Judith Tarr's Bring Down the Sun, Fiona McIntosh's Goddess, Paul L. Bates's Dreamer, and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Mercy, as well as Patti O'Shea's In Twilight's Shadow in the mass market section. Finally, over in blog-land, I have a post following up last week's discussion of series with a taxonomy of series readers. Whew! Good times.

Do let me know what you think of the articles in particular; it's not too soon to start planning next year's focus issue. I've already got a mental note to see about adding horror to the genre list.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Seen in today's Ansible:

"A Games Workshop mole reports sweeping cuts in their publishing arm after a poor Christmas for games sales. Marc Gascoigne, founder of the imprints Solaris (sf/fantasy) and Black Library (game ties), is now on 'gardening leave' with redundancy expected to follow. BL seems safe but the future of Solaris is less certain."

Anyone know anything about this? It's news to me.

Monday... er, Tuesday roundup

Monday Tuesday roundup! Apparently I struck a nerve with my latest blog entry for Notes from the Bookroom, in which I scold lazy series authors for making new readers work too hard. Lots of animated discussion going on over there; come join in!

Reviewed in the SF/F/H section of this week's PW: Thomas E. Sniegoski's A Kiss Before the Apocalypse, Maurice G. Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated, Katharine Kerr's The Shadow Isle, and the genre-bending anthologies Sideways in Crime (ed. Lou Anders) and Best Fantastic Erotica (ed. Cecilia Tan). Haven't had a chance to look for stealth specfic in the other sections, so if you spot any, let me know.

Work's been keeping me very busy. I've got a huge stack of July books, a smaller stack of August titles, and even a few Septembers. Our new layout offers new opportunities for bringing attention to SF/F/H titles, so I've been keeping an eye out for titles that warrant boxes and other special treatment, as well as lining up Q&As and author profiles. Needless to say, I'm enjoying this all tremendously. April 16th will be my anniversary at PW and I can barely believe it's been a whole year. I don't think I've ever been this happy at a job a year in. It's fabulous.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Words not to use

this list of the "seven deadly words of book reviewing" is entertaining (though I do use "eschew" in conversation, thank you very much) but the real gold is in the comments. "The 'much-anticipated debut.' By whom? The author’s landlord?" Wha-pow! And indeed, many of the offending terms mentioned there are frequent victims of my red pen. Fortunately all my reviewers know better than to use "limn".

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday roundup

Monday roundup, a bit late because I am moving very slowly today due to not much sleep.

On Notes from the Bookroom, I grouse about the cover for Charles Stross's Saturn's Children. I try to maintain a professional demeanor over there, so I deleted the paragraph in which I suggested the art had been done in a couple of hours with ray-tracing software and then turned in without the all-important final pass to add detail. Also, the legs of the woman "femmebot" on the cover are about three times the length of her torso and each thigh is about the same diameter as her waist. I have absurdly long legs for my height--Josh and I both wear a 30" inseam, but he's 5'8" and I'm 5'4"--so I know what long-legs-and-short-torso proportions look like. They do not look like that. Not even on futuristic indestructible sex robots.

This week's reviews include Lawrence Watt-Evans's The Summer Palace, Laura Anne Gilman's Free Fall (starred, and you can see her response here), Jonathan Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Two (I wish publishers would put the actual year in the titles of their YBs, rather than the volume number), and Jeff Somers's The Digital Plague.

I really will write up some books here soon; I even have them set aside to write about. I just haven't had the spare time or energy. Speaking of which, I'm off to bed early tonight. (For me, 11:30 p.m. is a good three and a half hours earlier than usual.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A book with an orchid on the cover

Sometimes reviewing can seem a little stuffy and boring. Sometimes poetry can seem a little stuffy and boring. Sometimes poetry reviewing can seem, well, really stuffy and boring.

Other times you get to label John Updike's homage to fellatio "perhaps the worst poem ever written on any subject" and "bad by cosmic design", or describe W.H. Auden's pseudo-anonymous rhyming ode to picking strangers up for a quick blowjob as "Like a Penthouse Forum letter, except in lively verse, and with no women. It's sort of great, and also sort of cheesy and awful, and also occasionally hilarious."

The entire Auden poem is at that second link. It is not safe for work, and it is really really not safe for brain. It is some of the worst poetry--and the worst porn--I have ever read. I couldn't stop laughing. Enjoy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday roundup

Today on Notes from the Bookroom, I write about the blurry line between YA and adult fiction. This week's reviews include Charlaine Harris's From Dead to Worse (starred), Craig DiLouie's The Great Planet Robbery, Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon's Mind the Gap, Jennifer Fallon's The Immortal Prince, and Walter Mosley's The Tempest Tales, as well as Karen Chance's Embrace the Night in the mass market section and Susan Hubbard's The Year of Disappearances and Megan Chance's The Spiritualist in fiction.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I do not think it means what you think it means

A reviewer used the word "interstitiality" in a review the other day, and our lovely copyeditor flagged it: "Readers will know what this means? (Awfully academic word.) Or are following descriptions sufficient explanation?" The review goes on to describe one story as "equal parts fantasy, coming-of-age tale and unconventional ghost story" and says another "wraps social commentary in sardonic science fiction".

Am I too steeped in criticism? Is "interstitiality" an obscure term that will confound our readers, who do after all work in publishing and bookbuying and presumably stay hip to current subgenres and trends? Or is it a perfectly useful and appropriate word, especially with the added context?

While I'm on the topic, today's blog post over at Notes from the Bookroom inaugurates International Reviewer Appreciation Day, March 21st. In the reviews section, we have reviews of The Inhabitant's The Great Romance, John C. Wright's Null-A Continuum, Brian Lumley's Haggopian and Other Stories, Ken Rand's Pax Dakota, and Melissa Melinda Snodgrass's The Edge of Reason, as well as a review of Jacquelyn Frank's Damien: The Nightwalkers in the mass market section and the suspiciously genre-esque Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst in the fiction section.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reviewers wanted

The PW YA/children's reviews editor mentioned to me that she could use a few new reviewers, and I said I knew lots of people who would probably be delighted to apply. If you think that sounds like fun, please email the following to with "Children's/YA reviewer application" in the subject line:

1) A sample review in PW style, preferably of a recent children's or YA book we haven't reviewed.
2) A list of your favorite contemporary children's and/or YA authors: that is to say, show your knowledge of who's writing and getting published right now. That section covers everything from board books to novels for teens, so anything in there is fine.
3) A very brief bio, if you want to include one. Prior reviewing or professional writing experience isn't necessary.

I'm sure more people will apply than she can use, but she said she'd be thrilled to have names on file. I have no idea what the payscale is. We usually expect a book to be read and reviewed within two weeks of receipt. U.S. residents only, please, as international shipping is prohibitively expensive. Feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested. No deadline.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday roundup

I've got a new post up at Notes from the Bookroom, wherein I assert that not all publicists are a bunch of idiots.

Reviewed in this week's PW: Robert Silverberg's Something Wild is Loose, Eric Brown's Kethani, Alan Campbell's Iron Angel, John Farris's Avenging Fury, and Lois McMaster Bujold's Passage, as well as Graham Masterton's The 5th Witch in the mass market section.

Monday, February 25, 2008

First post!

Now that I have delivered a strict smackdown to PW's blogging software (which, among other things, appears to timestamp in some other time zone), my first post on Notes from the Bookroom is up.

While I'm on the topic, this week's PW includes reviews of Tim Lebbon's Fallen, C.E. Murphy's The Queen's Bastard, Catherynne M. Valente's A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Allen Steele's Galaxy Blues, Pamela Freeman's Blood Ties, and Jack Ketchum's Only Child, as well as notes on the Subterranean special edition of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and Douglas A. Anderson's Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Back from the dead

Now that everything is official, I can reveal the reason I needed to briefly cocoon this blog: I'm now blogging for Publishers Weekly, contributing a weekly post to Notes from the Bookroom. Keep an eye out for my pontifications, which I will post every Monday afternoon starting February 25th. Those of you on LiveJournal can befriend the RSS feed here; the rest of you can get it through Feedburner here.

Since most of my PW-related content will be appearing over there, this blog will focus more on my literary adventures: judging awards, attending conventions and readings, pondering about reading and writing, and discussing the few books I actually manage to read.

I will also keep pimping my PW work, of course. This week, check out Paul Allen's great interview with Paolo Bacigalupi. It got trimmed from the magazine at the last minute, so I'm delighted to see it up on the site (and currently the "top story" on the front page!). Still in the magazine: reviews of Orson Scott Card's Keeper of Dreams, Jim Butcher's Small Favor, Ellen Datlow's The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Robert Asprin's Dragons Wild, and David Zindell's Lord of Lies in the SF/F/H section. I didn't spot anything SFnal in the Fiction or Mass Market sections this week, but if I missed something, let me know.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Changes afoot

The time has come for this blog to spin its cocoon. In a few weeks it will be reborn in a different form. Have no fear; the URL and RSS feed info will remain the same. There is no need to adjust your browser.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Tim Pratt mentioned that this week's PW gave his forthcoming novel, Poison Sleep, a very positive review.

That's weird, I thought, I don't remember that book at all, and I certainly think I'd have noticed it.

Some investigation revealed that as the book is a mass market release, it was reviewed in our mass market section. While flipping through the magazine, I noticed that Barth Anderson and Karen Joy Fowler--both of whom I think of as speculative fiction authors--had books reviewed in the main fiction section this week. So why are they there, and not keeping company with Tim Powers, John Kessel, Peter F. Hamilton, Christopher Golden, and Kate Elliot in the SF/fantasy/horror section?

The answer is a bit complicated, because genre lines are blurry things and we also have to give a nod to publishers' preferences. If Anderson's book had been published under Bantam's Spectra imprint, it would have come to me. It was published under their main imprint, so it went to the fiction editors instead. Anderson's novel seems to have speculative elements, but the review describes it first and foremost as an "offbeat thriller"; thrillers are grouped with mainstream fiction. It's not clear from the review of Fowler's book whether there are any speculative aspects to it at all, though "the line between fiction and reality blurs" hints at the sort of metatextuality that characterizes, say, Jasper Fforde's work... which isn't considered speculative fiction either.

As for mass market vs. trade, there's been some very casual talk of reorganizing our sections so that mass market originals are covered side by side with trade paperback and cloth originals. I'm personally in favor of this. I'd like to see SF/F/H cover all SF/F/H, including the big names like Stephen King and Terry Pratchett who tend to wind up under fiction (by virtue of being bestsellers and therefore mainstream), as I'm firmly opposed to the ghettoization of genre fiction. I think romance should get its own section, since that's most of what gets covered under mass market, and I wouldn't argue with combining mysteries and thrillers into a single section, since there's tremendous audience overlap and the line between the two is very blurry.

Do I have any say in this? Not really! I don't think this sort of massive reorganization is likely to happen anytime soon, either. But it's nice to dream.

Incidentally, those interested in discussions of genres and subgenres may be interested in this discussion over at Jay Lake's place. There's some very interesting conversation going on there.

The New Yorker gets nerdy

I am thrilled to see how many of the Eustace Tilley contest finalists have some sort of science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme:

There are also plenty of math and science ones to make the nerds even happier:

My personal favorite is the homage to Basil Wolverton, a sporadic but brilliant contributor to the original Mad comic book (back before its reinvention as a magazine). Wolverton's work is magnificently horrendous and I'm thrilled to see his name getting some press, albeit thirty years after his death when it won't really do him much good.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A veritable flood

It's been a dry winter in New York, with our first snowless January in more than 70 years, but at least we got a temporary respite from the book drought today (along with some nasty freezing rain). Apparently the good folks at Tor wanted to send us all their May, June, and July titles at once, and we also got a handful of galleys from Eos, Five Star, and Subterranean. I'm now a bit less worried about the need for review rationing.

Planet Stories also sent us a package. It contains two finished copies of December titles (far too late to review or mention in notes, sadly) and a packet of Robert E. Howard tie-in tea promoting the forthcoming Almuric. I wish I had my camera here, because it sort of has to be seen to be believed. The label, which includes the appropriately gory and sensationalist cover image of the book, reads "Almuric Oolong Tea: An Interplanetary sensation that's out of this world!" On the back it says "Planet Stories: Brewed to Perfection!" (Capitalization as in the original.) My hat is doffed to the publicist who came up with that idea. What they did not include was a galley of Almuric itself, rendering the tea somewhat less useful for promotional purposes*, but it is certainly very useful for drinking purposes, and I plan to enjoy it.

Me: "They included very formal instructions. Warm up the pot with hot water, wake up the tea..."
Josh: "Crush the tea like the bones of your enemies! Steep three minutes with the lamentations of their women and children!"

Monday, January 28, 2008


Just submitted for review: John C. Wright's Null-A Continuum (Tor, May '08), a sequel to A.E. van Vogt's The World of Null-A.

I haven't looked inside the book itself, so I can't comment there. I'm just a bit croggled that it exists at all, though I suppose it's no surprise that if someone was going to have the chutzpah to "continue" one of the most influential books in the American SF canon, it would be Wright. The jacket copy claims that he "trained himself to write in the exciting pulp style and manner of van Vogt". What a terrifying statement. I'm not sure I can bring myself to read the book just yet; I'm very glad I have a reviewer I can assign it to instead, so I'll have a bit of warning.

I told Josh at Skifferati* about this and he asked, "Can you think of anyone who's written a sequel for a dead famous author that was worthwhile? Outside of fanfic**?" I had to think hard, and the only name I could come up with was Ruth Plumly Thompson. Pulp sequels in particular are really the written SF world's equivalent of Hollywood remaking The Day the Earth Stood Still.

* Who also happens to be my husband.
** I think that in this case, the only distinction between "fanfic" and "not fanfic" is whether it's a) authorized or based on notes by the original author and b) being published on paper.

I haven't read Kevin J. Anderson's Slan Hunter, though our reviewer thought it was decent; that would be a natural point of comparison, but Anderson was working from van Vogt's notes, whereas Wright appears to have created this from whole cloth. At least I'm fairly sure that it can't be worse than the recent multi-author sequel to The Witches of Karres (or at least the first few pages of it, which is all I managed to get through before putting it back on the bookstore shelf and backing away).

Of course, the point isn't so much to outdo other sequels as to equal the original. It's also unfair to demand that it be as mind-blowing and groundbreaking as The World of Null-A was in 1949; it seems more honest to see whether Null-A Continuum can match the effect of the original on a present-day reader. I find Wright's novels contorted and stilted at best, but they are admittedly contorted and stilted in a way that's not all that far from the style of the pulp era's unpolished gems, and while van Vogt's writing has aged pretty well, there are a lot of places where someone familiar with the evolution of SF in the last sixty years would find it tired, predictable, or inane. I suppose at some point I'll just have to reread The World of Null-A and then see whether Wright's sequel does at least a good a job of standing up under modern critical examination. Hopefully framing it in those terms will sufficiently reduce my expectations. Hopefully.

A little something extra

Spec fic fans, this week's PW is for you. On top of eight SF/F/H reviews (scroll two thirds of the way down) and the usual notes, I managed to wedge in a signature review (scroll all the way down) by Jeff VanderMeer of Ekaterina Sedia's anthology Paper Cities--the first SF/F/H signature review in PW ever, as far as I can tell--and a Q&A with Iain M. Banks. I got so enthusiastic that the Powers That Be had to tell me to calm down a little and leave room for contributions from other sections, so this is probably the last time you'll see two such SF/F/H-related items in a single issue of the magazine (other than our annual SF/F/H issue, of course). Don't miss it! Run, don't walk, to your bookstore or newsstand and grab a copy, or follow those links and read it all on our website for free.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In the spotlight

The special science fiction/fantasy/horror issue of Publishers Weekly comes out April 7th. It's not too early to think about what should be in it. I don't have much say over the news articles, but I can certainly suggest some features.

O loyal readers, what would you like to see in that issue? Feel free to promote yourself or your friends, or talk about areas that you think don't get enough attention, or mention big news or notable trends from genre publishing in the past year (because I have a terrible memory for that sort of thing), or tell me what you think is boring and overdone and not worth covering. All ideas welcome. If you see an idea you like in someone else's comments, tell me that too, so I can get a sense of what The People want. And please do pass the link around and blog about it. The more input I get on this, the better!

Publishers interested in advertising in that issue should note that the deadline for reservations is March 27th. All the info on advertising is here.

(For those reading via the RSS feed on LJ, remember to click through and comment on the original post; I won't see comments on the LJ feed.)