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!"