Celebrating a Decade of Excellence: Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Ten Volume One-small Clarkesworld Year Ten Volume Two-small

Covers by Shichigoro-Shingo and Rudy Faber

Clarkesworld editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace have had a busy year.

For one thing, they’ve published a full 12 issues of one of the most acclaimed science fiction magazines on the planet. For another, there’s all those conventions, nominations, and shiny awards to keep them occupied — including a Best Editor Hugo nomination for Neil, a Hugo nomination for Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018), and a World Fantasy Award win for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” (Clarkesworld, Aug. 2018). On top of that, Neil was presented with the 2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction community at the Nebula awards weekend in May, one more award to polish on his mantlepiece.

They also have their own projects — Sean edits the fine magazine The Dark and runs Prime Books, and Neil has produced a pair of anthologies this year, The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four and The Eagle Has Landed: 50 Years of Lunar Science Fiction.

But in addition to all of that, Neil and Sean are also keeping up a hectic pace of Clarkesworld annual anthology volumes — four in the past two months alone. Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, containing a year’s worth of fabulous tales from 2015 & 2016, were published on October 3, 2019; Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two followed less than a month later, on November 1, 2019. I’m not sure how they do it, but someone should create an award for science fiction overachievement, and give it to both of them. If they can get either one of them to stop moving long enough to accept it.

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New Treasures: Clarkesworld Year Nine, Volumes One & Two, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Nine Volume One-small Clarkesworld Year Nine Volume Two-small

It’s hard to believe Clarkesworld magazine launched over a decade ago (in October 2006, believe it or not). I remember when Neil Clarke announced it, as sort of a side project/marketing scheme for his online Clarkesworld bookstore. I was already a regular customer — Clarkesworld was far and away the best source for small press magazines, and they sold a lot of the print edition of Black Gate — and I was curious to see what he could do with it.

The rest, as they say, is history. The bookstore shut down a few years later, but the magazine exploded. Last time I counted it had a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, a British Fantasy Award, and in 2013 it received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines combined. Clarkesworld keeps getting bigger and more ambitious every year… although, in one way at least, things haven’t changed much since 2006: I’m still intensely curious to see where Neil and Sean will take it next.

I don’t have time to read every issue, so I greatly appreciate their tradition of producing an annual print volume every year collecting a complete year of fiction under a single cover. Last year’s Year Eight was a huge 448 pages and, given how much the magazine has grown in the past year, I was looking forward to seeing just how big Year Nine would be. When I finally set eyes on it (at the Clarkesworld booth at the World Fantasy convention) I wasn’t disappointed. For the first time it’s been broken into two books, both over 300 pages.

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July 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld July 2017 smallIn his editorial this issue, Neil Clarke reflects on the heart attack that nearly killed him five years ago.

When the universe calls, you have no choice but to listen. Five years ago this month, it sent me a message in the form of a near-fatal heart attack. It was the sort of thing that not only caught me off guard, but my family, friends, and doctors as well. As I lay there in the critical care unit, the weight of what happened hit me hard, providing an odd sort of clarity and a revised outlook on life. I had some choices to make, a lot of alone time before visitors to think about it.

Over the years, I’ve blogged and editorialized many of the details of that time, but today is about celebrating an anniversary and pushing forward. Not only did I survive, but I learned a lot of valuable lessons. It was a crappy way to get the message, but I’m very glad I did. At the end of the first year, I took back the anniversary by returning to Readercon — the scene of the crime — and successfully ending the Kickstarter campaign for Upgraded, my first anthology.

Five years later, I have a year’s best series and several more anthologies, watched Clarkesworld turn ten, and made it to my fiftieth birthday. Earlier this year and thanks to my wife’s return to the workforce, I was able to quit the day job and have the time to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time editor. Technically, I am full-time now, but the goal was always to be making a full-time income — with healthcare covered — and I’m still working towards that.

Speaking as someone who still believes SF magazines are the heart of the field, I’m enormously grateful Neil is still with us.

The July Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Zhang Ran, Rich Larson, Robert Reed, Bo Balder, and Nicole Kornher-Stace, plus reprints by Joe Haldeman and Lavie Tidhar. The cover, “Genetics Lab,” is by Eddie Mendoza.

Nicole Kornher-Stace, author of Archivist Wasp, writes that her tale is “the first short story I’ve written in approximately forever. It’s also the first tie-in story I’ve written in the Archivist Wasp world. More of those to come.”

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June 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Sunday, June 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 129 June 2017-smallOver at Tangent Online, Rebecca DeVendra reviews the riches at hand in the latest Clarkesworld.

Andy Dudak writes the mind-bending tale “Fool’s Cap.” There [were] points when I felt like my brain had been melted and hung over a clothesline. It was great. Most stories that try to write about time-loops and parallel universes fall into many paradoxical traps: this is the nature of the thing. Dudak handles these ingredients like a master chef. The story follows Beadith, a Tribunal agent chasing a killer, and she gets stranded on an island with him. Weak and helpless, he has given himself over to a sentient moss that affixes itself to his head and shows him several versions of himself. Beadith communes with the moss as well, and starts to converse with other versions of herself…

“Neptune’s Trident” by Nina Allan is a dark post-apocalyptic tale shot through with tension that never really crescendos. Allan’s sybaritic prose beguiled me, so much so that when I got to the end of the story I felt as if I’d had an odd dream, filled with a dread I couldn’t define. The story tells of an invasion by nonhuman beings that work through infection, making people sick. They are called “flukes” in the story and all sorts of political misfortunes befall them, from internment camps to executions. Allan’s world is full of suspicion and dread, and I admit I felt a bit flensed after being immersed in it.

Read her complete review here.

The June Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Andy Dudak, Julia K. Patt, Nina Allan, Sam J. Miller, and A Que, plus reprints from Jay Lake and Aliette de Bodard.

The cover, “Sea Change,” is by Matt Dixon.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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May 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Sunday, May 14th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld May 2017-smallThe longest story in the May Clarkesworld is Kelly Robson’s novelette “We Who Live in the Heart.” Here’s a snippet from Quick Sip Reviews.

The story centers [on] a character who has fled from human civilization belowground, a place where cooperation is king and time is heavily monitored and monitzed. The alternative, though, is to go up to the surface and try to live inside the body of whale-like creatures that seem about the only thing that can handle the extreme conditions. It’s a decision that the narrator was one of the first to make, to go out and try to create something in this waste, to survive where people didn’t think possible. And it’s a decision that Ricci is just making as the story opens, escaping a string of bad situations… We as humans are all different and the story does a lovely job of showing what that can mean, how people can still find value in each other and in their relative seclusion, forming loose bonds that perhaps don’t offer as much cohesion but don’t bind, either. That exist to be supportive and caring without suffocating. And I like how the story establishes that with the crew of Mama, how the main character comes to stand for this voice of freedom even as they do yearn for relationships and company… It’s a story with a great sense of wonder and fun, and it’s an amazing read!

The May Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Nick Wolven, Kelly Robson, E. Catherine Tobler, and Tang Fei, plus reprints from Kage Baker and James Tiptree Jr.

The cover, “Darkess,” is by Julie Dillon.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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April 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 127-smallIn his editorial in the April issue, Clarkesworld founder Neil Clarke reflects on his first few months as a full time editor.

I left my day job at the beginning of February, but it’s only now beginning to feel real. Previously, whenever I had vacation time, I’d shift to full-time editor, so when I finally did quit, it just felt like one of those vacations: lots of work, little downtime. The same here, initially: I had a small mountain of tasks on my to-do list and I’ve been head-down plowing through them. It’s hard to notice your world has changed when you are that focused.

It took nearly two months for me to clearly notice that this is my new life. I’ve been doing some freelance consulting for my former employer — a few hours here and there — so I haven’t fully disconnected from them. It’s all been remote assistance, so when I stopped by to help them with a more difficult problem, I noticed that stress that I had felt while working there, was gone. While there, I talked with friends about the ongoing situation and I sympathized, but it didn’t generate any anxiety. I walked to my car knowing that I was free.

A few days later, I left for a week of back-to-back events… Coming back from all the travel was a return to my new routine. Taking care of a sick child, reading story submissions, sending out contracts, paying the insurance bill, vacuuming the house . . . This is my career now. It’s no longer just what I do on the side. It’s not a vacation, so maybe I need to add one of those to my to-do list. I like the sound of that.

Read Neil’s complete editorial here.

The April Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Robert Brice, Bogi Takács, Vajra Chandrasekera, Juliette Wade, and Fei Dao, plus reprints from Adam Roberts and Michael Swanwick.

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March 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld March 2017-smallThe March 2017 issue of Clarkesworld, issue #126, comes packed with tales of apocalypses. Here’s Charles Payseur from Quick Sip Reviews.

Clarkesworld Magazine for March [contains] five original stories including a great novelette in translation… these pieces are concerned with new forms of intelligence and with the end of the world. Or maybe just with the end of certain aspects of it. But at least two of the stories are more specifically apocalyptic, and many besides are about doubt and depression, anxiety and seclusion. These stories show people closing themselves off from the rest of the world — out of fear or hurt — and then having to decide whether to open up again. It’s a wonderful issue…

“Goodnight, Melancholy” by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu (11,932 words)

This is a wrenching and beautiful story about despair and about loneliness. About machines and machine intelligence and people in need of a voice and presence. The story breaks itself between two storylines, between parts that involve Alan Turing, which are semi-historical and reveal a man desperate for connections but deeply worried about make thing, and parts that involve a young woman who is using machines as part of therapy to help her through depression and anxiety. The parts with Turing reveal his situation as a gay man in a world where being gay was a crime, where every conversation he had might lead him to ruin. To embarrassment and worse. To what did ultimately happen to him… It’s an amazing story that is deep and lyrical even as it captures something of a biographical tone.

Find Charles’ complete review here.

The March issue of Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Robert Reed, J.B. Park, Nomi Kritzer, Octavia Cade, and Xis Jia, plus reprints by Ian R. MacLeod and Alexander Jablokov.

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February 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Monday, February 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld February 2017-smallThe February 2017 issue of Clarkesworld, issue #125, marks an important milestone for the magazine — and for its editor and founder, Neil Clarke. Here’s Neil to explain (from his editorial, “The Next Chapter Begins“).

The day this issue is published will be my first day as a full-time editor, which isn’t to say I’ve reached the point where I’m making a full-time salary. That’s going to take time, which I finally have. The first order of business is to close the salary gap between Lisa’s job and my old one and to cover the cost of our new health plan. I’ve agreed to do some consulting and knowledge transfer sessions with my former employer, so that should help create a bit more of a buffer before our savings account has to come into play.

As for the impact all this new-found time and energy will have on Clarkesworld, give me a couple of months to work that out. I still have some backlogged tasks that need to be completed and then I can start hammering out a long-range plan. In the meantime, each new subscription, Patreon supporter, or advertiser takes a little bit of the financial pressure away, so this will be one of my immediate areas of focus.The other will probably be targeting more anthology projects, both original and new, including catching up on the remaining Clarkesworld annuals. I’ll probably take on a few more ebook clients as well.

If you are already a subscriber or supporter, thank you. You’ve made this leap possible. If you aren’t a subscriber, there’s no better time than now. I know money is tight for many of our readers and listeners, so if you can’t afford to, you can always help by amplifying the calls for new subscribers/supporters on social media or perhaps adding a review on one of the many sites that sell our digital subscriptions — you’d be really surprised by how much of an impact that sometimes makes.

And while part of me will miss my old career, I’m eager to get started on this new chapter in my life and look forward to the new opportunities it presents. Now, back to work… !

Clarkesworld is one of the finest magazines we have — and one of the best things to happen to genre short fiction in the last decade. If you care at all about the future of the field, I hope you’ll consider supporting Clarkesworld, perhaps by just buying a sample issue at Amazon or B&N.com for $2.99 or, as I did, signing up at their Patreon page. I’m very excited to see what the new era brings at Clarkesworld, and I hope you’ll join us for the ride.

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January 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Friday, January 20th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 124-smallOver at Tangent Online, Kevin P Hallett has some praise for several stories in the January issue of Clarkesworld, starting with the delightfully creepy space derelict tale “The Ghost Ship Anastasia” by Rich Larson.

This is a science fiction novelette set in the far future. A new generation of bioship, called Anastasia, has gone offline. Silas is a crewmember on a small ship sent to find the metal/biological hybrid. When he comes out of hibernation, he discovers his sister, a fellow crewmember, has died while asleep. They can save her mind in memory for later insertion into a cyborg, but the imprint will only last a limited time.

When they find the Anastasia, they find the bioship’s AI has become aware, taking over the biological components and eating the human crewmembers. Too late Silas finds himself fighting to stop the bioship from destroying his sister’s imprint and from eating him and his fellow crewmembers.

Larson has written another SF action yarn. This one introduced some interesting ideas and ran at a fast pace that was hard to put down. This was a good story.

He also gives a thumbs up to “Interchange” by Gary Kloster.

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December 2016 Clarkesworld Now Available

Friday, December 16th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

clarkesworld-december-2016-smallIn his article “The Joy of Helping” in the latest Clarkesworld, writer and translator Ken Liu (The Wall of Storms, Invisible Planets) says some splendidly on-point things about helping others.

The truth is: It feels good to help people. Even today, much of my motivation in editing and translating stories from China is still tied up with this satisfaction of helping writers reach readers. Surely I would have written more original works and made more money without these translations — but I think I wouldn’t have been as happy.

And we don’t acknowledge and celebrate the joy of helping enough.

It’s also important to acknowledge that we like to be helped. I have been helped countless times in my career by friends, editors, readers, fellow authors—even Invisible Planets wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all the authors and many others along the way. All of us have probably had experiences where a friend’s insightful comments improved our stories… or we got onto a panel because someone more famous and accomplished thought it helpful to boost our voices. The sun feels brighter on those days, and even the writing seems to come out of the word-mines more easily.

It’s nice to be able to make someone feel that, isn’t it?

As freelancers in the uncertain publishing industry, writers are bombarded with advice on how to develop our careers and to think strategically. Sometimes it almost seems as if we’re supposed to feel foolish if our motivation for doing something is simply to help someone with no expectation of any advantage whatsoever. And if we do receive help, we are conditioned to think of it as part of some implied exchange, a favor owed that might be called in someday. Neither reaction, I submit, is necessary. Helping someone truly is its own reward.

Preach, brother Liu! It’s there’s one thing I’ve learned in 17 years publishing Black Gate, it’s that the biggest rewards always come from promoting others. Read Ken’s complete piece here.

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